Dems Aim to Steer the Conversation on PA House Budget Vote
By Meghan Schiller, Contributing Writer
In anticipation of Monday’s budget vote in the PA House, PA Democrats are working to steer the conversation. The party held individual press conferences to lay out the party’s preemptive response in Montgomery and Allegheny counties, two of PA’s biggest 2011 battlegrounds.
The budget proposal includes significant cuts to education nearing $1 billion, as well as cuts upwards of $470 million to the Public Welfare system. The House budget bears a striking resemblance to Governor Corbett’s proposal that wishes to, “slash K-12 funding by over $1 billion and higher education funding by more than $600 million,” according to the PA Dems’ May 19th press release.
Democrats argue that the Republican budget will produce devastating results, especially to the state’s middle-class, children and seniors.
At the Allegheny County press conference last Thursday, Council President (and PA Democratic Party Chairman) Jim Burns spoke strongly saying, “The Republicans’ budget could hurt our communities and families in a number of ways including program cuts at schools, higher property taxes and tuition increases. The Republicans’ budget is unfair to middle class families and it will hurt our communities.”
Both Allegheny and Montgomery Counties are expected to be political hot spots for the upcoming November election. Allegheny County’s race for County Executive between Fitzgerald (D) and D. Raja (R) will be close, considering the money that the Republicans have behind Raja. However, the county’s strong democratic leanings seem to suggest a victory for Fitzgerald.
Similarly, Montgomery’s race for County Commissioner will be very exciting to watch, given the strong candidates on both sides and big dollars anticipated in the race (for example, Democratic candidate State Rep. Josh Shapiro boasts an impressive $1 million campaign bank account).
On the steps of the Montgomery County Courthouse Rep. Shapiro said, “What Governor Corbett’s budget says is that those who can’t bring lobbyists down the halls of the Capitol and press their case are going to suffer… Case in point, our children. Our children lose out big time in this budget. More than a billion dollars is cut out of K-12 education and millions of dollars more is cut out of social services for our children. A budget that doesn’t take care of the state’s children does not reflect the values of Pennsylvanians, and that’s why we will fight this to protect middle class families across the state.”
“I think as Pennsylvanians start kicking the tires on this budget,” said Rep. Gerber, “Governor Corbett’s going to realize this is not what Pennsylvanians want. Hopefully then he and the House Republicans will start working with the more moderate Senate Republicans, and maybe even us, the Democrats, to engage in some reality-based budgeting.”
It’s not just the 2011 swing counties at stake. This budget battle will shape the political landscape as Republicans aim to keep their control of the PA House and Senate, and Dems start fundraising and recruiting challengers.