Senate Democrats today unveiled a budget plan they said underscores their budget priorities and includes $1.14 billion in total savings, new revenues and efficiencies.
Speaking at a news conference today at Temple University, Democrats offered these new budget solutions in response to Gov. Tom Corbett’s March budget proposal. The Corbett budget would make deep cuts in basic and higher education, social service funding, hospital funds, health care, job creation and county programs.
“By looking seriously at ways to make programs more efficient and cost effective, we stand to save the Commonwealth a significant amount of money,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny). “Savings of this magnitude deserve serious consideration.
“As we move forward in budget discussions, Senate Democrats are serious about finding solutions to bridge our budget shortfalls without cutting critical programs or risking the gains we have made in education.”
The Democratic plan uses the funding generated from the cost savings, revenues and innovations to restore critical funding for basic and higher education, safety net programs, mortgage assistance and other vital programs.
Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia), Minority Appropriations Chair, said Senate Democrats were offering an alternative spending plan that provides real alternatives to the dramatic cuts included in the Corbett budget.
“When Gov. Corbett announced his budget in March, I said we could do better. The Senate Democratic plan that we are unveiling today proves that we can do better and that we are not stuck with false choices,” Sen. Hughes said. “We don’t have to cut basic and higher education, job creation, human services funding or eliminate key programs like adultBasic.
“This plan provides real alternatives and offers substantive solutions in an exceptionally difficult budget year. We can find budget savings without cutting services.”
The Senate Democratic plan includes savings, revenues and efficiencies of $1.14 billion:
-- $750 million in savings from fiscal responsibility initiatives in Public Welfare, Corrections, procurement and maximizing revenues;
-- $290 million in savings generated through a tax fairness plan that includes a Marcellus Shale tax levy but eliminates other tax breaks suggested by the governor;
-- $100 million from higher state stores revenues.
Senate Democrats said the new revenue and savings can be used to restore key funding lines that were slashed in the Corbett budget plan. Senate Democrats would use the funds to:
-- Restore basic and higher education funding to fiscal 2010-11 levels;
-- Restore critical county programs such as the Human Services Development Fund;
-- Save the HEMAP (Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program) and mortgage foreclosure assistance programs;
-- Ensure that the Tobacco Settlement funds are used for healthcare;
-- Fund the adultBasic program with tobacco settlement dollars; and
-- Maintain core programs that create jobs and provide training.
Senate Democrats also pointed out that the revenue estimates included in the governor’s proposed budget were significantly under Senate Democratic estimates. The governor’s budget indicates that revenue surplus would be $78 million while Senate Democrats estimate year-end revenues at $300 million.
Democratic leaders also said state revenues would increase if more jobs were created. As a result, Senate Democrats have proposed a sweeping jobs plan called “PA Works” that would create jobs, leverage private funds and generate economic investment.
Philadelphia Delegation Chair, Sen. Shirley Kitchen (D- Philadelphia) said, “in an unsteady economy and in the face of massive budget cuts, I truly believe PA Works can be a bright spot that will help move Pennsylvania forward. It is short-sighted to simply cut and slash our way to a balanced budget.
“We need to give people hope and start planning for a better tomorrow. We can do that by creating jobs and investing in our current infrastructure.”
The news conference announcing the plan was immediately followed by a Senate Democratic Policy Committee roundtable discussion on job training legislation, a key component of PA Works.