Op-Ed: It’s Time to Put People First, Pass State Budget

Good People Help Because Help Can’t Wait

As many of you know, Pennsylvania remains one of the last states in our nation without an enacted, balanced budget.

I have said before and I will say it again now, this is unacceptable. It is unacceptable to the people of Pennsylvania, to the people of Lancaster County, and to me.

The current situation is financially crippling to our social service providers, who help our most vulnerable friends, neighbors and community members.

Last week I met with human service providers from all across Lancaster County, and they are genuinely worried about what will happen to their clients – foster children, people with intellectual disabilities, families in distress, to name a few.

Many of these providers have borrowed money so their clients will still get help. To those that are sacrificing, thank you – you represent the greatest of who we are and your caring and generous spirit matters and deserves to be recognized and celebrated.

The longstanding impasse has also caused concern for our schools.

The state has already missed over $1 billion in payments to our schools, who are relying on collected property tax revenue to pay their bills, keep classrooms operating and busses rolling. Sadly, our private faith based schools still can’t buy textbooks for their children.

If a resolution isn’t reached soon, the financial pressures will become even greater and costly borrowing may be the only alternative school administrators and boards will have.

Certainly, there is a better way.

While there are genuine disagreements over how much Pennsylvania should spend and whether or not Governor Wolf’s tax package should be supported, I join with the vast majority of the people of the 36th Senatorial District in saying that not funding these crucial and essential services is the worst of all the options.

This is precisely why I supported my colleagues in the House of Representatives when they sought to override the Governor’s veto of vital agreed-to spending line items, like rape crisis centers and domestic violence services. If we all agree, why not fund these services?

Unfortunately, that effort failed and all funds, both state and federal, remain stuck in our State Treasury. I believe that if you still have to pay taxes during the impasse, then you should also get the benefit of seeing those tax dollars put to good use.

Late last week, after negotiations with Governor Wolf stalled again, I voted to advance a no-frills stopgap budget that would appropriate one-third of what all the line-items were given in the budget sent to Governor Wolf on June 30th.

This would remedy the immediate problems and keep necessary services operating without any further interruption. The House of Representatives is expected to take up that bill this week.

Remarkably, Governor Wolf has already signaled that he will veto this legislation too. He publicly said that the reason he is doing this is because this is just another “gimmick” being used by Republicans to prevent him from getting what he says he wants – government that works, schools that teach and jobs that pay.

I support government that works, schools that each and jobs that pay. I haven’t found anyone who doesn’t.

But holding individuals, families, schools and the entire state hostage while he seeks to achieve those goals through additional taxes is unconscionable.

I suggest that he would be well served to leave his office in Capitol Building and talk to some service providers, schools and families in Lancaster County who are truly worried. That would certainly make him “a different kind of Governor.”

I chose the title of this article because I greatly admire the work of the American Red Cross.

When terrible things happen, the dedicated men and women – and the donated resources provided by generous Americans – come to help.

Several years ago, I recall that the Red Cross ran a campaign headlined, “Good People Help Because Help Can’t Wait.”

How true. I stand ready to help. I am ready and will vote and vote again to help.

We can achieve great things as a people if we truly put others first.

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