ANOTHER OPINION: Pennsylvania Budget – The Easy Way Or The Right Way?

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by State Rep.-Elect Donna Bullock
As I prepare to take the oath of office, and without resolution to the current budget stalemate, I’m reminded that those who have the privilege to serve must often choose a hard right over the easy wrong.

We can do what is easy – which has been the prevailing approach over the last four years. Or we can do what is right – which is standing firm in a belief that we can and must do better to move the Commonwealth and our communities forward.

The easy approach is to do what Republican leadership in the legislature has done, and what they continue to advocate – cut spending, find no meaningful new revenue and keep the status quo, even if it continues harming schools, property taxpayers and those in need of public services.

This approach, however, has produced some catastrophic results for Pennsylvania. The state has accumulated over a $1 billion structural deficit that will continue to grow under the current Republican budget plan. Local communities have been left to fend for themselves to fund schools by reluctantly imposing higher property taxes and laying off teachers. Locally operated human services programs have faced drastic and damaging cuts that jeopardize the wellbeing of citizens and the financial health of counties throughout the Commonwealth.

Cuts to human services over the last four years have impacted many programs that people all over Pennsylvania count on, such as mental-health programs, children and youth services, long-term care funding for older residents, homeless-assistance programs, and drug and alcohol treatment.

These programs are critical to many of our citizens. Continuing the practice of doing what is easy, by cutting funding without recognizing the impacts of those cuts, is not the right thing to do. And this budget stalemate should be about doing what is right, instead of simply doing what is easy.

I stand with Gov. Tom Wolf in supporting his budget, which commits $27.9 million to county-run human services. Wolf’s budget also provides $2.5 million to the Dept. of Human Services to fight the growing heroin and opioid epidemic, invests an additional $500,000 to promote employment for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and includes $1 million to reduce homelessness among veterans.

His budget also puts back $1.7 million for in-home services for seniors. Unfortunately, the Republican budget stripped this funding, forcing more seniors into costly nursing homes even though they preferred to stay in their homes to age with dignity.

Meanwhile, the Governor’s proposed budget would invest $120 million to early-education initiatives that would allow Pennsylvania to offer pre-K to all three- and four-year olds in the state. Wolf’s proposal would also increase basic education funding by $400 million, and special-education funding by $100 million. In Philadelphia, schools would receive $159 million more than last year, while property-tax payers would see rates drop by 27% on average.

The Republican budget does little to restore the education cuts, continuing the foolishness of the last four years.

Easy wrongs have a pesky way of adding up until there’s a crisis, and this is the crossroad we face right now in Pennsylvania. It’s time to make the hard but right choice.

Donna Bullock will be representing the 195th Legislative Dist. in North and West Philadelphia.

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