Blake: Stopgap Budget Continues Past Cuts, Reduces Funding Levels for Schools

HARRISBURG, September 18, 2015 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today released the following statement regarding the Senate party-line passage of the Republican-crafted stopgap budget:

“The Republican-crafted stopgap budget presented for a vote today in the Senate is basically one-third of the flawed and irresponsible budget that the Republican majority passed in June which was properly and swiftly vetoed by Governor Tom Wolf. One third of that budget is not an improvement or a solution. Further, it locks in past cuts and ignores the significant stress being felt by our school districts, our human service providers and our taxpayers. The stopgap budget plan passed by Senate Republicans today all but ensures reduced funding levels for our schools and human service agencies going forward.”

“Since June, I have met with dozens of business managers, superintendents, and directors of our nonprofit and health care systems throughout the 22nd Senate district – all of whom are experiencing significant fiscal distress directly because Republican leadership will not agree to negotiate an honest, balanced and complete state budget. Those conversations, and the real pain being felt by our schools and our service providers made this a very difficult vote – but I know that for whatever short-term relief this plan promises, the long-term consequences of these bad decisions are far greater.”

“The Republican Party held control of both houses of the General Assembly as well as the governor’s office for the past four years. Over those four years, we saw a stark decline in state funding for public education and a dramatic increase of local school property taxes in 70 percent of school districts statewide. Democrats in Harrisburg were also forced to sit on the sidelines as the policies advanced by Republican control saw Pennsylvania drop to dead last in job creation and saw our credit ratings downgrade five times in four years – costing Pennsylvania taxpayers, annually, an additional $140 million in debt service payments as a result.”

“The Republican majority continues to hold Pennsylvanians hostage to a rigid and unwavering public policy position on two issues which are not intrinsic to a balanced state budget: pension reform and liquor privatization. While Governor Wolf has made significant concessions to the Republicans publicly and in closed-door negotiations, the Republicans remain unwilling to move at all from their position on pensions, liquor privatization and the Marcellus shale severance tax.”

“Governor Wolf was elected by a strong statewide majority on campaign issues that now constitute the major focus of his agenda in this budget debate: adequate public school funding; real property tax relief; a reasonable severance tax on the natural gas industry; and a return to fiscal and budgetary responsibility. Unfortunately, the Republican majority in Harrisburg continues to operate on autopilot while allowing our state to slip into mediocrity as the quality of life for many citizens and workers across the Commonwealth declines.”

“Pennsylvanians need and deserve courageous leadership and principled, well-informed, fiscally-responsible conduct from their elected leaders. Stalling or evading our responsibility to balance a full and complete state budget is not in the public interest. When we have divided government the only way to resolve differences is to negotiate – and this stopgap budget allows the Republican majority to evade the urgency of those negotiations.”

The $11 billion plan passed the Senate by a 30-19, party-line vote. The House is expected to begin debating the stopgap budget bill that passed the Senate next week.

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