Veteran state Rep. W. Curtis Thomas, in releasing last week his alternate state budget proposal, made it quite clear where he stands on Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget proposal, describing it as “mean, ugly and inhumane.”
Thomas, whose “Putting People First Now!” proposal reallocates $1.7 billion in funding to the core issues of education, employment, health care and housing, said his plan “will mark the beginning of a discussion that will lead us to enact a state budget that truly puts the people of the Commonwealth first.” This is the second year that Thomas has introduced an alternate budget.
“In these difficult economic times, many Pennsylvanians are struggling to provide the basic necessities for their families,” Jones said during a conference in Harrisburg. “However, Governor Corbett’s proposed budget would do more harm than good for those who have already fallen on tough economic times. We are opposed to the governor’s plan to block grants for basic education, student achievement, housing redevelopment assistance and human services development programs.
“This will allow the governor to pass the responsibility to local communities which are already paying higher taxes and fees.”
Corbett released his proposed budget early this year, and states the commonwealth has an operating budget of $63.3 billion for the 2012–13 fiscal year; that includes $27.1 billion in the general fund, $21.5 billion in federal funds, $12.2 billion in fees and special fund revenues and finally, $2.5 billion in the motor license fund.
“The 2012–13 budget I present puts Pennsylvania on a path to prosperity again by aligning the commonwealth’s resources with the core functions and priorities of government: education, public safety, and individual responsibility and opportunity,” Corbett stated through a letter that accompanied his budget proposal. “In education, this budget significantly enhances the commonwealth’s investment in basic education by providing greater funding flexibility to local school districts and allowing them to focus that funding on students and student achievement.”
Currently, Corbett’s proposal calls for $6.52 billion for the Student Achievement Education Block Grant. Thomas said that does little, when one considers the cuts to education and Corbett has enacted in his first term as governor.
“If we agree that education must be a priority in Pennsylvania, then the $300 million in cuts to education must be restored. We cannot continue to say that new shills are required to compete effectively in the 21st century economy, but not fund education properly,” Thomas said. “The future of Pennsylvania ins inextricably tied to providing a quality 21st century education on all levels.”
Thomas’ proposed $1.7 billion in total reallocated funds would be broken down into several categories, including: the reallocation of $1.9 million to the Commission on Crime and Delinquency; $3 million allocated to create the Children & Family Network; $5 million budget giveback for acute care hospital funding and various health care measures; $5 million to fund the Workforce Development Program at the Department of Labor and Industry.
Thomas plan also calls for $7.5 million fund the creation of the Keystone Job training Tax within the Department of Economic and Community Development.
“The reallocations I am proposing are just a few examples of what we can do on behalf of the people of the commonwealth,” Thomas said. “This is just the starting point. We have the necessary funding to ensure that no citizen is hurt by the 2012–13 state budget.”
Thomas’ plan also calls for education funding to be restored to fiscal year 2009–10 levels, that basic education receives $376 million in increased funding and the restoration of funding to four core healthcare programs: lupus treatment, trauma program coordination, diabetes services and better transportation to area Department of Drug and Alcohol centers.
And lastly, Thomas’ alternate budget includes at least $60 million to assist homeowners via Homeowner’s Emergency Mortgage Assistance, Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Program and the Housing and Redevelopment Assistance Program.
“Foreclosures in rural and urban Pennsylvania are increasing while the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency remains underfunded,” Thomas said. “Thousands of Pennsylvanians who have lost their jobs have no health insurance and school districts around the commonwealth struggle to maintain their buildings and staffs.
“In light of these realities facing our constituents, [I] cannot, in good conscience, support Governor Corbett’s budget and must stand against his hard-hearted proposal.”