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Shapiro: Proposed Budget Could Force School Districts to Raise Taxes

Guest columnist State Rep. Josh Shapiro, D-153, says the proposed budget shifts burden to local governments, school boards

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett presented his proposed fiscal year 2011-2012 state budget to the General Assembly. While the numbers in the governor’s budget may add up, the math doesn’t work for most Pennsylvanians.

The governor’s self-described “reality-based budget” is rooted more in political ideology than in meeting the real needs of Pennsylvanians. I agree with the governor that cuts are needed, and wasteful spending must be eliminated, but it ought to be done with careful thought and precision. The governor has not executed a single performance audit on any state program that he has proposed cutting.

This proposed budget may be balanced, but in reality it shifts the burden to county and local governments, and could force school boards to raise school property taxes. His plan fails to put Pennsylvania in a position to grow our economy and prepare for the next generation of leaders in our workforce. It also fails to address the serious shortfall in transportation and infrastructure needs that could threaten the safety of our residents in Montgomery County and throughout Pennsylvania.

The Corbett budget cuts $1 billion in education funding from K-12 and slashes our investment in our colleges and universities by an astounding 50 percent. These cuts threaten to end full-day kindergarten, increase class sizes, and may cause in-state tuition rates at Pennsylvania colleges and universities to rise. 

Locally, this budget will cut funding for Upper Dublin schools by 9.3 percent and slash Abington schools by 8.5 percent. It also could force layoffs and the elimination of academic programs at Montgomery County Community College, Penn State Abington and Temple-Ambler. 

We cannot compete in the 21st-century economy and create jobs if we don’t effectively train our workforce of tomorrow. Balancing the budget on the backs of our children does not reflect my values.

In his remarks, the governor was largely silent on government reform, which is extremely disappointing. Improved transparency and accountability is critical to rooting out the causes of many of our problems in Pennsylvania government today that lead to wasteful spending. In fact, he made no mention of the fact that the legislative leaders continue to control a $188.5 million surplus—money that ought to be returned to the Pennsylvania taxpayers and not hoarded in Harrisburg.  I’ve sponsored legislation to eliminate the surplus and encourage the governor to get behind my bill.

The Corbett budget also fails to protect our environment by continuing to allow gas drillers to destroy our environment while taxpayers foot the bill for the drillers’ mess. Every other state with natural gas drilling protects taxpayers from paying for the damage created by drillers—Pennsylvania should not stand alone on this. This threatens our environment, infrastructure and public health.

While I believe this budget is wrong on so many levels, I am committed to working in a bipartisan manner to fix it and make sure it works for the people of Abington and Upper Dublin, Montgomery County and Pennsylvania.

Ted Taylor March 12, 2011 at 01:28 PM
I'm still waiting for someone to say, "The Democrats dug us in to this deep hole over the last eight years, it's about time someone called it like it is". People are always for cuts so long as they don't impact them. Good money after bad has been thrown at failing programs, incredible pay raises for legislators, top heavy retirement benefits for teachers and now the bill is coming due. Yes, I do agree with Josh Shapiro that we need bipartisan efforts to straighten out the mess that our friend Ed Rendell left for us, just as we are running up incredible debt in Washington that will, one day, likely fall to our children and grandchildren to absorb. The economy is a mess and rampant liberal give-away programs got us there. It will take courage and some personal sacrifice by us all to make the budget actually work. Fear mongering won't do it, picketing won't do it either, but maybe cutting the bloated number of state reps and taking a new look at the incredible government funded pensions might be a good place to start.

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