Groups Call for General Assembly to Include Revenue Measures in Budget Response

To the Members of the General Assembly:

Re: The FY 2009-2010 State Budget

The undersigned organizations represent the diversity of Pennsylvanians whose lives are touched by investments and services funded with state tax dollars. We join together today to urge you to adopt a state budget for Fiscal Year 2009-10 that safeguards our economic future, protects children and families on the front lines of today’s deep economic recession, and rejects the use of harsh cuts to balance the budget.

Across the Commonwealth, Pennsylvanians suffering the effects of the recession are turning to state-funded services and to institutions in their communities for assistance. The recession has left these institutions—local governments and hospitals, elder care providers and non-profit organizations, community colleges, schools, and others —with dramatically reduced resources to meet growing demand. State budget cuts will leave these institutions with even fewer resources, and leave more Pennsylvanians without services when they most need them.

State revenues are clearly insufficient to provide adequate services for our citizens. The state is projected to close the fiscal year with a deficit of at least $3.2 billion. Next year, when revenues could be at their lowest since FY 2005-06, looks even bleaker.

Senate Bill 850 seeks to balance the state budget by cutting program funding to match ever-decreasing revenues. The measure reverses the gains that have been made during the last few years, such as expanded autism services, increased child care assistance for working families, reductions to waiting lists for individuals with developmental disabilities, pre-K opportunities for children at risk of education failure, and health insurance coverage for children. The bill abandons the promise made to Pennsylvania’s schoolchildren that they will receive the resources they need to meet rigorous performance standards they will need to succeed in the new economy.

We are concerned that SB 850 relies too heavily on federal funds to close the budget gap, particularly in K-12 education. Public education funding is Pennsylvania’s largest and most important responsibility. Reducing state funding to the extent proposed in SB 850 will jeopardize the Commonwealth’s ability to meet its obligations when federal funds are no longer available in FY 2012.

In seeking solutions, we urge you to acknowledge that the deficit is a result of reduced revenues, not spending decisions made in the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania’s spending growth has been lower than the national average for four of the past five years. States with widely varying tax and spending policies—47 in total—face significant budget deficits this year.

We all acknowledge that the Commonwealth is facing a fiscal crisis. This crisis is of such proportion that spending cuts alone cannot solve it. Deep budget cuts will only prove disastrous for government services, such as those outlined above.

With the end of the fiscal year fast approaching and revenues continuing to decline, we respectfully urge you to adopt revenue enhancements to help balance the budget. A wide array of revenue generating proposals should be considered, including broad-based taxes. Without new revenue, the Commonwealth will surely struggle with insufficient resources to fund essential government services for years to come.

Cuts to local education and safety net services will not protect taxpayers from tax increases. It will simply shift the burden to the local level where the most readily available source of added revenue is the property tax. It is now time to address the current fiscal crisis and build a solid fiscal foundation to help Pennsylvania weather the current economic storm and those yet to come.

We urge you to set Pennsylvania’s budget right, for now and for the future. Maintaining critical services for the most vulnerable and sustaining investments in education and skills can only make the Commonwealth stronger. It is an investment we are willing to pay for.

Thank you for your consideration.

Joseph Bard, Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools
Eileen Connelly, SEIU State Council
Tim Allwein, Pennsylvania School Boards Association
Joseph A. Quattrocchi, Pennsylvania Hunger Action Center
David Fillman, AFSCME District Council 13
Susan M. Schrand, Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners
Paulette Houghton, United Cerebral Palsy of South Central PA., Inc.
Shelly Yanoff, Public Citizens for Children and Youth
Joan Benso, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children
James Testerman, Pennsylvania State Education Association
Peter Javsicas, Pennsylvanians for Transportation Solutions, Inc.
Stinson Stroup, Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators
Kathy Jellison, SEIU Local 668
Joanne L. Tosti-Vasey, Pennsylvania NOW, Inc.
Winston Cleland, Pennsylvania Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Sharon Ward, Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
John Dodds, Philadelphia Unemployment Project
Joni Rabinowitz, Just Harvest
Letty Thall, Maternity Care Coalition
Jean Hunt, Campaign for Working Families
Carol Tracy, Women’s Law Center
Linda Croushore, The Consortium of Public Education
Doris Kung, Cookman United Methodist Church
Ron and Diana Ames, Pennsylvania Coalition to End Homelessness
Sr. Mary Scullion, Project Home
Penny Cutler, Jenkintown
Jenny Hershour, Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania
Jim Sheffer, Pennsylvania Association of Federal Program Administrators
Jodi Askins, Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children
Jill Bartoli, Elizabethtown College
Jenna Mehnert, National Association of Social Workers-PAChapter
Peter Zurflieh, Community justice Project
Blair Hyatt, Pennsylvania Head Start Association
Ron Cowell, Education Policy Leadership Center
Pennsylvania League of Urban Schools
Liz Hersh, Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania
Sr. Betty Sundry, Sisters of the Divine Providence
Susan Gobreski, Education Voters Pennsylvania
Nancy Smith Latanision, Pennsylvania School Librarians Association
Jennifer Clarke, Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Peg J. Dierkers, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Jay Spector, President & CEO, JEVS Human Services
Mary Dougherty, CORA Services
Caroline Allen, Pennsylvania PTA
Jackie Cullen, Pennsylvania Association of Career and Technical Administrators
Ted Kirsch, President AFT-Pennsylvania
Linda Katz-Children’s Literacy Initiative
The Rev. Sandra L. Strauss, Pennsylvania Council of Churches
Larry Feinberg, Southeastern Pennsylvania School Districts’ Education Coalition
Susan Brotherton, Red Shield Family Residence
Sherrie Cohen, Coalition for Essential Services
Joseph Acri, Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals Association
Ruth Felker Kolb, Family Center Network, University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development
Jennine Miller, Vote for Homes Coalition
Carol Goertzel, Pathways PA

Additional Signers (since June 15th letter was sent to General Assembly)

John Wilson, President, Progress Resources, Inc.
Charles J. Smyth, Hatboro, PA
Stephanie Dykes, Wallingford, PA
Stephen Herzenberg, Keystone Research Center
Bishop Charlie F. McNutt, Jr., Retired Episcopal Bishop
Dr. Jill Sunday Bartoli, Elizabethtown College
Jane Carroll, The Education and Policy Leadership Center
Cheryl Feldman, District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund
Harriet Smith, District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund
Paul Grubb, National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, District 1199C
Jose Frayre, Lancaster
Farah Hynes, Lancaster County Assistance Office
Robert C. Settle, Jr., SEIU 668, Lancaster
Vashine Brown, Lancaster
Emily Gates, Lancaster
Ana Ross, Lancaster
Delilah Rumburg, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, Enola
Ronell Guy, Northside  Coalition for Fair Housing, Pittsburgh
Sr. Carolyn Winschel, Providence Connections, Pittsburgh
Natalie Ryan, Pittsburgh
Kristie Underwood, City Line Child Care and Education Center, Lancaster
Linda L Horner, City Line Child Care and Education Center, Lancaster
Michael J Horner, City Line Child Care and Education Center, Lancaster
Justin V Thomas, City Line Child Care and Education Center, Lancaster
Kristopher M Horner, City Line Child Care and Education Center, Lancaster
Kristyn Horner, City Line Child Care and Education Center, Lancaster
Tammy Calnon, Shoemakersville