With Umbrellas in Hand, Citizens Tell Governor: ‘It’s Raining in PA!’

June 9, 2011

With umbrellas in hand, concerned Pennsylvanians gathered outside City Hall today to tell elected officials now is not the time to put hundreds of millions of dollars into the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

But that is what Governor Corbett and House Republicans want to do with a $540 million revenue surplus, while cutting cost-effective local services and $1 billion or more from schools.

“Our elected officials propose to put a $540 million dollar surplus in a Rainy Day Fund. It’s obvious that they haven’t noticed that we’re getting soaked right now,” said Sharmain Matlock-Turner, President and CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition in Philadelphia.

Several speakers echoed that message as they called upon the Senate to use the surplus to restore some of the most damaging cuts when that chamber votes on a budget plan later this month.

“With these proposed deep budget cuts, Pennsylvania’s working families and the nonprofits that help them in their time of need are out here to say that the time to use these funds to balance the budget is now,” said Matlock-Turner.

Cutting schools by $1 billion or more will increase class sizes and drive up property taxes, while putting effective programs like full-day kindergarten in jeopardy.

Health care, county child abuse protection, and help for people with disabilities are also targeted for cuts in the House version of the budget.

“I think the Governor and the House underestimate the anger of the people,” said Cassie James of Liberty Resources, an organization that advocates for people with disabilities. “They cut home and community-based services that are needed for disabled and elderly people to remain in the community!”

Education advocates also voiced concern about deep cuts to schools and early education programs.

"This budget clearly reflects a lack of understanding of the progress that districts, especially poor districts, have made in the last two years with increased funding,” said Charlotte Hummel, President of the William Penn School Board in Montgomery County.

“It makes cuts to the very programs that have supported the neediest of kids.”

Cassie James, of Liberty Resources, said of the education cuts: “How dare they cut education. We all have children we love and want to be ready for the challenges of the future.”

Speakers also called on lawmakers to close tax loopholes and end special tax breaks, including the passage of a tax on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. Pennsylvania is the only major gas-producing state without a tax or fee on drilling.

“Our senators will face a choice next week,” said Kate Atkins, an organizer with the SEPA Budget Coalition and Better Choices for Pennsylvania. “They can make deep cuts that will impact the lives of middle-class families, or they can use the surplus. Our message is simple: It’s raining in Pennsylvania right now; we’re out here with our umbrellas; and it’s time to use the surplus.”

Thursday’s rally was organized by the Southeastern PA Budget Coalition, the Flash Forward PA Coalition and Better Choices for Pennsylvania.

Learn more about the SEPA Budget Coalition at http://pabudgetnow.wordpress.com/; the Flash Forward Coalition at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Flash-Forward-PA-Coalition/155314487863578; and the Better Choices coalition at http://betterchoicesforpa.com/.