Minutes ago, the Pennsylvania Senate passed the fiscal year 2015 budget by a vote of 26-24. The budget includes $29.1 billion in spending and moves on to the House of Representatives for an additional vote.
I am contacting you tonight to tell you that I think this is the most disastrous, devastating, disappointing budget in my tenure in Harrisburg. Governor Corbett and Republican leadership have just voted to slash education and human services programs, to leave millions of revenue untapped; all while doing absolutely nothing to create or protect jobs in our Commonwealth.
The first thing Pennsylvanians will remember about Tom Corbett’s first, and perhaps only, term in office is his unprecedented cuts in funding for our public schools. The future of our Commonwealth lies with our children, and there’s no better investment in Pennsylvania than quality public education. This budget continues the Governor’s policy to shortchange our children, their families, the communities in which they live, and all of the hard-working teachers and staff in our public schools. Not only will these children have a disadvantage in their education, when they finish school there will be little to no programs left to offer a hand up in this difficult economy.
This Governor fails Pennsylvania’s children.
Medicaid expansion, a program which would protect hundreds of thousands of working adults and seniors, remains available to Pennsylvania and the Governor refuses to accept it. Why? He would rather veterans, seniors, and other vulnerable populations suffer on principle instead of linking himself to a successful program expanded by President Obama.
This Governor fails Pennsylvania’s veterans.
The natural gas industry and corporations in Pennsylvania continue to make unprecedented profits while our schools close and veterans are without health care. Pennsylvania has the lowest tax rate of any oil and gas producing state in our nation, and we refuse to ask them to pay their fare share!
We are forced to watch while this administration GIVES AWAY the profits from our natural resources while simultaneously destroying our parks, ruining home property values, causing catastrophic health problems, and violating our water sources. The natural gas industry gets to steal our natural resources without paying for them!
I have two bills to address this egregious situation: one establishing a moratorium on new gas drilling permits in order to conduct an unbiased study on the multi-faceted effects that oil and gas development causes, and a 17-point amendment to the state’s existing oil and gas act. Some of those points include common sense protections: replacing the impact fee with a severance tax, require that drillers notify surrounding property owners and municipal officials that are within 5,000 ft of the well site prior to applying for a drilling permit, amends how trade secrets are handled, and many more. These bills have gotten zero movement nor consideration in the Senate since their introduction in 2013.
This Governor fails Pennsylvania’s natural resources.
I have said for months that this budget plan is a “house of cards.” The Governor has proven me true by balancing his budget on tricks, unrealistic revenue estimates, and one-time fund transfers that do NOTHING to sustainably manage the state’s finances for the long-term. Even worse, this budget sets the state up for a $2.5 billion deficit for next year, and the General Assembly may even be forced to make significant repairs to this fundamentally flawed plan early next year!
This Governor has failed all of Pennsylvania with this budget.
I am outraged by the passage of this budget, and I hope you will remember in the coming months who passed this budget – Governor Corbett and his Republican leadership – not my Democratic colleagues nor me.