FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas
Contact: Marilyn Kai Jewett
Thomas unveils alternative state budget
HARRISBURG, May 8, 2012 Ė State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas, D-Phila., today at a capitol news conference presented an alternative to Governor Tom Corbettís proposed budget. Calling the governorís budget "mean, ugly and inhumane," Thomasí proposal, "Putting People First Now," reallocates $1.7 billion in the general budget to focus on education, jobs, healthcare and housing. This is the second year Thomas has presented an alternative to the governorís budget.
"It is my hope that this will mark the beginning of a discussion that will lead us to enact a state budget that truly puts the people of the Commonwealth first," said Thomas, who was joined by several colleagues. "In these difficult economic times, many Pennsylvanians are struggling to provide the basic necessities for their families. However, Governor Corbett's proposed 2012/13 budget would do more harm than good for people who have already fallen on tough economic times.
"We are opposed to the governorís plan to block grant Basic Education, Student Achievement, Housing Redevelopment Assistance and Human Services Development programs. Block grants would allow the governor to pass the responsibility to local communities, which are already paying higher taxes and fees. Thatís why itís imperative that we come together to stand in unity against the cuts proposed by the governor and put forth an alternative that proposes viable solutions to the serious issues facing our constituents," Thomas said.
Thomas said the number one issue threatening Pennsylvanians today is education. "If we agree that education must be a priority in Pennsylvania, then the $300 million in cuts to education must be restored. We cannot continue to say that new skills are required to compete effectively in the 21st Century economy, but not fund education properly. The future of Pennsylvania is inextricably tied to providing a quality 21st Century education on all levels," Thomas said.
Thomasí recommendations include restoring education funding to 2009/2010 levels for a total of $685 million in additional funding for basic and higher education. The majority of the funding is allocated to K-12 education with the rest going to higher education. It would restore and fund the Basic Education Enhancements, PA Accountability Grants, School Improvement Grants, Education Assistance Program and the reimbursement of charter schools among other education programs.
The proposal reallocates funds for a new Workforce Development Program as a line item to assist in job creation and a Keystone Job Training tax credit for businesses creating new jobs. It also restores funding for the New Choices/New Options Program that was successful in preparing single parents, displaced homemakers and those interested in nontraditional vocational/technical education, for high-skill/high wage careers and occupational training.
Thomasí proposal focuses on helping people deal with necessities in this tough economy.
"Foreclosures in rural and urban Pennsylvania are increasing while the PA Housing Finance Agency remains underfunded," he explained. "Thousands of Pennsylvanians who have lost their jobs have no health insurance and school districts around the Commonwealth struggle to maintain their buildings and staffs. In light of these realities facing our constituents, we cannot, in good conscience, support Governor Corbettís budget and must stand against his hard-hearted proposal."
In the area of healthcare, the proposal includes a $7.7 million increase in healthcare for newborn screening, maternal & child health, state healthcare centers, school district health services and chronic care management.
It also allocates at least $60 million to the Statewide Housing Trust Fund and to restore as line items the Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program and the Housing & Redevelopment Assistance Program.
"The reallocations I am proposing are just a few examples of what we can do on behalf of the people of the Commonwealth," said Thomas. "This is just a starting point. We have the necessary funding to ensure that no citizen is hurt by the 2012/13 state budget. We must work together to find a compromise thatís best for the people we represent and pass a budget that puts the welfare of the people first."