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Gov. Corbett’s Budget Address: Politicians, Party Chairmen and Candidates React

Reactions from across the political spectrum have come in the wake of Gov. Corbett’s Budget Address this morning in Harrisburg.

House Majority Leader, State Rep Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County)

Let’s be honest. The days of endless spending are definitely over, but we are still climbing out of the mess created by the previous administration, where spending increased about 40 percent and inflation grew only 21 percent.

We have brought fiscal discipline to the table.

The fact is, what we have accomplished, living within our means and prioritizing how we spend tax dollars, is a refreshing approach to budgeting.

We are paving the way for private sector job creation.

And that is what the citizens of Pennsylvania want and expect.  They expect their government to:
Protect taxpayers and act as strong fiscal stewards of hard-earned tax dollars.
Provide essential services.
Stay out of the way of people working to grow Pennsylvania’s economy.

This is the governor’s proposal:
It sets the tone.
We will continue to work as a TEAM to craft the final product.

The governor’s blueprint spends $27.1 billion. Yes, that is a lot of money, but less than last year’s budget and it still protects the most vulnerable.

No tax increases.

Cost-savings and efficiencies through:
Reducing administrative requirements and bureaucratic hurdles.

Clamps-down on budget growth in Public Welfare, Corrections, and capital debt; it forces departments to reform how they operate.

If those who like to spend money had their way last year to spend money we didn’t have, the Personal Income Tax would have had to increase to 3.5 percent, costing each taxpayer about $300, and small businesses $200 million.

To spend and spend is NOT the answer to prosperity.

To incur more debt is bad for everyone.

This budget reduces the debt spending and refocuses priorities. This governor is working with legislators from both sides of the aisle to reform the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, known as RACP (you’ll hear more about that tomorrow!).

Every borrowed dollar takes away resources from the kids of today and the grandkids of tomorrow.

Budget priorities…

Last year, we increased the Basic Education Subsidy to its highest level ever, to help Pennsylvania’s schools though the loss of the $800 million from President Obama’s stimulus funding

And you know what happened? In September, schools opened, and are still teaching our kids how read, write and do math.

This budget proposal continues to fund Pre-K to 12 education; in fact, it provides $9.92 billion – an increase of $329.6 million (3.4 percent).

Lines have been combined to create a block grant to give local school districts flexibility.

Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities are allocated about $930 million.

The governor’s budget limits the growth in welfare and provides $10.3 billion in assistance to those who need that helping hand – while reducing the overall appropriation. It consolidates multiple programs into a single Human Service block grant to give counties the flexibility they need in this recessionary time frame.

Ensuring the safety of Pennsylvania’s communities, the governor proposes $87 million for the State Police, including $7.8 million for a new class of 115 new troopers.

Level funding for the Department of Corrections, made possible by smart cost containments. It’s the first time in more than a decade it has been level-funded.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (or PEMA) would receive $29.5 million, a 17 percent increase, and provides a new Hazard Mitigation line to match dollars for federally funded projects.

$131.7 million is proposed for Probation and Parole, with increased funding to implement Megan’s Law.

The budget funds state parks with $26 million.

Our environmental laws will be enforced through $125 million for the Department of Environmental Protection.

Regional Cancer Institutes and Cancer Screening services will see approximately $3 million.

It is good to hear the governor give such a priority to private sector job creation. We will continue to work closely with him and the Senate in this regard.

Privatizing non-core function services would ultimately create jobs for hard working Pennsylvanians.

What services could the private sector do better than government bureaucracy?

Private sector job creation is the best welfare reform we can achieve.

We have already set the course for a more job-friendly Pennsylvania:
Protecting employers from unfair lawsuit abuse through passage of the Fair Share Act.
Bringing equity to the Unemployment Compensation system through a number of reforms, such as requiring recipients to at least look for a job and creating an offset for severance pay.
Helping smaller employers by adopting Workers’ Compensation reforms for sole proprietors.
Helping the housing industry by repealing the mandatory residential sprinkler mandate.
Extending the state’s Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zones by 15. Old refineries and unused sites can be revitalized with job creators — that means thousands of jobs.
With pending passage of the DSIC bill, we will be encouraging needed investments with private sector dollars for the state’s aging public utility infrastructure – natural gas, electric and wastewater systems. This will create thousands of good-paying, family-sustaining jobs throughout the state.

For the first time, in many years, we are living within our revenues.

This proposal is just the beginning, but it sets a tone… NO tax increases, no reckless borrowing and responsible priorities.

State Sen. Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia)

“The budget outlined by the governor today is the result of his long-held and unsupportable distrust of struggling families and an equally inexplicable and unsustainable trust of large corporations.
This shortsighted plan, and many other actions during the first year of this administration, put the blame for economic stagnation on low and middle income workers and give them a disproportionate share of the burden of fixing it.
While Pennsylvania families are being scrutinized for their on-line purchases, their savings and their desire to find work, corporations are being blindly trusted about their income taxes, their commitment to job creation and their concern about the environment.
It’s unlikely that the budget proposed will be the budget passed.  But starting the conversation with dramatic cuts to education as Pennsylvania school districts face insolvency and the cost of college rises above the grasp of middle-income families, means that the administration has lost faith in the next generation.
As we go forward, I urge the governor to understand that he represents all of the people in Pennsylvania, from the neighborhoods of North Philadelphia to the rural hilltops dotted with gas wells.  The people from my district will have plenty to say about this budget.  I urge the administration to listen.
Over the next few months, the families raising that generation will have to prove that they deserve our confidence and our investment in their children and in their communities.  This administration does not trust them.
Today’s high school students will have to prove that they deserve the same support for higher education that their elder siblings and their parents received.  This administration does not trust them.
School districts will have to prove that early childhood education is a better investment than prisons.
If the governor has his way, Pennsylvania small businesses will continue to bear the burden of high corporate income taxes and will continue in their struggle to compete with big box retailers who enjoy the benefits of one of the world’s most notorious tax loopholes.
It is this fundamental mixture trust and distrust, expressed first by candidate Corbett  18 months ago when he said the unemployed “would rather just sit there” than work, that marks this administration’s vision of Pennsylvania.
Those of us with a different vision will have to prove ourselves.  We will show the governor that we will not just sit there. We are ready to work.”

State Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Pittsburgh)

“Call it, ‘Second verse, same as the first,’ the governor’s 2012-13 budget proposal once again hurts working people, vulnerable families and the Pennsylvania economy while giving another pass to huge corporate interests and gas drillers. This budget once again abdicates our responsibility to invest in Pennsylvanians and our economy in a time of dire need and ignores our most pressing problem; JOBS.

The Governor’s new budget proposal once again diminishes the quality of life for the families and communities I represent by ignoring critical needs in the area of education, human services, public transit and infrastructure, economic development, and tax fairness.  Personally, his budget is DOA. What I resent most is Corbett’s snake oil medicine which only guarantees that local communities and counties will be forced to raise taxes and millage rates at the local level to fund their obligations to their students and residents. To be clear, the governor has pledged not to raise taxes on the state level, but forces the hand of local municipalities to raise taxes instead.

The governor continues his assault on public and higher education by cutting at least another $400 million in his budget proposal.  His shameful retreat from the state’s obligation to fund local schools at a 50 percent level  would again force school boards to raise local taxes, cut important educational programs, require tuition increases and more student debt, and lay-off more teachers and professors. Those we hold accountable as the gatekeepers of investments in our future by teaching our children, our schools, are seen as expendable under this budget.

Making matters worse, an unknown amount of subsidy to our local school districts from state government remains outstanding because of creative budgeting tactics which combines line items. While it may make it appear that our local school districts are being level funded, in reality these cuts are more painful, significant reductions.

The governor claims his budget again holds the line on taxes, but in truth, his proposal merely shirks the responsibility of funding Pennsylvania schools and forces local school boards to do his dirty work for him — imposing another round of maximum property tax hikes to make up for budget cuts for which he is responsible.

Bowing to party rhetoric which is big on political dogma and small on facts, the budget again underfunds the Department of Public Welfare, bringing more ill-advised, short sighted and painful cuts to vulnerable families struggling to survive this protracted recession; this, on top of the governor’s already destructive decisions to eliminate AdultBasic and HEMAP, and to drastically undercut SNAP. Corbett is busy vilifying the poor and needy while providing tax breaks for corporations.

While his budget is balanced on the backs of struggling families and school children, it gives another pass to wealthy gas drillers and huge corporations shielding taxable assets in states like Delaware. While poor families, children and seniors are being asked to get by with less, his budget curiously finds enough revenue to hand out another round of corporate tax cuts.

The Republican-dominated legislature has been stalling efforts to impose a moderate tax on gas drillers for several years now. While public pressure is finally forcing the governor to act, his proposal sells our state’s resources short and would trample the rights of communities to implement reasonable zoning limitations.

The governor’s economic and tax policies have hindered the state’s ability to recover. While the national economy begins to improve, our state should be concentrating on job growth     and implementing proven economic development initiatives. We should be seizing opportunities to speed up our economic recovery, not evading any progress and suffocating the very initiatives that would help get people back to work.

My Democratic colleagues and I have introduced numerous jobs and economic development proposals in the past year. The governor and Republicans in the majority have ignored our repeated calls to make jobs a priority, and seem intent on sitting back and hoping our economic problems solve themselves.

This budget solves nothing, accomplishes nothing and helps no one.”

State Sen. Stack (D-Philadelphia)

“The state budget proposal that the governor outlined today is a slap in the face to the middle class. The average family will continue to dig deeper into their pockets while wealthy corporate interests sit back and watch their bank rolls grow.

“Once again, our schools have become a victim of the governor’s budget axe. The School District of Philadelphia is already grappling with massive layoffs, cuts to programs, and is even considering locking up buildings on evenings and weekends,” Stack said. “Many other school districts are facing these same problems. This budget plan not only hurts our children, but Pennsylvania taxpayers who will bear the burden when their local taxes go up to stop the bleeding of school district budget holes.

“Additionally, it is a disgrace that we are forcing our American heroes to do with less in the place they call home,” said Stack of the $6 million reduction in funding to the state’s Veterans Homes.

“They made tremendous sacrifices for our freedom. We should be taking care of them in their golden years, not taking away from them.”
The budget also fails to fund the state’s growing transportation infrastructure crisis.

“Our bridges are falling apart, our roads are worn, and our mass transit systems need serious upgrades, yet the governor keeps putting off a real long-term solution,” Stack said. “We need to address this issue today. We cannot afford to put it off any longer.”

Stack noted that Pennsylvania built more bridges in 1930 than in 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined.

“If we could build bridges during the Great Depression, the country’s worst economic crisis, we can and we must invest in our infrastructure today,” Stack said. “We would not only modernize our roadways but also create and sustain jobs at a time when people are desperate for work.”

State Sen. Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon/Monroe)

”The Governor’s budget continues a dodge and shift philosophy that shortchanges Pennsylvania’s future by hurting working families, our schools, and our communities. The budget dodges the responsibility of creating jobs and opportunity while shifting the tax burden to local taxpayers.

“Cutting education funding by $400 million raises school taxes and college tuition rates, cutting human services programs by $600 million forces counties to raise property taxes; and this budget continues that disastrous dodge and shift philosophy.

”Since day one, Senate Democrats have outlined a job creation strategy that proves that through innovation and strategic investment, we can turn this economy around and invest in Pennsylvania without raising taxes.  Dodging the tough decisions in Harrisburg while shifting more and more of the burden onto the backs of working Pennsylvanians is the driving force of the Governor’s budget and much work remains to improve the document.

“Pennsylvanians are looking for a fair shot at a good job, an education for their children and a safe neighborhood to raise their family.  The state budget should be focused on these common sense priorities, not driven by a cut-first ideology. ”

State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe)

“Governor Corbett and his administration have put Pennsylvania on the wrong course by focusing almost exclusively on the interests — and the influence — of big business while ignoring our working class families.  The Governor heralds the advantages of free market forces while ignoring seriously flawed state tax policies that unfairly and disproportionately burden our workers and small businesses.

There is nothing visionary or inspiring in this budget.  It is more of the same – consolidation of budget line items to hide deep cuts to vital state investments in public and higher education and a further erosion of the safety net that serves persons with disabilities and our seniors.   This administration turns a blind eye to our students, our schools, our teachers, our working families, and our small businesses and says simply: “you’re on your own”.

Gov. Corbett’s plan for education defies economic sense.  This budget will force more teacher layoffs and larger class sizes in our public schools; higher local property taxes for fixed income homeowners; and it is certain to ensure that a college education remain but a dream to more Pennsylvanians who will surely be unable to afford it.

There is a better way to lead this state than to mask the true human impacts of the state budget axe with shell-game numbers and high-minded rhetoric.  It is my hope that Senate Democrats, unlike last year, are afforded an opportunity to participate in serious budget negotiations over the next few months so we can craft a spending plan that addresses not only the concerns of all of our citizens — but that truly responds to their hopes, expectations and priorities.”

State Senator John Wozniak (D-Clinton)

“The governor’s speech was filled with earnest-sounding talk about job creation, but it seems fruitless to use taxpayer money to lure corporations into a state where a college education is moving out of reach for the people supposed to fill the jobs.
By doing a dance with his tax pledge, the governor is taking extreme risks with the next generation of Pennsylvania’s middle class.
Let’s be clear, we have school districts going broke.  We need to educate the next generation whether the governor gives them the money or local school districts are forced to raise taxes.
Passing along tax increases isn’t conservative; it’s political.  And after three straight budgets of tough talk, the poor and the middle class are struggling while large corporations are celebrating.
It’s also disappointing that the governor continues to avoid talking about transportation infrastructure.  It’s not clear what he’s waiting for.
We just closed a bridge in Johnstown for emergency repairs and nearly 200,000 times a day in Cambria County a vehicle crosses a structurally deficient bridge.  I don’t know how long the governor thinks that can go on.
Of course, the budget that passes isn’t going to look like the budget the governor proposes.  Families that are planning to send their children to college are going to have a lot of work to do between now and June convincing this administration that they are worth the investment.”

State Rep Daryl Metcalfe (R- Butler)

“The governor’s proposed 2012-13 state budget falls more than $1 billion short in overdue, welfare spending cuts.
The governor needs to exchange his butter knife for a meat cleaver and cut even more wasteful and excessive welfare spending.” Metcalfe further expounded on the governor’s proposed budget by sharing excerpts from a letter sent to the governor last week that included his signature and those of 15 other House Republican lawmakers:

“Learning to do more with less is a reality currently facing many Pennsylvania residents.  With the 2012-13 budget looming, state elected officials stand at a crossroads. We closed 2011 with General Fund revenues 4 percent below expectations, equating to approximately $486 million. We are also facing a debt to the federal government, upward of $3 billion, for unpaid unemployment compensation.

“We are faced with tough decisions and must look at the state agencies with obese budgets.  Under the previous governor’s administration, the budget in the Department of Public Welfare escalated in excess of $10 billion, well above the rate of inflation.

In the 2011-2012 state budget, the Department of Public Welfare consumed 39 percent of General Fund spending.  That is more spending than any other agency in the Commonwealth.

“The original intent of a welfare system was never a long-term solution for financial support.  Taxpayers can no longer afford to subsidize the lives of their neighbors.  It is time to rein in the excessive spending, streamline programs and create efficiencies within the Department of Public Welfare. The Legislature has already taken the first steps to facilitate policies to crack down on fraud in the system and end the ‘close your eyes and authorize’ policies of the Department of Public Welfare.

“….Even if we reduced the welfare budget by only 10 percent, we could save the taxpayers of the Commonwealth more than $1 billion. The way to grow our economy is not on the backs of taxpayers, but through reducing the taxpayers’ burden.”

State Rep Mike O’Brien (D-Philadelphia)

Today Gov. Corbett delivered his budget proposal for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
It was of little surprise that it contains many of the failed policies he and the Republican majorities in the House and Senate pushed through in last year’s budget. The record profits of big business and natural gas drillers are again protected while hardworking people are forced to shoulder the burden and the education of our children is ignored.

The governor keeps last year’s $900 million cut to public schools and slashes $100 million more by eliminating the Accountability Block Grant program, which pays for early education and tutoring programs. With this move he is making clear that he wants to dismantle our public education system starting at the pre-school level.

The governor cuts higher education by 30 percent to Temple and Penn State and 20 percent to State System schools. Further cuts to higher education mean fewer Pennsylvanians will have the skills needed to compete in the job market because high tuition will keep them out of school.
The governor’s plan further undermines programs for the sick and elderly with more than $700 million cuts across the board – that’s in addition to the $1 billion he cut last year. Ignoring the health needs of all people now means higher costs for emergency care and other services in the long term. Everyone is impacted if hospitals close maternity wards or scale back other critical services.

The governor also is silent on protecting the environment or addressing our failing transportation infrastructure.

His call to enact a “fee” on natural gas drillers is meant to detract from the harm he’s causing in his budget and is nothing more than a giveaway to the gas industry. Its effective rate would be about the lowest in the nation.

The governor’s address left many of us in the House chamber shaking our heads. After the unprecedented backlash he received from across the state last year, I had hoped the governor would have seen the damage he’s causing.

As Democratic Vice Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, I will be working to point out the deficiencies in Gov. Corbett’s proposal and to defend and maintain public education and the state programs that work.

Budget hearings begin on Feb. 21 and run through March 8. I will keep you updated on the content of these hearings and my role in shaping this year’s budget.

Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn

“Once again Tom Corbett has proven that he has the wrong priorities for Pennsylvania,” said Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn. “Homeowners will pay higher taxes because of Tom Corbett’s budget and families will pay more for college because of Tom Corbett’s budget. Schools will be forced to lay off teachers and valuable programs that serve children and seniors will be drastically scaled back or ended. While Tom Corbett continues his assault on middle class families, his donors continue to get tax breaks and special considerations. This is the wrong budget for Pennsylvania’s families built on the wrong priorities.”

Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Rob Gleason

“Pennsylvania needs jobs, and that’s what Governor Corbett has delivered; a jobs-friendly budget that doesn’t raise taxes and protects taxpayers from government regulation and excess. Building upon the successes of last year, Governor Tom Corbett continues follow through on his promises to reduce the size and cost of government and put Pennsylvania’s finances on a path to fiscal solvency,” Chairman Gleason said.

“Thanks to President Obama, we’re struggling with a skyrocketing national debt that exceeds $15 trillion dollars and national unemployment hovers near 9%. The President’s failed record stems from his inability to curb government spending and protect taxpayers. Governor Corbett is ready to work to fight President Obama’s disastrous example, and for the second year in a row, has put forward a budget that includes no new taxes and a reduction in state spending.

“I join citizens throughout the Commonwealth who are enthusiastically supporting Governor Corbett and applaud his efforts in making the necessary decisions to chart a new course for Pennsylvania. Taxpayers deserve leaders that have the courage to make tough decisions to secure our Commonwealth’s future and Governor Corbett continues to be that steady hand that guides our Commonwealth through these challenging economic times.”

AG Hopeful Patrick Murphy

“With this budget, Gov. Corbett has failed Pennsylvania families. Again, he is balancing the budget on the backs of working people, who are going to feel the brunt of increased property taxes and higher tuition rates. At the same time, he is protecting large tax breaks and loopholes for corporations that aren’t paying their fair share,” Murphy said. “I’m particularly concerned by what this budget does – or does not do – for the safety and security of Pennsylvania. We can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the connection between struggling public schools and crime. The Governor either doesn’t get it or doesn’t care but when you fail to adequately fund public education, that’s a crime bill. It’s bad for Pennsylvania children and jeopardizes the safety of our communities.”

“As we sift through the details, I’m afraid this budget will fail to promote the safety and economic security of middle-class families. Instead of mortgaging the future, as Gov. Corbett has proposed, we should look at some of the ideas proposed by the CLEAR Coalition, which represents 1.1 million working families in Pennsylvania. They laid out a plan that could save the Commonwealth more than $2.3 billion through tax reforms and increases in government efficiency, including $60 million by cutting waste, fraud and abuse in Medicaid,” Murphy said. “At the Federal level, I’ve closed loopholes that lead to Medicare fraud and enacted a law to eliminate billions in wasteful spending every year. When I’m Attorney General, Pennsylvania will have the most aggressive Medicaid Fraud Control Section in the country and I will advocate for a state False Claims Act, which will encourage private citizens to report fraud and abuse, saving the Commonwealth millions. These initiatives have worked in other states and because they generate significant revenue, they have paid for themselves.”

“Budget’s are moral documents. They demonstrate priorities. Unfortunately, Republicans in Harrisburg have placed corporate tax breaks ahead of the safety and economic security of working families, who will be hit hard by this budget,” Murphy added.

State Rep. Santarsiero (D-Bucks)

“Governor Corbett’s proposed budget again turns its back on Pennsylvania students, families and taxpayers, with a plan that looks like more of the same from last year – program cuts which force local tax increases and tuition hikes while leaving large corporations off the hook from paying their fair share.

“Governor Corbett’s budget proposes leaving basic education behind and cutting higher education by 20 to 30 percent. I am opposed to this strategy because investing in education is proven to strengthen our economy and preserve our local communities.

“For the second year in a row, the governor has neglected the Commonwealth’s critical transportation infrastructure. We must address our transportation needs if we are to be ready as a state to re-engage our economy and grow. The governor continues to ignore the $3-billion-problem, putting millions of motorists and travelers in jeopardy on deteriorating roads and bridges.

“Lastly, the governor’s budget proposal favors natural gas drillers over protecting our environment. It does not have to be this way. Current and future generations are counting on us as elected officials to preserve our natural resources and especially to protect our most pristine state forests from unnecessary damage by the natural gas drilling industry.”

State Rep. Sue Helm (R-Dauphin)

““The governor described his budget proposal as ‘lean and demanding,’ but I believe that is exactly what is needed to return Pennsylvania to firmer financial ground. This spending plan stays the course that was set last year in order to ensure the Commonwealth continues to live within its means.

“The governor has had to make some difficult decisions, but I am pleased that raising taxes was not one of them. This is not the time to expect struggling Pennsylvania families to dig deeper in order to support increases in state spending.

“The governor focused on private-sector job creation. I was especially pleased that he emphasized our concern for having jobs ready and available for returning military personnel.

“I am encouraged the proposal includes more funding for our public schools. In fact, the $9.9 billion appropriation for basic education is the largest in state history and should come as welcome news to those school districts which have struggled after the loss of federal stimulus dollars. The governor is also proposing to allocate much of the funding in the form of block grants, which would allow administrators to make spending decisions based on their needs.

“We need to keep in mind that today was just the start of a lengthy budget process. In the coming weeks and months, we will conduct hearings, and there will be much debate, on how to best spend the public’s money. I am hopeful we will continue to focus on the priorities of state government as Pennsylvania travels down the sometimes bumpy road to recovery.”

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