Pa. residents should be outraged over latest budget ploy

August 26, 2009|By RICHARD ALLOWAY

County social service agencies, veterans programs, college students counting on financial aid, food banks and homeless shelters are among the latest victims of Pennsylvania's budget stand-off. When Gov. Rendell blue-lined Senate Bill 850, he cut funding for a wide range of programs that Pennsylvanians count on.

Many of the organizations that run these programs might soon close their doors or curtail services because they do not have the funding to continue operations. This is unnecessary and inexcusable.

Seeking to keep vital government programs and services operating while budget negotiations continue, I joined with my Republican colleagues in the Senate on Aug. 19 to vote to override several of the governor's line item vetoes of SB850. Despite unanimous Republican support, 19 of the 20 Senate Democrats voted against the measures, which required a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate.

I want to thank the lone Democrat, Sen. Lisa Boscola of Northampton County, for taking a stand in defense of Pennsylvania's most vulnerable citizens. Had these measures passed in the Senate and House, funding would have begun flowing again to programs the governor cut.


I spoke on the Senate floor last week, urging Democrats to join me in overriding the governor's veto of homeless shelter funding. After receiving a scathing letter from a Democratic senator from Philadelphia criticizing Republicans for holding up shelter funding, that same senator voted to uphold the governor's veto. I don't see how that shows compassion for the homeless.

The actions of the majority of Senate Democrats are even harder to understand when you consider that SB850 funded many of these programs at the same levels recommended by the governor. Some examples include:

o Homeless Assistance, $25.6 million.

o Veterans Educational Assistance, $7 million.

o Veterans Outreach Services, $1.7 million.

o Veterans Assistance, $428,000.

o Disabled Veterans Transportation, $350,000.

Senate Democrats missed an opportunity to join with Republicans to fund needed programs at levels we all agree upon. In the meantime, Republicans and Democrats could continue negotiating over the parts of the budget on which substantial disagreement still exists.

Instead, the governor and Democrats are using the least fortunate among us as pawns in the battle over the budget.

Why did Democrats vote the way they did? The simple answer, as given by Gov. Rendell, is to maintain leverage over Republicans in pushing for the Democrats' version of a 2009-10 budget -- one that increases spending and raises taxes in the middle of a recession.

The state has the money to fund these programs while negotiations continue. In fact Gov. Rendell certified more than $25 billion in available revenue, while signing less than $11 billion of spending into law.

Counties, social service agencies and others denied funding should be outraged at this political ploy and urge their legislators to restore funding by overriding the governor's line item vetoes of Senate Bill 850.

Richard Alloway, a Republican, is a Pennsylvania state senator representing Franklin, Adams and York counties.

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