Stop Games; Start Seriously Negotiating Sustainable Budget, Coalition Tells Lawmakers

Ellen Lyon, 717-919-9924

(HARRISBURG, Pa.) – Aug. 26, 2015 –The Pennsylvania legislature needs to buckle down and finally start working on a sustainable state budget, a coalition of human services and budget groups said in a press conference in the Capitol Rotunda the morning after the House took a series of unsuccessful and likely unconstitutional line-item veto override votes on the budget passed at the end of June. Gov. Wolf vetoed that budget in its entirety on June 30, after introducing in March his own budget proposal, which the General Assembly’s leadership failed to seriously consider.

After seven weeks of game-playing culminating in last night’s show that flopped, speakers at the press conference told lawmakers that it’s long past time to negotiate a budget that increases education funding, protects Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens and makes gas drillers pay their fair share in a severance tax.

"As the budget impasse drags on, it seems like the very real needs of Pennsylvanians who are hurting are being cynically disregarded in favor of political games that will do little good for anyone,” said Alan Jennings, executive director of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley. “Too many people in the legislature are doing everything they can to demonstrate their own view that government doesn't work by making sure it can't work."

Kathy Fisher, policy manager for the Coalition Against Hunger in Philadelphia, noted that "chronic underfunding, agencies on the front lines of fighting hunger and poverty have already been stretched thin and are struggling to do more with less. The legislature should focus on raising the revenue needed to put Pennsylvania on a sound fiscal path.”

The Rev. Sandra L. Strauss, director of advocacy and ecumenical outreach for the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, reminded legislators that “our General Assembly has a responsibility to support and sustain the common good. Justice is not served when our elected officials fail to do one of the basic tasks they were elected to do — that is, to pass a budget that protects all Pennsylvanians, including our most vulnerable citizens, and to do it in a timely fashion.”