This is a cross-post from Working America’s Main Street blog.
Working America members, teachers and unemployed Pennsylvanians on both sides of the state delivered more than 1,000 handwritten postcards to Gov. Tom Corbett’s regional offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. We wanted Corbett to know the drastic, widespread and ultimately disastrous results of the budget cuts he enacted last year. We wanted him to make good on the rhetoric used in his first year, which called for “shared sacrifice.”
There has been a great deal of sacrifice. But it has not been shared. It has been targeted, acute and painful. And while the brunt has fallen on students, low-income families and public workers, 70 percent of Pennsylvania’s businesses pay nothing in income taxes.
“The budget cuts have added to the pool of unemployed workers by contributing to the elimination of 14,000 jobs in education alone,” says Mary Karscig, an unemployed nurse and Working America member who wrote to Corbett. Some 21,000 Pennsylvanians lost their jobs due to budget cuts alone, many of them due to nearly $900 million slashed from public education. We’ve written about the many school districts in Pennsylvania now facing the fiscal brink, with the bankrupt Chester Upland School District as a sign of things to come. The New York Times reported yesterday that 75 percent of Pennsylvania classrooms now have more kids than they did in 2010.
“I feel worried about the impacts of these cuts on my job search, and I am even more worried about their impacts on my son’s job search,” says Mary.
She adds: “My son will go wherever there is a job, and there is a pretty high chance he’ll have to move out of state.”
We were hoping that this morning’s budget announcement would bring some reprieve to working Pennsylvanians like Mary for the next fiscal year. No such luck. K-12 education did not get the recoup it needed. This time, the biggest ax fell on higher education: a 17 percent cut to public universities, state-related schools like Penn State, and the 14 state-owned universities.
In another devastating move, $30 million was cut from the Welfare Department, eliminating cash assistance for 60,000 of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians; Philadelphia Sen. Vincent Hughes said this was the governor “putting his foot on the neck of poor people.”
“Last year, Gov. Corbett talked a lot about shared sacrifice,” said Kim McMurray, Working America’s Pennsylvania state director. “While 70 percent of businesses in Pennsylvania aren’t paying any income taxes to the state because of corporate tax loopholes, schools are running out of money and families are losing their homes. Does that look like shared sacrifice to you?”
Despite the time, thought and concern reflected in the postcards, our Pittsburgh members, staff and allies were refused entrance into Gov. Corbett’s office. In fact, we were told at the door that the building was private property, and the group was not allowed to enter. So the delegation delivered the 500 postcards, the community letter and the report card to the building staff at the entrance of the building where the governor has his office. Corbett needs to understand the effects of his far-reaching, short-sighted cuts, and we’re going to keep fighting to make sure he hears us.