In late June, the House of Representatives passed a $27.15 billion state budget bill for the 2011-12 fiscal year. I made the decision to vote "no" on this budget because it cuts millions of dollars from vital county government services and programs, shifting the burden to these already struggling and over-burdened agencies and leaving county governments with dire options – either eliminate the programs or increase taxes to make up the revenue.
With its unprecedented and devastating cuts to higher education, $200 million, this budget shows an incredible lack of foresight into the best interests of Pennsylvania’s future and a shocking misplacement of priorities.
These historic cuts – including a 19 percent cut to funding for the University of Pittsburgh – could dismantle the framework of public higher education and harm Pennsylvania’s economic competitiveness. This simply isn’t the place to cut back. These cuts to basic and higher education imperil the economic future of our region.
This budget also slashes funding to our public schools by nearly $1 billion – an unprecedented attack on public education that will hurt our kids and cause school districts to raise local taxes in order to make up for the loss in revenue.
Our local schools will feel the pain of this budget, receiving significant decreases in total education funding for 2011-12. The Pittsburgh Public Schools alone are cut by $26.7 million, or nearly 15 percent. The more than 200 job cuts announced by the district in June could be just the beginning of the hardships caused to our students due to this budget.
These cuts are unnecessarily harsh, especially because we have at least $700 million in surpluses that could be used to restore these painful cuts. It is irresponsible to leave these surplus funds in the state’s bank accounts, and then turn around and burden students with higher tuition bills and residents with increased local taxes.
I am committed to doing all I can to ensure the security of the communities and families I represent despite this difficult budget, and in ensuring that our needs and priorities remain at the forefront of the ongoing debates in Harrisburg. Please never hesitate to contact my offices for assistance with any matter relating to state government.