Corbett’s unfair budget proposal

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The best thing that can be said about Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed $27.3 billion budget is that taxpayers will not get a tax increase even though a modest tax hike would be far better than what the governor has proposed.

There are simply not a lot of good things that can be said about the governor’s first budget, especially when it comes to education.

Corbett’s budget proposes drastic cuts to public education funding as well as funding to the state’s higher education system.

Considering the recession and huge budget deficit there was an expectation that the governor would present a budget that calls for tough spending cuts and belt tightening.

However the budget proposal does not spread the pain. There is no shared sacrifice asked of large corporations. There will be no extraction tax on the fast growing and thriving natural gas industry, which were major contributors to Corbett’s election campaign.

The Corbett budget calls for $1 billion in cuts in state spending for public schools.

Under the budget proposal, school officials estimated that the Philadelphia school district will lose about $292 million in state funding, which represents close to a 10 percent reduction in the district’s overall funding, compared to 2010-11.

According to a statement released March 9 by the district, the state budget proposal “eliminates in its entirety the state funding the District has being using to supports its 74 charter schools, which educate over 43,000 Philadelphia students.”

The budget proposal also eliminates state funding for the district’s full-day kindergarten, summer school and after-school remedial programs and college classes for gifted high school students.

The biggest loss in Allegheny County is the Pittsburgh Public Schools at $34.1 million, a figure consistent with the district’s own preliminary analysis. That loss amounts to $341 per household, a figure the district would have to save via cuts or raise through taxes.The governor’s proposal also slashes funding for higher education.

The budget plan cuts more than half or about $625 million for 18 state-supported Pennsylvania colleges and universities.

At Pitt, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg called the proposed cuts “stunningly deep” and warned of a possible substantial increase in the in-state tuition paid by tens of thousands of students. Penn State President Graham Spanier said that students should expect higher-than-expected tuition hikes if the proposal is approved by lawmakers.

The budget proposal would have a devastating effect on Cheyney University which will lose about $8 million. The school’s total operating budget is only $29 million.

This budget will push affordable higher education out of the reach of many Pennsylvania families because of likely tuition increases.

While the governor can boast that he kept his campaign promise not to raise taxes it does not mean that Pennsylvanians won’t be paying more taxes. The governor simply shifted the tax burden down to local taxpayers as Philadelphia and other municipalities struggle to close the huge gap created by the cuts in state funding.

A budget is a statement of priorities and a blueprint for the future.

What does a budget proposal that slashes education funding so drastically say about how the state value’s its young people? What does it say about the state’s future ability to compete?

Governor Corbett’s budget proposal is short-sighted and ill-conceived.

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune.)

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