Wednesday, July 29, 2009

PathWays PA Special Budget Alert - July 29, 2009

It’s week five of the fiscal year and there is still no budget for the Commonwealth. As of now, it appears the only thing all sides can agree on is that the budget proposals are far apart.

As the proposals now head to a House-Senate Conference Committee, important programs are especially at risk of being cut. In recent weeks, legislators have expressed surprise at not hearing from their constituents on certain important issues. It is incredibly important to keep reminding your legislators of what programs Pennsylvania cannot afford to cut.

If you are upset about these budget proposals, which include cuts ranging from education to hospitals to the elimination of the Industry Partnership program, please tell your legislators how you would finish this sentence: “If the choice is between reducing/eliminating spending on hospitals, burn units, Industry Partnerships, and childcare, or increasing revenues, I would support…”

During this recession, some budget cuts are inevitable. But, too many cuts will lead to long-term impacts on our families, our health, and our economy at a time when we can’t afford to do without.

For more information throughout the week on the budget and other issues, be sure to check out the PathWays PA Policy Blog.


Budget Update

On Monday, the Senate voted again for its amended version of the House Budget Bill, taking the final formal step to create a Conference Committee, which will address the disputed state-spending plan. The members of this Committee include Senators Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), Jake Corman (R-Centre) and Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), and Representatives Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia), Todd Eachus (D-Luzerne), and Sam Smith (R-Jefferson).

The Committee is expected to meet this week to begin negotiations over the proposals. It will produce a version of the budget that must be voted up or down by both the House and the Senate. No amendments will be permitted.

While negotiations continue, Governor Edward Rendell stated that he will consider a “stop-gap” budget to pay state workers and vendors until a budget agreement is reached; however, no details on this plan have been released.


The Local Effect of Budget Proposals

As the budget process moves on, we decided to look at how the delay and some of the budget proposals truly impact different parts of the state.

State workers have been experiencing payless paydays as a result of the budget impasse. Once the budget is resolved, depending on how it is resolved, 600 to 800 of those employees may also be facing unemployment

Harrisburg may have to layoff firefighters and close at least one of the city’s fire stations. One budget proposal would eliminate 15% of the city’s annual fire budget, which covers the salaries and benefits of more than a dozen firefighters. This cut would lead to further under-staffing and potential slower response times.

In Adams County the repercussions of no state budget is having wide spread effects:
  • Seven food pantries in the county have no money to buy food.
  • Sixty percent of kindergarten students are eligible for subsidized lunches in the Gettysburg Area School District, without funds that program could be cut back or stopped altogether
  • Child care facilities are being told not to spend anything. Without funding from the Child Work Subsidies, the facilities can no longer pay their suppliers or their staff.

The Hospital and HealthSystem Association of Pennsylvania recently said that the proposed budget cuts would result in reduced access to trauma centers, burn centers, and obstetrical and neonatal services due to significant job losses. The state normally funds hospitals to help subsidize services and pay for care for the poor and uninsured.

The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, if eliminated, would result in the lose tens of thousands of jobs and would leave Pennsylvania the only state without an arts council. The Council makes it possible for organizations to expose their communities - including poor families - to artistic experience.

In the Warren County area, there are 11 Industry Partnerships that work with approximately 26 businesses, all of which will be eliminated under some budget proposals. In Warren County alone 1,000 employees have been trained through this program. That training will end for those in Warren County and others if the Industry Partnership program is cut.


CHIP – Cover All Kids

Take Action! During the past three years, CHIP has provided comprehensive health insurance coverage for thousands of children throughout Pennsylvania who would not have been eligible without the Cover All Kids program.
  • However, current budget proposals rescind this CHIP provision, which could result in up to 12,000 kids being cut from the program.
  • Even during an economic crisis, it is important to pay attention to the long-term effects of short-term cuts.
  • A recent report from Rice University puts the cost of health insurance through age 18 at $7,451, while the benefits equate to as much at $15,000.

Industry Partnerships

Take Action! Industry Partnerships are consortiums that allow employers to improve and expand their workforce by bringing together companies committed to the development of their workforce.
  • This program provides workers with access to training that gives them the skills necessary to maintain jobs and obtain employment with sufficient wages so workers can adequately support their families.
  • In Pennsylvania, more than 6,300 businesses are involved with more than 70 Industry Partnerships across the state. More than 70,000 workers have been trained since 2005.
  • On average, those workers have seen their wages rise by 6.62 percent within the first year after receiving the training.
  • Read more about how the Industry Partnership program is helping in one county


Child Care Work Subsidies

Take Action! The Child Care Works Subsidies allow parents to afford to work by assisting them with the expense of child care.
  • For many parents the cost of child care may be more than they bring home in a paycheck.
  • Currently in Pennsylvania, over 16,000 are eligible for the child care subsidies but are currently on the waitlist, where some families remain for months.
  • In the meantime, they must pay more than they can afford for child care, provide childcare through an unreliable patchwork of friends, family, or substandard facilities, or risk losing their jobs at a time when employment is hard to find.
  • For more information please see a new report from PCCY, “Child Care Works, A Program with a Growing Need


Adult Education and Family Literacy

Take Action!
Adult education and family literacy are especially important during this recession to ensure that families have the opportunity to gain the education they need to be or become self-sufficient. In Pennsylvania, the Senate proposal cuts adult literacy by 29% and the House is considering a 12% cut. Please contact your representatives today to let them know the importance of this program!

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