MEMO: 5 Things That Will Happen If Republican Leaders Fail to Take on the Status Quo

October 15, 2015

To: Interested Parties
From: Jeff Sheridan, Press Secretary, Governor Wolf
Date: October 15, 2015
Subject: 5 things that will happen if Republican leaders fail to take on the status quo

Status quo Republican leaders in Harrisburg keep doing the same things, but expecting different results.

As a result of their failed leadership, Pennsylvania ranks near the bottom of the country in investment in schools; we need to make the necessary investments to compete in a 21st century economy – investments we have not made in years.

Pennsylvania is also facing a multi-billion dollar budget deficit and without an honest effort to address the deficit, there will be serious consequences including education cuts, further credit downgrades, and higher property taxes.

The realities of Pennsylvania’s budget deficit and education funding crisis have not changed and Republican leaders still refuse to take on the status quo so we can invest in our schools and get Pennsylvania back on track.

Pennsylvania’s stark reality is very clear: fix the deficit without gimmicks or face detrimental consequences. It is time for Republican leaders to acknowledge this reality. Here are 5 things that will happen if Republican leaders fail to take on the status quo:

1. The commonwealth will be forced to cut at least $1 billion from K through 12 education next year.

In 2011, Republican leaders joined the previous administration in cutting $1 billion from education, resulting in more than 25,000 educators being laid off, increased class sizes, important programs being cut or eliminated and increased property taxes on middle-class families and seniors.

In his 2015-16 budget, Governor Wolf proposed historic investments in education, including $500 million additional dollars for K through 12 education. In blatant contrast, Republican leaders proposed restoring less than 2 percent of the funding they cut from schools, and have failed to acknowledge the budget deficit they sacked the commonwealth with.

If we do not fix the deficit without gimmicks, we will be forced to cut another $1 billion from education next year. School districts across the state cannot afford any more cuts and the people of Pennsylvania cannot endure more resources being taken from our children.

2. The commonwealth will be forced to cut at least $1 billion from human services programs next year.

The governor’s budget begins to restores funding for county human service agencies, increases funding for programs that help aging Pennsylvanians while also increasing choices for their care and support, and provides additional funding for programs that help individuals with disabilities.

The governor’s proposed budget commits $27.9 million dollars to county-run human services as the first step to fully restoring all of the cuts enacted over three years. Governor Wolf’s budget also provides $2.5 million dollars to the Department of Human Services to fight the growing heroin and opioid epidemic, invests an additional $500,000 to promote employment for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and includes $1 million to reduce homelessness among veterans.

The budget passed by Republican leaders is detrimental to human services and continues the damaging cuts they enacted over the past four years. The Republican budget:

  • Shifts $172 million worth of payments to counties for services for abused and neglected children into the next fiscal year.
  • Underfunds health care services to Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens delivered through managed care organizations.
  • Maintains $27.9 million in cuts to county programs from the previous administration.

Human services agencies are still reeling from the effects of past cuts, and if Pennsylvania does not fix the deficit, we will have to cut another $1 billion from human services next year.

3. Credit ratings agencies will downgrade Pennsylvania’s credit rating to junk status.

Over the past four years, credit ratings agencies have slapped the commonwealth with 5 credit downgrades. These agencies cite the over reliance on one-time revenues and the commonwealth’s structural budget deficit.

Governor Wolf continues to fight for a budget that fixes the deficit with new, recurring revenue and without gimmicks.

If Pennsylvania fails to fix the deficit, we will suffer from further credit downgrades. Just like with personal credit, if you have a bad credit score, banks charge higher interest rates or will not give you credit at all.

If the commonwealth is downgraded to junk status, we will end up paying millions of dollars more, which will have a negative impact on other budget areas such as education or human services. Additionally, the commonwealth’s credit rating can negatively impact credit ratings in school districts and local governments.

4. Already skyrocketing property taxes will increase even higher.

Over the past four years, according to PASBO, more than 60 percent of school districts said they raised property taxes in each fiscal year on hardworking Pennsylvania families as a result of the drastic cuts to education made by Republican leaders and the previous administration.

And if we do not fix our deficit this year, we will be forced to cut education funding even more, once again forcing school districts to raise property taxes.

Much like we saw over the last four years, when we refuse to pay for goods and services, like education, at the state level, the responsibility falls to the local level.

Governor Wolf is fighting to provide property tax relief to middle-class families and seniors across Pennsylvania. In his budget, he proposed nearly $4 billion worth of relief for families and businesses in the commonwealth.

5. Tuition rates at Pennsylvania colleges and universities will increase, further burdening middle-class families across the commonwealth.

As a result of misguided cuts to higher education made by Republican leaders, tuition at colleges and universities in Pennsylvania has increased by nearly 18 percent over the past four years, directly burdening middle-class families.

In his budget, Governor Wolf proposed restoring these cuts to higher education over two years. His proposal included an additional $45.3 million for PASSHE schools, an 11 percent increase. The massive state cuts to colleges and universities over the last four years resulted in tuition hikes that imperil the promise of higher education for middle-class families across Pennsylvania. Governor Wolf is fighting to make college more affordable for working families in Pennsylvania.

But if we do not fix our deficit, we will be forced to again cut funding to higher education, resulting in the layoffs of professors, reduced offerings and reduced student assistance.

We cannot train and retain young people in Pennsylvania if we do not provide them with opportunities.
Throughout the budget debate, Republican leaders have failed to come forward with any plans that honestly and responsibly deal with the massive budget deficit facing Pennsylvania. In fact, their plans would increase the deficit to over $3 billion, continue to underfund education and kick the can down the road for another year. We cannot keep passing the buck.

It is time for Republican leaders to put forward a serious proposal – for the first time – that will balance our budget and get Pennsylvania back on track. It is time for Republican leaders to get serious about investing in Pennsylvania’s future.

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