Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Advocates Call for a Fair State Budget

Andrea Sears, Public News Service

Organizations issue fair budget recommendations at the State Capitol on Tuesday. (Bestbudbrian/Wikimedia Commons)
Organizations issue fair budget recommendations at the State Capitol on Tuesday. (Bestbudbrian/Wikimedia Commons)
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Education advocates, environmentalists and human services organizations are calling on the governor and General Assembly to pass a "Budget for Pennsylvania's Future."

The groups are issuing a joint letter today saying the 2016 - 2017 budget needs to fairly raise taxes to adequately fund schools and human services, and protect the environment. According to Marc Stier, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, critical services are still receiving less funding than before the recession.

"We simply need new revenues, and we should raise them in a fair way," says Stier. "Given the problems caused by cuts in corporate taxes, we need to be raising money on corporations, and on those most able to pay."

The budget for the current fiscal year is still unfinished and the Budget and Policy Center points out that unless it is resolved, many schools will run out of money again next month.

The Center has released an analysis of the three competing budget proposals from last year - the governor's proposal, the compromise, and the Republican budget bill that passed the Legislature. According to Stier, only the governor's proposal raised taxes to balance the budget.

"We face a structural deficit in this year, even with the Republican proposal, of $318 million," he says. "And that grows to $2 billion next year."

The problem, he says, is not that state spending has increased. In fact, the budget is smaller compared to the state's overall economy than it was over the last 20 years.

"Had we not cut corporate taxes starting back in the Ridge administration, we would have about $2.5 billion more to spend in the coming year than we actually will have," says Stier.

The analysis found that returning corporate taxes to 2002 levels would help eliminate the deficit and restore funding that has been cut from education and human services.

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