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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rep. Causer Updates On PA Budget Negotiations

Making Ends Meet with a $3 Billion Deficit
An update on state budget negotiations
Dear Neighbor,
When the state’s current fiscal year comes to an end June 30, the Rendell administration anticipates a deficit of at least $3 billion. While Pennsylvania is in better fiscal shape than many states, this funding shortfall presents some serious challenges as lawmakers work toward adopting our 2009-10 state budget.
Raising Taxes Is Not The Solution
Many of you have cut back on your spending this year to make ends meet in this challenging economy, and state government should do the same. After all, state government (unlike the federal government) cannot spend more than it takes in. If we don’t cut spending to address the deficit, we have to raise taxes. I don’t want to raise taxes, nor do I think that’s the best way to recover from a recession.
Increasing Spending Is Not The Solution
Yet, the Rendell administration is continuing to push for a $29 billion budget for 2009-10 that actually INCREASES spending by more than $1 billion over what we will spend by the end of this year. Ironically, the governor’s budget includes a lot of harsh funding cuts – some programs are even eliminated – but he’s just redirecting that money to other programs he favors.
Responsible Spending IS The Solution
Recognizing that the governor’s plan cannot be implemented without a large tax increase – even though we are receiving billions from the federal stimulus package – the state Senate passed its own budget on May 6 by a 30-20 vote. The Senate’s plan includes a lot of the same cuts the governor made plus additional cuts to account for the growing economic decline, bringing total spending down to a more manageable $27.3 billion.
I commend the Senate for taking this important step toward adopting a more responsible budget. At the same time, I recognize there are concerns with the plan, especially in the areas of education and health care. It is important to remember that a lot of negotiation will take place before the budget is adopted. While this is undoubtedly not the final plan, we must also remember that no amount of negotiation will erase the huge deficit we face.
Education Funding a Top Priority
When it comes to education funding, we are fortunate that a significant portion of federal stimulus dollars are being directed toward our schools. But we need to be mindful of the impact on our budget when those stimulus funds run out. Under the Senate proposal, education funding would still be increased, but at a more conservative level to protect against a huge state budget deficit in the future that undoubtedly would end up being filled by a tax increase. Also keep in mind that the current state budget dedicates about 42 percent of its funding to basic and higher education – that equates to more than $11 billion.
Governor Unfair to Our Communities
The key to this year’s budget is to spend what we have in a fair and equitable way. The governor’s proposal simply fails to do that. Take Community Education Councils, for example. The governor seeks to eliminate their funding but would boost money for Community Colleges. Both serve the same function, but the northern tier has no Community Colleges. The governor’s funding choices discriminate against our region.
Similarly, his proposed changes in funding for health care hit rural areas like ours the hardest. He wants to lower the already-low reimbursement rates from Medicaid and Medical Assistance, and proposes to eliminate other vital sources of funding, such as aid for critical access hospitals. Rural hospitals like ours are already struggling to meet the needs of our communities – and with more people losing health benefits, we need to ensure care remains available and accessible to all.
The bottom line of this budget is that we have to live within our means. It’s time to go back to basics and support those programs and services that are essential to the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians. Funding anything beyond that will most likely result in a substantial tax increase. I, for one, will not balance the state budget on the backs of people already struggling to make ends meet.
Martin Causer
State Representative


Vicki said...

Way to go Marty, you have done and are doing a great job! Keep up the fight for us in North Central, rural Pennsylvania!
Vicki Sherwood

Anonymous said...

Rep. Causer,
Please stick to your not raise taxes!

I would send the message loud and clear to Rep. Causer & Sen. Scarnati that the state cannot raise taxes.

That being said, it might result in some programs we like will be cut. I know Scarnati & Causer will do what they can so there is regional equity in cuts, but I would rather see some programs cut here as well as in Philly and Pittsburgh to avoid a tax increase that will even cripple this region more.

I like what Rep. Causer and Sen. Scarnati are saying re: this budget.

Let's make sure they stick to it, because we have the ultimate say in their jobs.

An extremely concerned citizen

Anonymous said...

Time to layoff....starting at the top!

Anonymous said...

No new taxes or it's time for new legislators.

Anonymous said...

I think the time has come when we pay all our taxes to our local government, who would then decide how much to send to the state government, if any (with accountability being the norm rather than the exception). The federal government would be forced to write carefully worded grants and have them entered into a lottery to see if they could "win" the money necessary to carry out their latest whims. Of course, the Senate and House of Representatives would be disbanded, and the state officials would also serve as federal officials. Sure would save a lot of money, and people in northern PA could then choose not to pay for museums in southern PA that they would never get a chance to visit.

Anonymous said...

10:11:00 PM

Great plan, sure would be nice if it could happen.

Anonymous said...

10:11 PM's plan isn't realistic, but it's certainly the direction we should be pushing things.