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Pittsburgh Area Legislators React to Governor's Budget Proposals

Democrats voice concerns while Republicans lend support for Gov. Tom Corbett's 2013-14 budget.

Western Pennsylvania Democrats had some harsh words for Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed 2013-14 state budget, which he presented Tuesday, while state Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason called the governor's plan a "balanced and responsible budget that reinvests in Pennsylvania."

“The plan presented by the governor is disappointing,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills. “It was long on politics but short on solutions.”

State Rep. Erin Molchany, a newly elected Democrat serving South Hills communities said the governor’s "Band-Aid budget does little to make up for the hurt this state has felt from his deep cuts."

State Rep. Robert Matzie, a Democrat representing the Sewickley area, said: “New Jersey has Chris Christie as its governor, but we have Kris Kringle as the governor tried to portray himself as Santa Claus when mentioning the funding of some line items that have been woefully underfunded under his watch especially human services."

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, though, had praise for Corbett's proposals.

"More than 100,000 family-sustaining, private sector jobs have been added to the Pennsylvania economy since Gov. Corbett took office in January 2011," Turzai said. "The state of Pennsylvania has without a doubt weathered a difficult national economy better because of the leadership and the initiatives of this legislature along with Gov. Corbett."

See what some of the legislators representing the region's Patch areas had to say in reaction to the budget proposal:

State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods

(See attached video.)

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills

State Sen. Jay Costa said that he was concerned that the governor has turned to linking one issue with another which he said has been correctly described as Washington D.C.–style politics which have been rejected by citizens.  The governor bases his budget on the passage of controversial measures that he thinks will be approved by the General Assembly. 

Costa said the governor planned to rely on pension savings and the sale of liquor stores while infusing $200 million into discretionary education spending this year and that was problematic.  Costa said it is highly unlikely that his liquor and pension reforms will pass.

The governor also did not provide leadership on job creation, leaving Pennsylvania families still struggling to make ends meet, the Democratic leader lamented.

“We should not be linking anything to education. Pennsylvania students and taxpayers need the governor to invest in our schools without strings attached,” Costa said. “The governor is exporting our Lottery to England and importing Washington-style politics to Harrisburg.”

(See attached video.)

State Sen. Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon

State Sen. Matt Smith blasted the governor’s plan to privatize the state liquor stores and funnel money to education. The newly-elected senator said he thinks those two policy issues should “stand alone” and not be merged into the debate.

“(The governor) is saying on one hand that we need more education investment, but saying the only way we have to do that is by privatizing the state stores,” Smith said. “That should be a stand-alone issue. You don’t make (education funding) dependent on privatizing the state stores.”

Smith suggested that the legislature reopen the debate on a Marcellus Shale severance tax to bring more revenue into the state’s coffers. The state enacted a natural gas drilling local impact fee that spreads money across municipalities. 

“I think when you’re talking about a priority like education, you have to look at all funding options and all opportunities,” Smith said. “And I think that’s a big one that’s out there.”

Smith did praise the governor’s plans to bolster transportation funding. He hoped the governor’s budget could be a starting point to reach a bipartisan solution to the state’s crumbling transportation infrastructure.

“It’s a long-overdue debate that we should have,” Smith said. “We need to put everything on the table and engage and educate the public. Everyone agrees there is a problem with funding bridges, funding roads and funding mass transit. But I don’t think the public has been engaged in the debate."

State Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg

“The budget proposed by Gov. Corbett today will certainly see dramatic changes before it will be passed by the General Assembly.

It’s hard to believe that after a year and a half of delay, the transportation plan is only half of what the administration’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission recommended. It would pretty much guarantee that wear and tear on roads would be more than we could keep up with. Making a more aggressive investment in transportation infrastructure would create thousands of construction jobs and make Pennsylvania a more attractive state for businesses.

The idea of tying education funding to a liquor-license auction is bad public policy that has little support on either side of the aisle in either chamber.  Making it the centerpiece of the budget and the chief source of money for schools is only adding delay to the process. 

Nearly a million people in Pennsylvania have no health insurance and depend on the emergency room as the family doctor. The federal government is offering to pay 90 percent of the cost to insure these people and save hospitals billions.  It makes no sense that we ignore that offer and continue to let health problems bankrupt working families and community hospitals.

While it’s good that this budget includes no structural tax increases for families, it leaves giant corporate tax loopholes wide open and ignores opportunities to reform, reinvest and revive our economy.”

State Rep. John Maher, R-Upper St. Clair

"Every governor's budget presentation winds up in the end as merely a first draft. Even as a first draft, it is a very good start. I perceive bipartisan consensus on the vast majority of budget line items," Rep. John Maher said.

State Rep. Erin Molchany, D-Mt. Washington

“In my district, most people didn’t watch Governor Corbett’s budget address. They went to work and to school. It was disappointing to me that as I watched the governor’s address, I heard little that promised an easier commute or a smaller class size for those I was elected to serve.

"In Pittsburgh and surrounding communities, we need smoother roads, safer bridges and improved public transportation. Instead, the governor proposed new funding which falls far short of the minimum recommended by a bipartisan, expert commission.  

"We want a better education for our children, which will do far more to secure Pennsylvania’s economic future than continuing giveaways to corporations making questionable promises of jobs and revenue. Instead, the governor offered a few short years of funding from his ‘Liquor for Schools’ scheme, restoring just a fraction of education cuts from his previous budgets while putting thousands out of work and inviting increases in underage drinking and drunk driving.

"We want to support and take care of the most vulnerable in our community—our seniors and those who lack access to quality health care. The governor promised a backroom deal with a foreign company to fund our most vital programs for seniors with gambling parlors in our neighborhoods. He then announced that he would not accept federal funding for a Medicaid expansion which would cover more than half of Pennsylvania’s uninsured without spending one state tax dollar."

State Rep. Robert F. Matzie, D-Ambridge

“The governor had a chance to rehabilitate his image and commitment to the people of Pennsylvania today but failed. His plan regarding transportation and education, especially, continue the attacks from his first two budgets against middle-class working families.

"Gov. Corbett has wasted two years before deciding to address the state's transportation crisis. First, he decided to set up a transportation study commission. Then he ignores the commission's findings and now he comes up with his 'bold' transportation plan to lift the tax cap on oil and gas companies, which he says isn't a tax. Well, governor, just admit it. It is a tax, and it will indirectly be passed on to consumer at the gas pump.

"Transportation isn't the only issue where Gov. Corbett has a poor track record. Education is another. There are no specifics in the plan regarding how to accomplish funding the budget as much as it is predicated on uncertainty, specifically regarding education as the governor is counting on the privatization of liquor stores. But the fact remains that public education, as with many line items, is flat funded and still retain the drastic cuts that he handed down over the past two budgets."

State Rep. Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont

Democratic House Leader Rep. Frank Dermody, who represents Oakmont and a portion of Plum, said Corbett's proposed budget "falls short in many areas."

Dermody said that while the proposed budget does offer a "slight" increase in basic education funding, it doesn't make up for the cuts in the last two years. He also remarked that the proposed funding for transportation is "not anywhere close to adequate."

Dermody lamented that the state's unemployment rate has been at or above the national average for five months, and said the governor is making the wrong choice when it comes to healthcare.

"The governor says Pennsylvania’s best days are ahead of it. I certainly hope so—because these are not our best days right now," Dermody said Tuesday.

"To sum up, we expected much more. We expected better leadership from this governor. We did not get it."

State Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick

"Gov. Corbett's budget appears to be a magic act.

"The governor's proposal to add $90 million to basic education amounts to just one-tenth of the money he slashed from public schools two years ago.

"The governor's plan to link liquor store privatization to education funding is short-sighted educational stimulous plan that will result in a fiscal cliff for public schools after four years.

"The governor is gambling with our senior citizens' programs, handing over control of our successful lottery to a British company at a potential cost of bllions of dollars over 20 years that would otherwise go to programs that help older Pennsylvanians. This is outrageous!"

State Rep. Joe Markosek, D-Monroeville

State Rep. Joe Markosek, who represents a portion of Plum, said Corbett's budget "is full of misguided policies, missed opportunities and failed promises."

Like Dermody, Markosek said the small funding increases reflected in the current budget proposal won't make up for the cuts in previous years.

Markosek said policy makers should be concerned with education, state pensions, liquor privatization, lottery privatization, healthcare expansion and transportation funding. As chairman of the transportation board, Markosek said Corbett's budget fails to adequately address the state's crumbling transportation infrastructure in a timely fashion.

"He [presented] a plan to us that is woefully short of the $4.5 billion need to 'fuel' our economy," Markosek said Tuesday. "His proposed solution doesn't even get us halfway there. It's the equivalent to an air ball when we need a slam dunk."

State Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil

"In his third budget address to the legislature, Gov. Corbett reminded Pennsylvanians from across the political spectrum whose side he is really on," White said. "From increasing the wholesale tax on gasoline in his vague transportation plan, to continuing a love affair with corporate welfare by giving hundreds of millions of dollars in favors to special interests, the governor’s proposal appears to be another shell game in which real Pennsylvanians—workers, families, students and seniors- continually lose.

"The governor proposed a plan to add $90 million to basic education, but failed to mention this is just a fraction of the money he slashed from public schools two years ago, leaving local taxpayers to carry the weight through higher property taxes. He's trying to gamble our senior citizens’ programs by handing over control of our successful lottery to a British company, potentially costing the state billions of dollars that would otherwise help older Pennsylvanians. And he had the pure nerve to refer to Act 13 as the ‘most comprehensive environmental and safety regulations on gas drilling in the nation,’ which might be funny if it wasn’t so damn disingenuous, infuriating and borderline delusional.

"Unfortunately, the failed rhetoric, gimmicks and short-term fixes recommended by the governor make it clear that the House and Senate, although both firmly in Republican control, will have to stand up for what's right for the people of Pennsylvania. The consequences of allowing Gov. Corbett to push his agenda are too serious to ignore."

State Reps. Marc Gergely and Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg

State Reps. Marc Gergely and Bill Kortz released the following statement in response to Gov. Tom Corbett’s 2013-14 budget proposal delivered to the state legislature today.

“The governor’s budget has more trap doors than a Vaudeville stage,” Kortz said. “This budget continues the governor’s reckless schemes of cutting education, giving away the state lottery and state liquor stores while giving huge tax cuts to big businesses and failing to close the Delaware loophole which allows 85 percent of corporations doing business in the state to pay less income tax than a family earning $36,000.

“The rich get richer while the students, seniors, and working class take it on the chin once more. Gov. Corbett is a believer in the 47 percent claim by Governor Romney and his budget proves this. His scheme of close your eyes and privatize is flawed,” Kortz said.

“Pennsylvania should be investing in the education of young people and growing our economy to create jobs. Instead the governor is fighting to end the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax and cut other businesses taxes that would force more of the burden on to struggling middle-class families.” Gergely said. “Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana said his party needs to stop being the party of ‘stupid ideas.’ I guess our governor didn't get that message.” 

  • Education: “Parents and property taxpayers are still reeling from the $1 billion in state funding cuts for public schools under this governor that have forced property tax hikes, larger class sizes and program cuts,” Gergely said. "He’s ignoring the state’s broken school funding formula that puts poorer school districts like Duquesne at a disadvantage." "This governor has again proven his indifference to providing a good education for our young students,” Kortz said. “His proposal to add $90 million to basic education amounts to only one-tenth of the state funding he slashed from public schools two years ago. Contrary to the governor’s 'spin' his education cuts of $1 billion from two years ago are locked in. Gov. Corbett’s budget leaves all children behind. These cuts have hurt school districts and communities. Governor, you either educate or incarcerate.”
  • Transportation: “His transportation plan is weak, almost two years late, and billions of dollars short,” Kortz said. “We need at least $3.5 billion to fix our crumbling roads, bridges and mass transit, but the governor is committed to only about half the job,” Kortz said. “We have nearly 5,000 structurally deficient bridges in this state and 100 currently shut down. Every day the governor waits to seriously address the problem, the cost to fix our transportation problem goes up." Gergely said: “The Pittsburgh region has the highest rate of problem bridges in the country. We need the governor to join us to fix the problem, not more Band-Aids. Building modern roads and bridges and adequately supporting the Port Authority would create thousands of construction jobs and show the world that Pennsylvania is open for business.”
  • More Business Tax Cuts: “Again, the governor wants regular people to open their wallets to pay for massive tax cuts for big businesses,” Gergely said. “Under this governor, state budget cuts have forced millions of residents to pay more local taxes. Now he wants to give more tax breaks to his corporate friends." "He is the guardian of the Delaware loophole allowing businesses to escape from paying their fair share of taxes in this state,” Kortz said. “Gov. Corbett has put his pledge to national Republican power elite like Grover Norquist over his pledge to the people of Pennsylvania.” 
  • Health Care: “Over the last two years, this Republican governor cut $63 million in child care. This budget prevents 500,000 people from getting health care coverage. That’s morally irresponsible,” Kortz said.

Share your thoughts on Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget and the reactions of area legislators in the comments section.

sieben13 February 07, 2013 at 12:30 AM
What did you expect??????????? This is what we get for allowing him to be elected
cc February 07, 2013 at 01:40 AM
We got Corbett in office to clean up the mess that Rendell made in the years he was Governor.
Oren Spiegler February 07, 2013 at 01:48 AM
It seems to escape everyone's attention that unlike other Republican governors, Tom Corbett has proposed no tax cuts, no rollback of Governor "Spendell's" punitive 10% income tax hike of 2003, instead proposing to spend any new revenue. Pennsylvania has an income tax (which hits virtually all types of income) and a sales tax. Many states manage to balance budgets without imposing both taxes on their citizens. Pennsylvania also continues to inflict its unique cruel death/inheritance tax, the regressive levy which seizes 4.5 to 15% of every dollar of an estate, the only exemptions being for family farms and a surviving spouse.
Frank Pikutis February 08, 2013 at 03:55 PM
Corbett's ignorance and arrogance puts George W. Bush to shame. Anybody that voted for Corbett and any other tea party member deserves the misery this party is creating. People should be educated enough to know the difference between a moderate Republican and a member of the tea party. If voters allow it, this tea party will destroy our great country. It all starts with education ! This tea party is trying to destroy our educational system by cutting funding. Kelly, Rothfus, Toomey, Corbett, are the worst excuse as political leaders in Pennsylvania. WAKE UP VOTERS
Jon Wain February 08, 2013 at 06:09 PM
first the lottery next the state stores next the gas tax next-------------------------------------- Frank oyu said it right.Opps forgot the turn pike

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