The cuts proposed in Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s budget have met opposition from within the GOP-controlled state senate, so much so that those senators recently published an alternate budget to Corbett’s proposal.
While on its face, the senatorial proposal offers a few givebacks, — state Representative and Democratic chair of the House Urban Affairs Committee W. Curtis Thomas — who himself published an alternate budget — believes the senate’s plan is just as bad as Corbett’s.
“The Republican budget plan is not a restoration of Governor Corbett’s cuts,” said Thomas in a statement released by his office. “It does nothing to repair the damage from the massive and devastating cuts Corbett signed into law last year that hurt seniors, low-income and middle-income families all across Pennsylvania.”
Thomas’ alternate budget — the “Putting People First Now” proposal — called for the reallocation of $1.7 billion in the general budget to the areas of education, jobs, healthcare and housing. Major portions of Thomas’ plan restores public education funding to the 2009/2010 levels of $685 million, while also restoring funding for basic education enhancements, Pennsylvania Accountability Grants, School Improvement Grants and the Education Assistance Program.
“If we agree that education must be a priority in Pennsylvania, then the $300 million in cuts to education must be restored,” Thomas said when his plan was first released. “We cannot continue to say that new skills are required to compete effectively in the 21st century economy, but not fund education properly. The future of Pennsylvania is inextricably tied to providing a quality 21st century education on all levels.”
Thomas’ plan also provides a $7.7 million increase in healthcare, and at least $60 million in a statewide housing trust fund.
Thomas’ plan received little in the way of an official embrace from the state’s GOP leadership, so Thomas introduced several amendments to Corbett’s budget; this will allow some, or all, of Thomas’ amendments to be voted on as part of the budget bill itself.
If adopted, Thomas’ amendments would restore $250 million to basic education while adding $3 million to the School Nutrition Incentive Program; it would also restore $5 million to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — STEM — program while adding $11 million to the Pell Grant initiative and additional $100 million to the Pennsylvania Accountability Block Grant Program.
For Pennsylvania workers, Thomas’ plan adds $5 million for a new workforce development program, and for homeowners, $6 million to restore the Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program. Other, smaller initiatives will also benefit under Thomas’ amendments, including $2 million for breast cancer screening, $1.147 to bolster trauma centers statewide, $5 million for acute care hospitals and $7 million for various AIDS programs.
Finally, Thomas’ plan also includes $3 million for childcare assistance, $130,000 for rape crisis programs, $220,000 for domestic violence programs and $5 million for community-based family centers.
“Thousands of Pennsylvanians have lost their jobs and are facing foreclosures in rural and urban Pennsylvania while the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency remains underfunded. We need to help people instead of kicking them while they’re down as the Corbett budget does,” Thomas said. “This isn’t just about numbers and dollar signs. It’s about real people — our children in public schools, our elderly family members and our disabled and chronically ill neighbors.
“I am calling on Governor Corbett and his Republican allies to put aside their political ideology and to put the interests of the people ahead of their partisan agenda that is hurting the people they claim to represent.”