House Democrats tonight said they stood firm against a Republican budget that would cut nearly $2 billion from public schools, universities and health care programs for Pennsylvania's most vulnerable citizens – all while the state sits on unexpected tax revenues of more than $1 billion.
"This Republican budget is driven by ideology and is a direct assault on middle-class families," said Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny). "It will inflict excruciating pain on women, children, the elderly, the disabled and the chronically ill. And it will shift the burden to local property taxpayers, many of whom are already just scraping by to keep their homes."
The House voted, 109 to 92, to approve House Bill 1485 (Adolph-R-Delaware), the $27.3 billion Republican budget plan. Republicans control both chambers of the General Assembly by large margins, as well as the Governor's Office.
Dozens of House Democrats stood on the House Floor to speak out against the devastating Republican cuts, which include: $976 million in cuts to K-12 education funding, nearly $300 million in cuts to higher education, and nearly $500 million in cuts to health care and human service programs for women, children, seniors, veterans, people with disabilities and the chronically ill.
Although Democrats agree some spending cuts are necessary, they said Republicans overreached and cut too deeply, especially in light of more than $1 billion in tax revenues available for next year that was not anticipated. The state already has more than $500 million in extra 2011 revenues in-hand, but Republicans refused to use any of it to lessen the impact of their cuts.
"It is irresponsible to move forward with a budget that punishes children in public schools, raises tuition for Pennsylvania college students, and inflicts undue pain on vulnerable citizens, all while House Republicans leave a billion dollars in taxpayer money on the table," said Democratic Whip Mike Hanna (D-Clinton). "And it is irresponsible to pass a budget that will raise property taxes on middle-class families. Make no mistake: This budget will cause property tax increases across Pennsylvania."
"When we have $1 billion available, there is no rational reason for choosing to make Pennsylvania's working and middle-class families suffer when we can avoid much of the pain in this Republican budget," said Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny), Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "This is a crystal-clear example of extreme ideology run amok, and it's an embarrassment to the people of this Commonwealth."
"We have a moral imperative to use the obvious surplus we have so that we can avoid catastrophic harm to Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens," said Democratic Caucus Chairman Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny). "Pennsylvanians are strong and resilient, but the backs of our students, seniors, and children just cannot bear the weight of this mean-spirited and hurtful budget proposal."
House Democratic leaders decried the Republican budget as short-sighted and counter-productive to the goal of moving Pennsylvania forward.
“Pennsylvania’s economic recovery depends on job-creating businesses having a well-trained, well-educated workforce ready to fill the high-tech jobs of the modern economy,” said Democratic Caucus Secretary Jennifer L. Mann (D-Lehigh). “Unfortunately, the plan pushed through the House today cuts funding for the schools, colleges and universities charged with preparing that high-tech, high-wage workforce. I hope that cooler heads will prevail in the state Senate and we can continue to invest in our financial future.”
"This Republican budget is wrong-headed and it's bad for Pennsylvania," said Caucus Administrator Ron Buxton (D-Dauphin). "Middle-class, working families will lose as local property taxes skyrocket all across the state because of this unfair, irresponsible budget."
"If Pennsylvania really were like a family, as the House Republicans and Governor Corbett often suggest, then it's a dysfunctional family,” said Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster). “A thoughtful family would consider all the revenue options, ask every member to contribute what they can, and not leave $1 billion of the taxpayers’ money that they sent for educating their children on the table while making painful cuts. House Bill 1485’s redistribution of the same arbitrary spend number the governor proposed in March is unrealistic and irresponsible.”