email from Rep. Danielle Friel-Otten (D-155), 6/25/21
This week, I am in Harrisburg for the busiest week on the legislative calendar – Budget Week. While we’ve been in session every day this week, with another session day added on Saturday, budget discussions did not begin until Thursday night. Instead, with less than a week until the state’s fiscal year ends on June 30, the majority party in Harrisburg spent time and taxpayer dollars on bills that are guaranteed to be vetoed by the governor. These bills were designed to distract Pennsylvanians from the real work at hand.
This year, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in Pennsylvania residents and communities. The American Rescue Plan has allocated more than $7 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds to Pennsylvania to help those most impacted by the pandemic. The PA Rescue Plan proposed by House Democrats would use these federal funds as they were intended: to create jobs; support workers, families, and small businesses; improve infrastructure; and set Pennsylvania on a path to true economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, we are sitting on $4 billion in higher-than-projected state revenues this year (revised upward from $3 billion as more figures have come in). House Democrats have a plan to return that surplus to the taxpayers and invest in our communities by funding schools, fully implementing the Fair Funding Formula, and helping local school districts end the cycle of ever-rising property taxes.
While House Democrats have a plan to help Pennsylvania recover, House Republicans have no plan other than hiding more than $11 billion in taxpayer dollars away and hoping the people of Pennsylvania won’t notice. We need a budget that will lift up and support ALL Pennsylvanians. Budget details are emerging as we speak. As of this morning, I have not yet seen the final bill we will be voting on, but I have been clear about my budget priorities, and I am committed to working toward a plan that addresses our Commonwealth’s ongoing challenges and reflects the values and priorities of our district.
On Wednesday, the House should have been working to allocate money to help our schools, workers, families, and small businesses, but instead my colleagues on the other side of the aisle wasted our time fearmongering and spreading disinformation in support of a bill that they know is destined for a veto. SB 618 would ban so-called “vaccine passports,” preventing any Commonwealth agency, local government, or institution of higher education from requiring documented COVID-19 vaccination for entry into a facility or location. This legislation also would block the Secretary of Health from implementing public health measures to protect Pennsylvanians from contagious diseases.
If you’ve ever registered a child for kindergarten or college, or if you’ve worked in a healthcare facility, you know that proof of vaccinations is nothing new. The safety of our youngest and most vulnerable residents depends — and has always depended, long before COVID-19 — on public health measures like requiring vaccines against communicable diseases. In Pennsylvania, some of these measures have been on the books since 1918. I had not planned on speaking in the House chamber on Wednesday, but I could not sit and watch as my colleagues spread disinformation instead of working on what is truly important for the people of Pennsylvania.
You can watch my full remarks here.