BLOG: Throwback Thursday — Deficit Choices

By: J.J. Abbott, Deputy Press Secretary

February 11, 2016

In his budget address to the General Assembly, Governor Wolf described the crisis facing our commonwealth and the two paths Pennsylvania can take: address our $2 billion structural budget deficit with sustainable revenue or cut a billion dollars from education and make serious, life-altering cuts to programs for seniors, the mentally disabled, crime victims and working parents.

Republican reaction to the Governor’s dose of reality wasn’t great – choosing to boo and yell during his speech. Since the speech, Republicans have offered no clear path forward and no alternative to the governor’s proposals.

The truth hurts. But the reality is that the legislature faced this same choice before and they know the politically convenient and expedient choice – to make drastic cuts – will hurt schools, vulnerable populations and property taxpayers in their districts much more than the Governor’s speech hurt their feelings.

In 2011, lawmakers and the Governor had to address a substantial budget deficit.

And they made a choice. Republican majorities in the House and Senate, along with the administration, chose to cut. And their cuts had dire consequences for Pennsylvania’s kids, the most vulnerable in our state, and local homeowners, who saw local property taxes skyrocket.

In 2011, they chose to make “deep cuts” to education, human services and economic development, including “cuts of about $1.1 billion to public schools and universities.” They eliminated AdultBasic – taking health security away from tens of thousands of working Pennsylvania families.

At the time, the Associated Press said: “Overall, the plan will reduce money for public schools by roughly 10 percent — with the poorest districts sustaining the biggest blows — and by nearly 20 percent for state-supported universities.”

In 2012, they went down the same path – cutting human services funding for counties, which provide aid to seniors, the mentally disabled, those struggling with addiction and domestic violence and rape victims.

Here are the real programs they chose to cut: Mental Health Services; Behavioral Health Services; Intellectual Disabilities Services; Child Welfare Special Grants; Drug and Alcohol Funding; Homeless Assistance Program; and the Human Services Development Fund.

Based upon a survey conducted by the County Commissioners Association, the impact of these cuts to county human services was dire for people who need help the most:

  • 89% indicated they had to cut back essential social services;
  • 63% indicated they had to cut an entire programs; and
  • 34% indicated had to lay off those on the front-lines helping the most vulnerable.

These cuts didn’t just hurt our schools. They didn’t just leave vulnerable Pennsylvanians without services they need. Their choices forced nearly $1.2 billion in property tax increases by school districts and county governments left to figure out the mess.

If we want schools and the most vulnerable to suffer and our property taxes to rise, we can choose this path again.

But Republicans must be honest about the consequences. This is not political points – it is the cold, hard reality that we’ve seen damage Pennsylvania before.

Let’s choose the path that makes Pennsylvania stronger by fixing the deficit and investing in our schools and our children.



You can find updates and behind-the-scenes content on the 2016-2017 budget announcement on our Facebook and Twitter all this week.

Read more posts about Governor Wolf’s 2016-17 budget.

Like Governor Tom Wolf on Facebook:

SHARE Email Facebook Twitter