February 05, 2013

PA Seniors Wary of False Choices from Tom Corbett

The Governor’s Budget pits Pennsylvanians against Pennsylvanians, while ignoring real solutions to a manufactured budget crisis, to the detriment of our State’s economy

Jean Friday, President of the PA Alliance for Retired Americans (PARA), released the following statement regarding Governor Corbett’s Budget Address:

“Pennsylvania Seniors are growing weary of Governor Tom Corbett’s false choices. As we enter another state budget season, we continue to hear that our state must choose between critical investments in our future and honoring our past obligations, between economic prosperity and social justice, between maintaining the institutions that serve our citizens and providing services that are worthy of the 21st Century.  Put another way, the Governor justifies bad ideas with manufactured crises.  Invariably, senior citizens get caught in the crossfire when the Governor plays these games that pit Pennsylvanians against one another.    

“In 2013 the Governor is putting the most classic false choice of all front and center – children vs. seniors.  After two years of harmful cuts to our public schools, the Governor threatens even more cuts if the state pension system is not ‘reformed’.  He knows that further cuts to public education will throw our school districts into crisis mode, forcing them to cut vital programs, lay off more teachers and hike property taxes.  He is counting on seniors like me, living on a fixed income, to abandon my belief that strong public schools are essential for our communities; and instead clamor for whatever solution he suggests, which in this case is an attack on pensions.  But who knows better how important pensions are than senior citizens?  Here at PARA, we know the facts.  We know that the state neglected its obligation to the pension for many years, leaving it unable to weather the economic downturn.  We know that significant cutbacks were made to future pensions in 2010.  We also know that any switch to a 401(k)-type system will make the pension’s funding problems WORSE, not better.

“The Governor offers another false choice on the issue of Medicaid, telling us that in order to maintain the program’s sustainability, hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians will have to continue to go without Health Care coverage.  The Governor is rejecting Millions of Federal dollars and harming the quality of life for many Pennsylvania families while imperiling the fiscal health of many of our state’s hospitals, just to satisfy ideological concerns. This misguided decision will drive the cost of health care to continue to rise for ALL Pennsylvanians, as the uninsured use the emergency room as their primary care option; costing citizens and the state more money in the long run.

“But cutting back on schools, cutting back on pensions and keeping people uninsured aren’t our only options.  The Governor created this false choice by steadfastly refusing to afford the state with all the resources that are available.  There are several reasonable ways that the state could raise revenue without impacting the sales and income taxes that Pennsylvanians pay every day.  We could tax Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction at the same rate that our neighboring states of Ohio and West Virginia do, instead of the pittance we charge now.  We could adopt combined reporting of corporate income tax, so that 75% of the for-profit companies that operate in Pennsylvania can’t avoid paying any taxes at all to our state by opening PO Boxes in Delaware or using other loopholes.

“As if these revenue-starving measures weren’t enough, the Governor wants to make things worse by selling our Wine and Spirit Shops – an asset that provides $500 Million to the Commonwealth each year – for a one-time payoff.  In other words, he gets cash to soften the blow of his own budget ahead of his re-election campaign, while setting up more false choices down the road.

“The end result of another Corbett Budget, if it is allowed to become law, will be more job losses – teachers, liquor store workers, lottery workers – and reduced retirement security for the workers who are left.  All of that is bad news for PA businesses that depend on their local community for customers.  On top of that, it means less investment in the schools and colleges that are critical to making sure our future generations can compete in the global economy.  Maybe the false choices offered by Tom Corbett aren’t choices at all – since Pennsylvanians lose either way.”

The Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans, led by President Jean Friday of Westmoreland County, has over 300,000 members and 144 local affiliates across the Commonwealth.  PARA’s mission is to educate seniors and the public about retiree issues, and organize seniors to advocate for their interests in Harrisburg and Washington.  To learn more, visit www.pennretiredamericans.org

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