Stack: Senate Passage of State Budget Disappointing
HARRISBURG, May 9, 2012 — State Sen. Mike Stack said that today’s passage of a 2012-13 state budget (Senate Bill 1466) was disappointing because it still contains painful cuts to education and child care.
“The little guy has lost again under this budget,” Stack said. “While this latest version of the budget makes significant gains compared to the governor’s spending plan, I know we can do better to restore funding to the programs that help working families and children.”
Stack said the reinstatement of the Accountability Block Grant program, which school districts use to fund educational programs like full-day kindergarten, was encouraging but only puts the funding at $50 million, or half the amount of funding compared to last year’s budget.
“Full-day kindergarten isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity,” Stack said. “Early education is crucial to a child’s educational and social development, and the Accountability Block Grant program helps schools provide our youngsters with a full day of kindergarten lessons. It deserves to be fully funded back to last year’s levels.”
Additionally, the legislation cuts $17.6 million from the child care services line item, which helps low-income families afford child care and funds the Keystone STARS achievement program for daycare centers.
“These cuts will debilitate working families who need extra support so they can place their children in a safe child care environment,” Stack said. “There are already 10,000 children on the child care subsidy waiting list. Clearly, it’s a program that is greatly needed already. Instead, the cuts will force families to choose whether or not they can work. That will increase the welfare rolls.”
Stack said he was disappointed that there was no provision to restart the adultBasic health coverage plan, which provided 41,000 low-income working Pennsylvanians with affordable health coverage until its demise in March 2011.
Stack offered two amendments to reinstate adultBasic in the budget. One amendment called for restoring $100 million to the adultBasic program through surplus revenues forecasted by the Independent Fiscal Office. The other amendment called for restoring $60 million to the adultBasic program from the General Assembly’s $120-180 million budget surplus. Both amendments failed.
“I still hear from folks across the state who had adultBasic and now struggle with their health care,” Stack said. “We only have to get these working men and women to 2014, when the federal health exchange kicks in. We should make that effort to fund this program again, and as long as budget negotiations continue, I will keep pushing for the restoration of this crucial program.”
The budget plan also makes no effort to create a long-term funding solution for the state’s transportation infrastructure crisis, Stack said.
“It’s a catastrophe waiting to happen,” Stack said. “It would be irresponsible of us to continue to ignore this crisis. We should be working on a long-term funding solution.”
“I hope this is not the final product. It’s important to get the process going early but we should not be in a rush to get a budget in place,” Stack said. “I encourage my colleagues to take the next few weeks and really work to ensure that line items like education, child care, health care, and human services are properly funded.”
Senate Bill 1466 was approved 39-8 and now heads to the House for consideration.