BLOG: Leaked Emails Expose Republican Plan to Cut Education to Balance Budget

J.J. Abbott, Deputy Press Secretary

April 05, 2016

Over the weekend, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a leaked Republican email chain that provides the first glimpse into Republican ideas to address Pennsylvania’s budget deficit.

Despite Republicans’ recent attempts to appear pro-education, this leaked chain exposes what we know to be true: “control spending” is a euphemism for cuts to schools, higher education, and important services for addiction, mental health, and people with intellectual disabilities.

History shows that Republicans cut education and other services to balance the budget, and if they get their way, they’ll do it again this year.

What Republicans say they want to do: Control spending

Due to Harrisburg’s inability to budget responsibly for nearly a decade, Pennsylvania faces a more than $2,000,000,000 budget deficit and shortfall. That means that by June 30th, we either need to plug that hole with new revenue or make massive cuts to important programs, as Republicans did in 2011 and 2012.

Since Governor Wolf first laid out his plan to close the deficit in a responsible way, Republicans said no. They said they would prefer to “control spending” rather than raise revenues, but they’ve never put forth their plan to “control spending.”

But history shows….controlling spending = education cuts

As we wrote about on this blog, in 2011 and 2012, facing another deficit, Republicans cut a billion dollars from schools, higher education, and important services for addiction, mental health, and people with intellectual disabilities.

What Republicans really want to do: Cut education and other services

OK, so back to those leaked emails published by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

According to the article, “the comments and proposals emerged in private emails Republican legislators sent last week to their colleagues, as they strategized how to win the budget battle with Gov. Wolf… What followed was a series of unvarnished replies that offered an unusual window into the political and public-relations plotting that typically occurs only behind closed doors in Harrisburg.”

Unfortunately for Pennsylvanians still reeling from services cut a few years ago, it sounds like Republicans want to forge ahead with more cuts and more pain for our schools and those most in need of help.

In their own words: Here’s some of the ideas Republicans are proposing

Ending higher-education grants for students studying “poetry or some other Pre Walmart major.”

Republicans want to pick winners and losers by cutting higher education grants for an unknown number of low-income students.

“Everything needs to be flat funded or cut.”

Ignoring that much of the budget includes mandated expenses that cannot be cut, this would be awful news for schools in need of investment after years of cuts and funding gimmicks.

Reversing the Medicaid expansion that added coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured Pennsylvanians.

This would mean 500,000 Pennsylvanians, including the working poor, losing their health coverage, which keeps them from relying on the emergency room and driving up costs for the insured.

Go “down line items, fund the most important things and when we run out of money we stop.”

We can’t know for sure what the Republicans would deem “most important.” But we do know that in 2011 and 2012, they chose to cut schools, higher education and social services instead of other programs.

“Lets respond with a strong tax CUT strategy to knock them on their heels.”

Another idea that sounds appealing but is rooted in fiscal fantasy. Tax cuts require program cuts and would only grow the deficit.

A path forward

In challenging times like Pennsylvania is facing now, government can be fiscally responsible while still looking out for the people it serves.

Governor Wolf knows firsthand how to make this balance work from his career in the private sector. And his budget provides sustainable revenues to fix the deficit while also increases funding for our children’s education and services for Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens.

So instead of scheming to cut education behind closed doors, it’s time for Republicans to finally work with the governor and fund our schools. It’s time for an honest budget that funds our schools, fixes our deficit, and finally addresses the fiscal challenges facing Pennsylvania and our schools.

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