On May 3, 2011, thousands of Pennsylvanians chanted “these cuts are nuts” on the Capitol Steps at the “Rally for a Responsible Budget.” The event, sponsored by the CLEAR Coalition, offered union groups, advocates, educators, non-profit employees and concerned citizens the opportunity to show their opposition to a “cuts only” approach to balancing Pennsylvania’s budget.
Staying true to promises made on the campaign trail, Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed budget does not include any new sources of revenue and instead balances the budget on the backs of vulnerable Pennsylvanians using draconian cuts to education, health and human services, and community and economic development.
These proposed cuts will have a devastating impact on the quality of life for communities across the Commonwealth. Last week, Lehigh Valley residents spoke from the heart about how the cuts proposed in Harrisburg would impact their day-to-day lives in the Lehigh Valley at the Forum to Promote the General Welfare. This week citizens from across the Commonwealth gathered to share their stories and stand united as one people, fighting for the common good.
There is hope. Nothing is final yet. The State House and Senate have yet to release their budget proposals. There is still time to restore some of the deep cuts to services initially proposed in the governor’s budget. But it will not be easy. Sacrifices will have to be made.
As it stands now, there is a $27.3 billion limit for this year’s budget. Therefore, all recipients of general fund dollars are competing for a piece the same pie. In short, this means that money will have to be taken from one program in order to restore funding to another.
Advocates for a responsible budget fear the House will make significant cuts to “welfare” in order to restore the cuts to education. This approach could be harmful to communities. We must be vigilant of the rhetoric used in describing budget proposals in the upcoming weeks. For example, “welfare” is a loaded term; it refers to a system that American’s love to hate. Therefore, it is easy, albeit cynical and misleading, to use the term “welfare” to refer to a myriad of programs related to serving people in need, including children, the elderly, and people with physical and mental disabilities.
We must remember that our forefathers brought forth a new nation to “promote the general welfare.” Why is it that Americans are so ready to turn on our neighbors and cut programs that help people on the fringes and in the margins?
Who are we to say that the American dream should only exist for the lucky, the wealthy, and the few?
There are other options. It is time for Pennsylvanians to unite and demand our legislators to grow the pie while making responsible cuts where appropriate.
The time to act is now. Contact your state representatives and senators today.