June 25, 2014

Retiree Leader Calls for State Budget that Addresses Citizens’ Priorities: Education, Economy and Environment

PARA President Wayne Burton rejects budget gimmicks and ideological agenda standing in the way of a budget compromise

Harrisburg, PA – Today, PA Alliance for Retired Americans President Wayne Burton issued the following statement to legislators regarding the budget negotiations and other legislative activity taking place in Harrisburg in advance of next week’s statutory budget deadline:

“During this budget season, we’ve heard a lot of news reports about ‘priorities’.  The Governor, the House Republican Leadership, the Senate Republican Leadership, the House Democratic Leadership, the Senate Republican Leadership and myriad interest groups are all fighting for their priorities.  We have something radical to suggest – what about Pennsylvania’s priorities?

“It’s time to put away all the ideological games and focus on what Pennsylvanians need:

  • Robust funding for public education through a fair funding formula that puts us on the path to the state’s assuming half of the burden for school budgets – keeping property taxes down,
  • Flat funding or increases for higher education items like public universities and community colleges, and full funding for job training programs, to prepare Pennsylvanians for family-sustaining jobs,
  • Full funding for environmental inspection and enforcement to protect public health from the side effects of natural gas extraction.

“In order to accomplish these goals while dealing with a budget deficit from last year, legislators must reject the Governor’s one-time budget gimmicks, put aside impractical ideologies and embrace new revenues that our state desperately needs.  This is why the Alliance supports:

  • A 5% extraction tax, in addition to the current impact fee,
  • Full Medicaid Expansion that will bring in federal dollars while saving the state money as well,
  • Closing corporate tax loopholes that allow around three-fourths of companies operating in PA to avoid paying income taxes at all,
  • Ending the sales tax vendor discount – an antiquated tax giveaway,
  • Taxing smokeless tobacco, ending our distinction of being the only state without such a tax,
  • An increase in the minimum wage, which will increase tax revenue.

“Of course, in order to accomplish a fair budget in a timely manner, it is imperative that legislators abandon ill-conceived side projects that create divisions and are counter-productive to the cause.  In one last bulleted list, we suggest that legislators:

  • Reject the Tobash pension reform plan that will gut benefits and endanger current retirees by re-directing money away from the fund into personal accounts, but do little to reduce the pension debt, especially when combined with Governor Corbett’s plans to spend any savings on short-term budget relief,
  • Reject the privatization of the Wine and Spirit Shops that would rob the state of a valuable revenue stream that we will need for future budgets and also hurt the economy,
  • Reject so-called “paycheck protection” that does nothing to save money while attacking the rights of working people.

The 300,000 members and 150 affiliates of the PA Alliance for Retired Americans – as well as every Pennsylvania voter – will be watching closely.”


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