By EILEEN JOSEPH
Times Guest Columnist
In times like these, every dollar counts. For hard-working families sitting at kitchen tables all across Pennsylvania, that means taking a careful look at every single purchase so we can still pay for the necessities that keep a roof over our family’s head and put food on the table.
It’s pretty much the same for state government. Fallout from the global recession is forcing state leaders to choose where to spend and where to cut as they work to balance this year’s budget.
For the sake of our future, it’s critical they get it right. Consider the options:
Should the state cut back on job training, leading to higher unemployment later?
Is it a good idea to slash funding for food banks and YMCAs, when it could mean more people on the street needing even more expensive services?
Are we better off cutting family support centers that serve thousands of children, knowing the result is higher child welfare costs?
Is it prudent to cut back on community-based treatment and rehabilitation services developed over the past 30 years for persons with mental illness and risk increasing the use of more costly hospital or institutional treatment?
And is it worth reducing access to childcare and early childhood education, when research shows every dollar spent on early education saves $16 in future education, criminal justice and human services costs?
The answer to all of these questions is obvious: Just like every family knows, even when times are tough, we need to pay for the necessities now in order to avoid even more pain down the road.
But Harrisburg isn’t listening. Gov. Tom Corbett and House Republican leaders have put forth budget plans that include very real, and very deep, cuts to education and human services.
Both proposals take resources away from Pennsylvania classrooms, which will increase class size and drive up property taxes. Effective programs like full-day kindergarten will be curtailed or eliminated.
Less understood is just how devastating — and unnecessary — the cuts to health and human services are.
The story begins in March when Gov. Corbett ended adultBasic – the health insurance plan that 41,000 working Pennsylvanians relied on. Tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians now must do without vital health treatment like chemotherapy or end up in emergency rooms where they drive up the insurance costs for the rest of us.
Adding insult to injury, Gov. Corbett proposed a state budget that takes state tobacco settlement dollars previously used to pay for adultBasic and spends them on a business loan fund.
More recently, House Republican leaders introduced a budget that shifts cuts in the governor’s plan rather than restoring them. The plan targets human services spending with cuts that could cost 100,000 Pennsylvanians’ health coverage, hamstring county child abuse protection efforts, and limit help for domestic violence victims.
It’s a lose-lose approach.
The worst part of all, it doesn’t have to be like this. Many of these cuts could be prevented without raising taxes one cent on middle-class families.
Gov. Corbett and his legislative allies are sitting on a half-billion dollar surplus, and they want to put it in the Rainy Day Fund, even though many Pennsylvanians already feel they are in a thunderstorm. It’s one thing to make budget cuts when you must; however, it simply makes no sense to punish hard-working families by cutting critical services when the state has a significant surplus in its bank account.
Can we consider additional options to our financial dilemma?
Pennsylvania is the only major gas-producing state in the nation that doesn’t have a drilling tax. Even Texas has a drilling tax that supports schools, health care, the environment and local communities. So should Pennsylvania.
It’s also time to close Pennsylvania’s corporate tax loopholes. By shifting Pennsylvania profits to tax haven states like Delaware, corporations save themselves a bundle, while shifting the tax burden onto the rest of us. Corporations should pay their share like the rest of us.
Gov. Corbett and the House Republicans appear to be making poor short-term solutions, which will inevitably cost the citizens of Pennsylvania much more in financial and human capital. Our elected officials can do better.
Eileen M. Joseph is president/CEO of CareLink Community Support Services, Eddystone.
Article taken from the Delco Times 6/23/2011