Friday, December 31, 2010

Dem Senate Leader Stresses Budget Priorities

The new minority chairman of the Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations Committee says as the new governor and state legislature look to cut budget expenses, job creation and economic development programs are areas that should not get the axe.
Democratic Senator Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia says Pennsylvania is facing a serious budget shortfall and a fragile economy in 2011 so tough decisions on priorities will have to be made....

"We need to make sure all of our programs and all of our projects and the services that we provide at the Commonwealth level are operating at the greatest level of efficiency. We need to make sure we reduce redundancies that exist from various different programs. We need to operate with a thoughtful and compassionate philosophy as we go down this process."

Hughes says with Pennsylvania's jobless rate hovering between 9% and 9.5%, job creation and economic development programs should be a priority.....
“Creating jobs, balancing needs and stretching dollars are critical priorities that will require us all to come together and find common ground. "

In the first five months of the 2010-2011 budget year Pennsylvania’s general fund collections have totaled $9.2 billion, which is $14 million above estimates. Hughes says it’s anticipated that the state will finish the year with a balanced budget and maybe a slight surplus.

However, the state faces a possible $4 billion deficit mostly due to the loss of federal stimulus funds. Governor-elect Tom Corbett says he won’t raise taxes but will cut spending. The two largest areas of the state budget are education and services provided by the Department of Public Welfare which Hughes calls a favorite target....
"With the unemployment crisis that exists, with folks not working, with folks losing their homes, more and more folks are dependent upon the programs in the Department of Public Welfare just to make it through. So, we've got to be very careful when we say on one side 'cut a system and a series of programs', when the need and demand for those programs is increasing dramatically."

Governor-elect Corbett will deliver his budget proposal to legislature in early March.

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