Harrisburg – January 25, 2012 – Senate Democrats, led by Democratic Leader Jay Costa, Appropriations Chair Vincent Hughes and others, today called on the governor to make job creation, tax fairness, education funding, shale and the restoration of funds for safety net programs budget priorities.[custom_frame_left][/custom_frame_left] “We need a budget that moves Pennsylvania forward, not one that puts us in reverse,” Costa said. “We need to focus our energy on job creation, restoring education funding, providing sufficient dollars for safety net programs and improving transportation infrastructure.”
The Democrats outlined their budget priorities at a news conference held outside the Senate Chamber in Harrisburg.
Costa said Senate Democrats have identified nearly $1 billion in new revenues from smart policy changes, efficiencies and a responsible shale tax that can be used to pay for their agenda.
Costa said Pennsylvania has regressed under Gov. Tom Corbett, who has produced no jobs plan while unemployment has stagnated. At the same time, the governor has driven education funding back to 2006 levels and funded higher education support at a level not seen since 1995, under former Republican Gov. Tom Ridge.
“Senate Democrats produced a comprehensive jobs plan called PA Works Now but we’ve heard nothing on jobs from the governor,” Costa said. “We are ready to move on transportation if he would lead and let us know how he plans to address that crisis.”
Hughes said Senate Democrats predicted chaos in education if Corbett’s plan to slice more than $1 billion was approved by Republican lawmakers.
“Senate Democrats voted against last year’s budget plan because we thought it would produce exceptionally high local tax bills, cut education quality and imperil schools,” Hughes said. “Now we have a crisis in the Chester-Upland district and there are at least ten more districts that may soon be in a similar position.
“Insolvency will spread beyond poor schools and spill over into adjoining districts as a result of Governor Corbett’s education and fiscal policies.”
Hughes said that unemployment rose sharply after Corbett took office and it has taken one year to recede, noting that on jobs “we treaded water for a year.”
Sen. John Yudichak (D-14th), who has been the Senate lead negotiator on Marcellus Shale, said that his region in northeast Pennsylvania has been hit hard by job loss and education cuts.
“We need to make strategic investments and create jobs and we can do that by adopting a responsible shale drilling plan that generates money for rebuilding roads and other infrastructure while we protect the environment and our communities with tough regulations,” he said.