Pennsylvania is in trouble. Right now, it does not have the revenues to keep its current services let alone fix the broken school funding system and reduce local property taxes. Just to keep last year’s services, we need to raise over $1.5 billion in new revenue.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 7, members of the PA House will have an opportunity to take a step toward a responsible budget. They will be asked to vote on a revenue package to fund this year’s state budget. Unless some Republicans join with enough Democrats to vote for new taxes, the alternative will be new steep cuts in education and other services.
Former Budget Secretary Charles Zogby, who served under Governor Corbett, correctly noted that the 2014-2015 Pennsylvania budget was “bare bones” and had nothing left to cut. Pennsylvania already has fewer state employees per capita than all but three other states, and is the smallest in relation to its workforce. And even with those cuts, there still wasn’t enough revenue. Trying to run the state without new taxes has led to credit downgrading every year of the Corbett administration. The governor’s office estimates that those downgrades alone are costing $170 million a year in higher interest rates on borrowing. We cannot afford to continue on this path.
What does this mean for our children? If the legislature does not vote for new broad based taxes, schools–already suffering from increased class size and the consequences of 20,000 layoffs over the last four years–will continue to fail our students. We will continue to see insufficient numbers of nurses, counselors, and librarians. Poor test scores will only get worse: this year’s scores showed a third of the students could not meet proficiency standards and that 70% of the districts had a school which did not meet state standards in reading or math even before the tests were adjusted for the new more rigorous standards last year.
This situation will change only if enough Republicans feel safe to vote for new taxes in the critical vote tomorrow. Suburban legislators are the most important factor in making this happen. PLEASE CALL OR EMAIL YOUR STATE HOUSE REPRESENTATIVE. Click HERE to use a link provided by Education Voters of Pennsylvania to tell your state representative to support new revenue in the budget.