Budget address gets mixed reviews
Local state representatives and senators had mixed opinions on Gov. Tom Corbett's 2014-15 budget plan which he released on Tuesday.
The governor cited an improvement in the economy and proposed revenues from the upcoming Keno lottery game when revealing the $29.4 million budget that reflects no increase in taxes while adding almost $1 billion in spending.
Several local state officials were not impressed with what they heard on Tuesday saying the governor did not cover important issues.
“I personally think that it was a campaign speech,”said state Rep. Timothy S. Mahoney (D-Fayette, 51st District). “He didn't address subjects such as public safety, education or the quality of life for rural areas. I wasn't impressed. We have a documented shortfall of 500 troopers in the current statewide complement, and counting the usual cadet dropout rate, this governor is not close to addressing the need. You can't take half measures on something as critical as public safety. If we don't make the proper investment in prevention, we're guaranteed one return — more crime.”
State Rep. Deberah Kula (D-Fayette, 52nd District) felt the governor offered too little too late to address important issues such as education and job creation.
“I would say the governor's budget address is a case of too little, too late, more of the same,” Kula said. “Too little funding for our schools, too late to restore the $1 billion cuts and 20,000 education jobs lost, more of the same unfair funding mechanisms and property tax increases. Too little investment in job creation. Pennsylvania ranks 48 out of 50. Too late to save falling state revenues and more of the same handouts to bug business — $2.1 billion worth of corporate tax breaks and favors since he took office, including $881 million in his proposed 2014-2015 budget.”
Kula agreed with Mahoney that the governor's speech sounded more like a campaign speech than one that should address the issues that are important to taxpayers.
“While our schools continue to struggle and our Commonwealth lags behind the rest of the country in employment opportunities, the governor's budget address sounded more like a campaign speech. The hardworking people that I represent are not so easily fooled,” Kula said.
State Sen. Richard Kasunic (D-Fayette, 32nd) echoed Kula and Mahoney's sediments saying the governor offered little in the way of aide in needed areas.
“Obviously it's an election year,” Kasunic said. “We heard the governor talk about jobs, we heard him talk about education and we heard him talk about health care but where has he been for the past three years? We lost some our best and brightest teachers and educators here in Pennsylvania, and there have been thousands who have lost their jobs or moved out of the state to find jobs elsewhere. We had an opportunity over the last three years to continue the progress we had been making with public education but instead the governor chose not to, and decided to cut public education and at the same time, raised the taxes on hard-working men and women back in our districts, particularly the senior citizens who can ill afford it.”
Kasunic said that the governor's stance on health care is not enough.
“Hospitals have been struggling over the last three years because of the cuts that the governor has made and now all of a sudden, it's an election year and it's time to get up and running and stand up for health care. People have suffered, especially people who are mentally challenged and their parents and families. The things that were needed were eliminated or ignored because the governor decided not to pay for the programs that were out there.”
Kasunic said that the problems with job creation and workplace education were not addressed.
“The other issue we hear about is jobs,” Kasunic said. “We Democrats have talked about the cuts made to economic development programs and the cuts made to the job training opportunities for our young people. We did not prepare our workforce for those jobs of tomorrow and the jobs that people need. As I said, it's too little, too late and we have a long way to go.”
In Westmoreland County, state Rep. Mike Reese (R-Westmoreland, 59th) said he was happy with the governor's overall proposal, but had a few questions about revenue.
“I appreciate Gov. Corbett's priorities in this budget, such as increasing funding for individuals with intellectual disabilities and education,” Reese said. “That said, I have concerns regarding revenue and whether or not those monies will be there. I am also encouraged by the governor's approach to reducing the overall debt obligation and his commitment to responsibly privatizing the antiquated liquor system in Pennsylvania.”
Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer.