State Rep. Jaret Gibbons voted on Thursday against the state budget negotiated between Gov. Tom Corbett and legislative Republicans. The spending plan continues last year’s $1 billion cut to public schools, underfunds education from toddlers to college students and targets more cuts to services for children, senior citizens, and people with disabilities.
“Thanks to strong public support lead by House Democrats, we were able to prevent some of Governor Corbett’s deepest cuts, but this year’s budget still continues last year’s billion dollar public education cut and slashes more county-based services for vulnerable citizens, pushing a greater burden to local taxpayers, seniors and families,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons said House Democrats joined students, parents and advocates for public and higher education to help defeat Corbett’s effort to further devastate quality public education in the state.
“The governor is leaving hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on the table which could have reduced or eliminated these cuts,” Gibbons said. “Hording the people’s tax dollars in Harrisburg only passes the buck to local property taxpayers who end up paying taxes twice for the same service.
“Level funding of education simply locks in last year’s $1 billion cut to public schools and the nearly 20 percent cut to state schools like Slippery Rock University. This means another year of school property tax hikes, school closures, larger classes, teacher layoffs, fees for sports and other activities and the elimination for vital educational programs,” he said.
For the second year the Legislature rejected the governor’s effort to eliminate early education funding through Accountability Block Grants. The highly successful program to help school districts offer full-day kindergarten and other early learning programs was level funded at $100 million, but is still cut 60 percent since Corbett took office.
“Cramming more students into classrooms with fewer teachers and less educational resources is not a path to putting more Pennsylvanians back to work,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons said that he was glad to see the governor’s cuts to important investments in early education programs were rejected in the final budget.
“I’m proud that House Democrats and education supporters blocked the governor’s cuts to Pre-K Counts and Head Start, but funding for those programs has been cut more than $1 million dollars since the governor took office,” Gibbons said.
“The governor’s disdain for early education is baffling.”
Gibbons said this budget cuts early education services by $13 million, which funds Keystone Stars and programs that provide child care for working adults.
“The Republican budget only makes it worse for parents by slashing support for child care services that will force some low-income parents to decide between leaving their jobs or properly caring for their children,” he said.
Gibbons expressed great concern about the 10 percent cut in the Republican budget to county-based services for mental health, intellectual disabilities, drug and alcohol treatment, and child welfare services. Those cuts, combined with lower reimbursements approved by Corbett’s secretary of Public Welfare, have already forced some providers to stop offering services.
“Failing to adequately funding human services and cutting reimbursement rates means important disability service providers in our community like Lark Enterprises and McGuire Memorial Home will have painful decisions to make,” Gibbons said. Funding cuts in last year’s budget have already forced some providers to cut jobs reduce services for people with mental and physical disabilities, and these additional human service funding cuts could put more of our most vulnerable citizens at risk.”
The Legislature also rejected the governor’s effort to cut funding for community parks and farmland preservation, as well as raiding $72 million from the Race Horse Development Fund for unrelated spending. Gibbons said using the money generated by casino slots would threaten thousands of jobs in the state’s resurgent horseracing industry.
“Protecting this fund maintains the viability that a horseracing track will be built in Lawrence County,” Gibbons said. “If the governor had been successful, our chance of building a racetrack here would likely end and hundreds of potential new jobs would be lost.
“I am thankful that through efforts by House Democrats, we were able to preserve key environmental programs like the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund and farmland preservation that will protect our family farms.”
Gibbons also said the budget fails to adequately fund environmental programs at a time when the state should be increasing the protections to the state’s land and water. Funding for the Department of Environmental Protection would be cut by 10 percent. Gibbons noted repeated cuts to the department’s budget have resulted in a 10 percent reduction in personnel in recent years, significantly impacting the department’s ability to properly monitor key environmental concerns.