Shusterman votes ‘no’ to 2019-20 budget, cites missed opportunities

PAOLI, July 3 – State Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester/Montgomery, issued the following statement regarding her ‘no’ vote on this year’s state spending plan:

“When I was elected to represent the people of the 157th legislative district, I vowed to stand up for commonsense legislation. Topics such as preserving our environment, fighting for Pennsylvanians in need, improving infrastructure and imposing a fracking tax on our out-of-state drillers are among my top priorities. However, the budget that Gov. Tom Wolf signed does not prioritize measures in any of these categories.

“In Pennsylvania’s Constitution, residents are guaranteed a right to clean water and air. This budget strips away the funding that went toward preserving that right, our ecosystems and their inhabitants. The health and prosperity of our Commonwealth’s environment are in jeopardy under this budget. Furthermore, it does not allot for any additional DEP staffing to keep up with our environment’s conservational upkeep.

“The sweetheart deal this Commonwealth maintains with oil and gas drillers will also go unchanged, and we will remain the only major gas-producing state in America that does not tax them. Funds that would have been collected from this tax would have gone toward much-needed infrastructure upgrades, but they will continue to pillage Pennsylvania for oil and gas and give nothing in return.

“This budget also neglects Pennsylvanians struggling to overcome poverty in two different areas. The first is the abolishment of General Assistance. Ending General Assistance does not save taxpayers any money, it simply turns a blind eye to our neighbors in need.

“This program provided a mere $200 a month to Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable populations who needed these funds the most, such as pregnant women fleeing domestic abuse, families working to overcome poverty, military veterans fallen on hard times and those simply waiting for their Social Security benefits to kick in. This program helped over 10,000 people throughout the Commonwealth afford things many of us take for granted, such as toiletries, transportation, or diapers for their babies.

“Additionally, this budget fails to raise our minimum wage, which has not been raised in over a decade. All our neighboring states have raised their wages. New Jersey just approved a $10-per-hour minimum wage, and it is time we joined them in enacting a livable wage.

“It’s hard to say that this budget was our best effort. We can do better and we must do better. I am disappointed with this budget and its failure to prioritize the people of this Commonwealth, but I will continue to fight for these causes and stand up for the residents of the 157th.”