BLOG: Fix The Deficit or Hurt Pennsylvania’s Most Vulnerable

By: J.J. Abbott, Deputy Press Secretary

February 12, 2016

For government, there is no greater call or responsibility than ensuring the health and safety for citizens. Governor Wolf made this a major priority in 2015-2016 by expanding health care for more than 500,000 Pennsylvanians, battling the heroin and opioid crisis, improving benefits for kids receiving CHIP health insurance, funding four new cadet classes for the Pennsylvania State Police, and protecting consumers from dramatic insurance premium increases.

But we are at a crossroads. Pennsylvania is facing a nearly $2 billion deficit that will balloon to more than $2.6 billion in the coming years. The deficit is a ticking time bomb over Pennsylvania. When it explodes, we will be forced to cut funding for human service programs and senior assistance in order to balance the budget.

Pennsylvania already cut these programs to the bone four years ago. The legislature needs to appropriate the money to address these problems at the state level and stop pushing costs down to counties.

health-announcement

We can build on the the progress made in the past year by continuing to improve the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians with smart investments, continuing the fight against the heroin epidemic, and helping seniors get medical assistance.

Or we can chose a different path and our looming deficit will force us to lose:

  • Nearly $200 million in services to Pennsylvania seniors including prescription drug assistance and home and community based services.
  • Nearly $180 million in assistance for people living with mental illness or intellectual disabilities.
  • $40 million in state funding for child care, and thus forfeit nearly $50 million in federal matching funds, for a total cut of nearly $90 million.
  • $11.5 million in funding for domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers.

Critical programs such as these make up nearly three-quarters of our human services budget. These are our parents, children, brothers, sisters, friends and neighbors. And while the Wolf Administration will always strive to tackle fraud and be as efficient as possible, making cuts that impact single mothers, seniors on fixed incomes, or those who are down on their luck will not solve our fiscal crisis, no matter how often it is repeated in the press or news releases.

Governor Wolf and cabinet members sign naloxone standing order

We can also choose a responsible path: one that addresses our deficit to avoid critical program cuts and makes smart investments in programs that combat some of Pennsylvania’s biggest social crises, as laid out in Governor Wolf’s budget:

  • Battle the Heroin and Opioid Epidemic: Treatment for over 11,250 new individuals
  • Reform Pennsylvania’s Criminal Justice System: Hire more personnel to lower staffing ratios for inmates with mental illness.
  • Protect Our Farmers and Food Suppliers: $3.5 million to continue preparedness for Avian Flu.
  • Care for Our Most Vulnerable: Create long-term stability by continuing the effort to restore the 10 percent cut made to human services programs four years ago.
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