HARRISBURG – Senate Democratic Appropriations Chairman Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) today said he voted against the Republican budget contained in House Bill 1485 because it will hurt students, seniors, taxpayers and Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable.
“The Republican spending plan is short sighted and filled with pain for too many in Pennsylvania,” Hughes said. “The $900 million in cuts for our schools will result in hardship for students and all property taxpayers while drastic reductions to important human service programs will cause pain for those most vulnerable.
“Local taxes will increase, thousands of teachers will be laid off and school programs will be eliminated.”
The budget was unveiled on Monday, three days before the June 30 budget deadline. The plan was crafted without any input from Senate Democrats, with the Senate Republicans pulling rank the last three weeks of negotiations.
“If my Senate Republican colleagues had chosen to be more inclusive and included us in formal negotiations, we might have had a better outcome.”
Hughes said that the $27.15 billion General Fund budget represents a reduction of 4 percent from last year’s $28.3 billion spending plan.
“The state budget cuts higher education funding by nearly 20 percent for state-system schools and state-related institutions, plus the appropriation for community colleges is reduced by 10 percent,” Hughes said. “These cuts will result in tuition increases for families and may, in fact, put a college education out of reach for many Pennsylvania students.
“Plus, the budget slashes line items that help those most in need; will put our hospitals in dire fiscal straits; reduces our ability to create jobs; and pushes our human service safety net to the brink.”
Hughes said what is more appalling to him was that the state will likely end this fiscal year with a revenue surplus of $700 million.
“If we were truly interested in crafting a budget that meets the needs of Pennsylvania, we could have used the revenue surplus to add dollars for education, human services and other programs that touch lives and help people,” Hughes said.
The West Philadelphia lawmaker, and long-time veteran of the state Senate, said he could not remember a budget that was so disappointing. He cited cuts to the homeowner mortgage assistance program, the reduction of dollars for the Human Service Development Fund from $24 million last year to $14.5 million and the huge cuts in funding for uncompensated care that helps hospitals cope with serving those without insurance.
Hughes said that there were other resources available to adequately fund education, health care, human services and job creation.
“The Republicans and Gov. Corbett, who secretly negotiated this budget, were unwilling to use the Senate Democratic budget saving plan that would free up more than $750 million to restore key budget lines, but they would also not close the Delaware corporate tax loophole or institute a reasonable energy extraction tax on gas drillers,” Hughes said.
“This budget leaves hundreds of millions on the table, is unfair, and balanced on the backs of taxpayers and those least able to afford increases in taxes, tuition and costs, Hughes said.
“Although this budget is disheartening, we will continue to push forward, with a message and a policy agenda that puts Pennsylvania’s people first, and continue to fight for education investments, job creation programs, support for health care services and a fair tax policy,” Hughes said.
The state budget bill cleared the state Senate on a party-line vote and now goes to the state House of Representatives for approval.