Yesterday, I voted against the House version of the 2019-20 state budget, forced on us by an uncompromising Republican House majority currying the favor of the most extreme elements of their party.
I could not, in good faith, support a deal so insensitive to the most economically vulnerable Pennsylvanians, blind to the environmental challenges arising from climate change and excessively generous to corporate interests.
Had we made progress in other areas – a deal to raise the minimum wage, funding to help remediate Superfund sites like the Bishop Tube site in my own district, a meaningful increase in education funding, or an investment in developing renewable energy in the Commonwealth – perhaps I could have found my way to a yes vote.
As it stands, Republican leadership asked for everything and gave nothing in return.
I went to Harrisburg to make a difference, and I plan on doing just that. That means making tough decisions and occasionally voting against the grain.
The package we were handed offers nothing of merit and takes away from our most vulnerable citizens.
Supporters of the proposed budget embrace it because it contains no new taxes. That means, despite being the second-largest natural gas producing state in the union, Pennsylvania’s gas-drilling corporations pay no extraction tax for their profiteering.
Who pays for not taxing gas drillers the way every other state contiguous to Pennsylvania requires?
Already, House Republicans have voted to eliminate a state program that provides a meager $200 per month to Pennsylvania adults who are temporarily or permanently unable to work, our roads and bridges continue to erode and our schools are still waiting to catch up after the $1 billion Governor Corbett cut from education funding more than six years ago.
The most notable element of shame in this budget is the termination of cash assistance, a small monthly stipend that fills a critical financial gap for the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents. These are the people most in need of our help, and yet we cut them off without a second thought while letting big-money-making natural gas drillers off the tax hook.
This budget misses the mark of decency, perhaps because the budget process played out with a complete lack of transparency, and effectively shut rank and file House members out of the process.
As it stands, the budget that passed the House was not worthy of my vote because the people I represent expect more, as should every Pennsylvanian.