Sen. Blake speaks at Capitol news conference

HARRISBURG, June 15, 2011 – – State Sen. John P. Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today led a host of Senate Democrats and medical professionals in a call to restore the potentially disastrous cuts proposed to Pennsylvania’s medical schools, bioscience investments and regional cancer centers.

“As elected officials, we hold many responsibilities to our constituents, none of which are more essential than protecting their health and well-being,” Blake said. “Regrettably, the budget proposals that have thus far been circulated make deep cuts that jeopardize the health of our citizens and erode the quality of health care that will be available to Pennsylvania families for years to come.”

Today’s news conference put the spotlight on state investment versus state spending. Senate Democrats argued that proven, successful investments and preventative cost-saving approaches, such as the Life Science Greenhouses (LSG) program and Pennsylvania’s life-saving Regional Cancer Centers, should be spared from the proverbial budget axe.

Blake said that through February 15 of this year, LSGs have been responsible for 3,175 new jobs, 2,763 jobs retained, 136 new companies supported and the creation of an estimated 20,006 indirect jobs through prudent early stage investment that has leveraged millions in private commitments to new and promising life science technologies and innovations.

“If we are serious about our competitive position in life science research and early stage investment and if we are serious about saving health care expenditures over the long term, we need to sustain essential state investments in the Life Science Greenhouses and our indispensable Regional Cancer Centers,” Blake added. “Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the country and our four Regional Cancer Centers have advanced an increased level of screening, improved stage of diagnosis and lives saved; effectively saving Pennsylvania millions of dollars in the future in unnecessary and unaffordable Medicaid costs.”

Blake was joined at the news conference by Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), Democratic Appropriations Chair Vince Hughes (D-Philadelphia) and state Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia).

“From an economic standpoint, we have to realize that modest investments in our state-related academic medical centers are multiplied several times over when you take into account the private and federal dollars which flow into Pennsylvania as a result of the success of these institutions,” Costa said. “We can’t lose sight of the big picture and make reductions now that will cost us in years to come.”

Another concern of Senate Democrats is the potentially crippling funding reductions proposed to the state’s medical schools, specifically the two-year old Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC) in Scranton. State funding for TCMC was completely eliminated in both Gov. Corbett’s and the House Republicans’ budget proposals.

“With the average age of Pennsylvania’s practicing physicians reaching nearly 49 years old, we need to create incentives and opportunities to keep our best and brightest here in the state,” Blake said. “The cuts proposed to TCMC will not only put the operations of the college at risk, but will also have a adverse impact on the students, employees and the quality of patient care available in Northeastern Pennsylvania going forward.”

“On Monday the state Senate, by a party line vote, adopted Senate Resolution 100, which creates a temporary rule that forecloses upon our ability in the minority caucus of the Senate to suggest amendments to the budget that would authorize the use of excess revenue from this fiscal year to restore the cuts proposed by the Governor and by House Republicans to education, health care and human services for the next fiscal year,” Blake said. “Before a budget is returned to the House, we need bi-partisan support to make common-sense restorations to these programs and services that provide long-term benefits and long-term savings for all Pennsylvanians.”

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