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2011-12 State Budget Falls Short

 

As you all may know, the 2011-12 state spending plan was signed into law a few weeks ago.  While the budget was passed and signed into law on time, the plan falls short of preserving programs and services vital to Pennsylvania’s economic recovery.

I disapproved of the budget plan, voting in the negative when it came to the Senate floor for final approval.  I just do not believe that this is the right path for Pennsylvania’s economic recovery.

The $27.15 billion spending plan cuts too deeply into education and job creation programs, weakens the hospital system and fails to enact a responsible fee on Marcellus Shale drilling.

From the beginning of the budget process, I have called for guiding this budget by two principles – job creation and making government more accountable to taxpayers.  Unfortunately this budget falls severely short of these principles.

School districts in this region will face a severe cut of $23,687,669 in this budget.  On average that is a 13.3 percent cut from 2010-2011.   These districts will now have to cut vital educational programs and layoff teachers, students will be crowded into classrooms and households will inevitably see a spike in property taxes.

The following local schools will see a dramatic decrease in funding from 2010-11 subsidies:

  • Nanticoke - $1,580,628 less  - 13% cut
  • Hanover Area- $1,048,569 less - 13% cut
  • Hazleton Area - $4,516,132 less - 12% cut
  • Pittston Area - $1,260,312 less - 12% cut
  • Wilkes-Barre Area - $3,904,811 - less 14% cut
  • Wyoming Area - $986,676 less - 12% cut
  • Wyoming Valley West - $2,922,455 less - 14% cut
  • Pocono Mountain - $4,182,942 less - 17% cut
  • Jim Thorpe - $503,404 less - 16% cut
  • Lehighton - $1,196,384 less - 13% cut
  • Panther Valley - $1,234,349 less - 14% cut
  • Weatherly - $351,007 less - 10% cut
June 22, 2011 - Senate Democrats to Discuss Marcellus Shale Fee Amendment

Colleges and universities throughout the state will receive significantly less funding in this year’s budget. 

Senate Democrats hold press conference to discuss Marcellus Shale Fee Amendment on June 22.
June 22, 2011 - Senate Democrats to Discuss Marcellus Shale Fee Amendment

We have some worthy institutions in our region.  Unfortunately, our community colleges, our private colleges and universities, our state system schools and our state- related colleges will see their funding decrease, their tuition increase and the dream of higher education for many students will remain just a dream.

This budget also woefully cuts job creation and business support programs in the state Department of Economic Development, thus harming efforts to rebuild Pennsylvania’s economy.

It is awfully misguided to cut proven job creation initiatives during a time of fiscal distress, yet these initiatives have also been zeroed out in this budget plan.  True economic growth comes from solid programs that help businesses get off the ground and maintain their workforce.

Despite modest restorations made to uncompensated care in this budget, in the amount of $16.5 million, hospitals are still negatively affected by budget cuts.

These restorations are a good start, but hospitals really need more funding.  In addition, with adultBasic not being funded in this budget, more and more individuals will turn to hospitals for care.

I have been a constant supporter of a Marcellus Shale impact fee or severance tax, which is why I am disappointed that the legislature failed to enact a fair and responsible fee on natural gas drilling. This would have significantly helped address adverse environmental issues associated with drilling.

Senate and House Democrats joined on June 26 to urge Republican leaders to “do the right thing” and pass a responsible severance fee on natural gas drilling.
June 26, 2011 - Senate and House Democrats joined today to urge Republican leaders to “do the right thing” and pass a responsible severance fee on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

We were fortunate to have bipartisan support on a fair impact fee that would have protected the environment as well as continue to grow the tremendous economic impact of the Marcellus Shale industry, yet it remains unfinished business.  The people of Pennsylvania, by an overwhelming majority, have called for a fair and responsible tax or fee on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region. I will continue to push for this in the upcoming legislative session.  It is my hope that the administration will realize the importance of an impact fee on natural gas drilling and the benefits it offers to Pennsylvania’s environment and economy.

While I understand the seriousness of Pennsylvania fragile economy, there were other options available to stem the harsh cuts made in this spending plan.  These options were disregarded.

I truly understand that with fiscal distress comes the need for a bit of belt tightening, but what I do not understand is why we chose to short circuit the future of Pennsylvania with a budget that weakens job growth and fails to enact a responsible Marcellus shale severance tax.

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June 22, 2011 - Senate Democrats to Discuss Marcellus Shale Fee Amendment June 26, 2011 - Senate and House Democrats joined today to urge Republican leaders to “do the right thing” and pass a responsible severance fee on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.