As you hopefully heard, the House of Representatives passed important pieces of legislation earlier this week that included $16 million worth of funding for Pennsylvania to help pay for Medicaid (FMAP extension), as well as a $10 billion bill that allows teachers to stay in the classroom.
This legislation was of critical importance because the 2010-2011 state budget passed earlier this summer had made the assumption that Pennsylvania would be getting around $850 million to help fill its shortfall. If neither bill had passed it would have almost certainly resulted in a nightmare scenario where services would have been slashed and thousands of state employees would have lost their job.
For these reasons, the passage of the legislation obviously comes as welcomed news. However, as groups like the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and the Greater Pittsburgh Non-profit Partnership have pointed out, our state is till left with a roughly $282 million budget hole to fill. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center outlined some of the potential cuts and revenue streams the Governor has already put forth in hopes of offsetting this gap:
- 1.9% cuts across the board in discretionary appropriations (expected to total $198 million, including a $50 million cut in basic education funding)
- 1.9% cut to the Legislature (totaling $6 million)
- 1.9% cut to the courts (totaling $5 million)
- 1.9% cut to independent elected offices (totaling $3 million)
This also includes about $70 million that should be generated from the proposed severance tax on natural gas extraction, but this has yet to be finalized and confirmed by the state legislature.
This strategy of cutting funds “across the board” could have a tremendous impact on a wide variety of services and programs throughout the Commonwealth. The Greater Pittsburgh Non-profit Partnership recently described how much the potential cuts could mean for a variety of appropriations:
- $339,188 for State Food Purchase
- $1.61 million for PreK Counts
- $729,296 for Head Start Supplemental Assistance
- $282,853 for Adult and Family Literacy
- $46,132 for Maternal and Child Health
- $1.9 million for county Child Welfare
- $227,582 for the Nurse Family Partnership
- $235,315 for Domestic Violence
- $134,653 for Rape Crisis Services
- $446,000 for Human Services Development Fund
- $3.26 million for Child Care Services
Even with the passage of the federal legislation, with these potential cuts looming essential services and programs certainly aren’t yet out of harms way. As always, we will need to continue the fight to make sure that our budget is not balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable. Continue to check back here, with the PA Budget and Policy Center, the Greater Pittsburgh Non-profit Partnership, and with the PA Health Access Network to stay informed about these and other issues.