United Way Forum on The State Budget: Alan Jennings Offers Comments on the Governor’s Proposed Budget

The United Way held a forum on the state budget today. CACLV Executive Director Alan Jennings was one of the panelists who offered comments on the governor’s proposed budget. His comments are posted below. For more information on the state budget, we suggest you go to http://pennbpc.org/2013-14-budget.

You know, when you look down through history at those who inspire us, those we quote, those to whom we erect statues, it is always those who stand in the face of greed, who stand in the face of the accumulation of wealth at others’ expense, who confront power with the truth, who choose justice over neglect. So, what is it about our culture these days that so many think it is just fine to turn our backs on those whose gifts, whose talents, whose fortunes really aren’t, well, fortunate?

We have been disinvesting in people for decades. We all know that. We turn our backs on kids then act surprised when those kids grow up to turn their backs on society. We turn our backs on those with mental illnesses, then become uncomfortable when a panhandler approaches us on the street with that look in his eyes. We turn our backs on workers then suggest that they would rather collect UC than get a job that actually enables them to earn enough to feed their families.  We turn our backs on those facing foreclosure, then suggest it’s their own damn fault that they were snookered by some Wall Street Ivy Leaguer.

Friends, don’t let this budget – moderate by the standards of the last two years – fool you into believing that our fight against those budgets means we got our point across. This budget freezes the outrageous budgets of the past two years into place.

And it’s not because the Commonwealth doesn’t have the money.  The loss of revenue from a wide range of corporate tax cuts enacted over the last 10 years have ballooned to $3.2 billion per year.  The Delaware Loophole remains in place.

And apparently that isn’t enough!  There’s a proposal for a new tax credit that’s limited to investors with net worth of at least $1 million or an income in excess of $200,000.   There’s another that exempts private jets from sales taxes.  And still another that would create a new loop hole in the state inheritance tax.

You give away the store, there’s nothing left for those who aren’t in political favor.

And, so, cuts in drug and alcohol programs remain in place; cuts in medical assistance still stand and the governor has apparently felt no pressure from his peers in the governors’ offices in the states around us to insure people through the Affordable Care Act.  There is no restoration of behavioral health care funding; funding for food banks remains stagnant.  The General Assistance program is still history.

And for those on TANF, there is still no increase in cash grants, funded at 1985 levels.

So, for those non-profits and county agencies that struggle to serve, there are decisions that have to be made: do we serve those most in need or those whose circumstances give us the greatest chance of making a difference; do we choose quality or quantity; do we eliminate programs or allow our waiting lists to get longer?  Do we quit, give up, call it a career?

I get the argument made by those who believe tax cuts stimulate the economy, that we need to invest money to get meaningful returns.  I just don’t understand why those who advocate for that position don’t understand that investing in people pays dividends, too.  Can you imagine Ghandi, or King, or Jesus arguing for cutting sales taxes on private jets while ignoring the need for hunger relief?

 

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