Urges Lawmakers to Enact a 2013 State Budget that Invests in Pennsylvania, Strengthens Social Programs, Helps Schools and Families, and to Postpone Corporate Tax Cuts at the Expense of All Pennsylvanians
Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner traveled to Harrisburg to speak on the proposed 2013-2014 state budget, urging lawmakers to explore alternatives to the current proposals that better invests in the future of Pennsylvania and focuses on those issues that are priorities for all Pennsylvanians, and especially for urban municipalities like Allegheny County.
According to Wagner, the current $28.4 billion budget proposed by Governor Corbett failed to restore the previous year’s 10% cut to county human services and offered only a modest increase to public education – does little to address the budget pressures faced by many local school districts and counties. Nor does the budget go far enough to address the state’s pending transportation infrastructure crisis. As Wagner observed, in Allegheny County alone, there are 300 structurally deficient bridges. “The budget retains nearly $2 billion dollars in education and health service cuts, with no long term proposals to repair failing public schools, and it offers us an incomplete transportation funding plan that falls well short of the money needed to bring Pennsylvania’s infrastructure up to code.”
What is further troubling for Wagner is that the Governor’s proposed budget includes plans for significant corporate tax cuts, including the elimination of the capital stock and franchise tax (CSFT) and a proposal to reduce corporate net income tax by 30% . She observed that the CSFT has already been cut by 85% and sits at a historically low level.
Reflecting back to her three terms in the State Legislature from 2006 to 2012, Wagner recalls Legislators then taking a different approach. “With the economy in a recession and state revenues flagging, we delayed a planned cut in the capital stock and franchise tax and used the savings to make critical investments in Pennsylvania.” Wagner noted that freezing the CSFT at 2012 levels would raise more than $350 million in fiscal year 2013-2014 and could prevent deep cuts to our schools and county health care services.
“Budgets are about priorities,” Wagner emphasized, “and it is time for Harrisburg to put its priorities into what counts: schools, roads, safe and healthy communities – so that we can move our state forward. While I certainly recognize the need for balancing budgets, budgets should not be balanced on the backs of our students, of working families and the elderly.”
Speaking directly to the situation in Allegheny County, Wagner concluded her remarks by noting that Allegheny County taxpayers are especially short-changed in the state budget. Wagner highlighted the fact that Allegheny County taxpayers primarily fund the County Police and the Medical Examiner, both of which entities relieve the Commonwealth (via the state police) from the burden of providing similar services that are provided in other areas. Yet, the state has failed to fund over the past few years a Law Enforcement Grant that provided the County $7.5 million in funding. Wagner characterized this as a “double-tax” upon Allegheny County residents, who pay for County services and then for state services that are not used.
Finally, Wagner emphasized that the state is “leaving money on the table and Allegheny County residents on the outside looking in” by turning down billions of dollars in federal funding to expand Medicaid to hundreds of thousands lower income and uninsured Pennsylvanians. The infusion of additional monies into the Medicaid system is especially significant in Allegheny County which operates the Kane Hospital nursing facilities for County seniors. “It is embarrassing for our Commonwealth to take monies and services away from those who need it most, while, at the same time, giving tax breaks to the well-off and corporations. Therefore, I urge the Legislature to look at budget options that allow us to reinvest in Pennsylvania’s education system, provide money to create jobs and improve infrastructure, and to strengthen our social safety net for those most at need,” said Wagner,