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PA Budget Update, Julie Platt, MSW Student Representative

Wednesday, November 8, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Tyler Woodcook
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Julie Platt, MSW Student Representative, NASW-PA

 

Pennsylvania has a balanced budget. It took lawmakers four months to get there, but on October 30th, Governor Tom Wolf signed a revenue plan to go with the spending plan approved back in early July. The $32 billion budget includes:

  • Increased funding for public schools, early childhood and special education, and services for the intellectually disabled.
  • Funding for state-related universities such as Temple, Pittsburgh, and Lincoln remained flat
  • A planned merger of the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole.
  • A large reduction — $353 million — came from finding savings in the state’s vast Medicaid program that covers hospital and medical care.

The delay in funding stemmed from the Republican-controlled legislature, who was unable to decide on how to bridge a $2 billion deficit. This lead to a deadlock that lasted four months, and had many nonprofits concerned they wouldn’t receive state money. State-related universities mulled over a midyear tuition hike.


Finally, late in October the legislature passed a revenue plan that closed the budget gap by:

  • $1.5 billion loan that would be paid back using proceeds from the state fund that was set up during the landmark settlement with tobacco companies.
  • Expanding gambling and allowing for mini-casinos in rest stops.
  • Casino to offer games online
  • A bi-partisan push to enact a shale tax on natural gas did not go through.

Although, the budget process may seem confusing, it is imperative that social workers pay attention and reach out to their representative in Harrisburg, if they feel a program is being cut.


Representative Dan Frankel (D-23), who serves as Democratic Caucus Chair, spoke at length with me about the budget process.

 

“When I elected almost 20 years ago, not in my wildest dreams, I would never have imagined that the PA budget would be funded by borrowing money from the tobacco fund (that is supposed to be used for tobacco and public health programs).”


He went on to address how this budget process is unsustainable for the long-term financial health of Pennsylvania. In regard to social workers, Rep. Frankel (who was once honored as the NASW-PA Legislature of the year) said, “It is important for social work students to pay attention to the budget process. Many of the programs you work in are funded by the state government.”



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