We are almost 2 months into the fiscal year and there is no sign that the legislature is going to do one of the most fundamental tasks they have as a governing body. We still do not have a budget and the halls of the Capitol were empty today. They appear to have no intention of resolving this impasse any time soon.
Today, Better Choices, a statewide coalition of groups advocating for a fair budget, held a press conference in the rotunda to call on the legislature to do its job and act in the best interests of the Commonwealth.
Alan Jennings, Executive Director of Community Action, was invited to offer his comments at the press conference. Following are his remarks:
Throughout Pennsylvania, non-profits that exist for the sole purpose of serving others are calculating how they will do that work without laying off their underpaid staff or borrowing money. Our staff in Bethlehem is on the verge of tapping our line of credit. We expect to have to borrow more than $300,000 within the next few days. Keep in mind that it is federal money that we are expecting, money that cannot be released without the authority of an adopted state budget.
We don’t do this work to get rich. Many of the people working in the non-profit sector are eligible for the services we provide. Instead, out of a deep sense of obligation, of compassion, of faith, we believe in the notion that, together, collectively, we don’t turn our backs on those left out, left behind.
When women are being beaten by the men in their lives, we create havens of safety. When families can’t pay their bills, we create food banks. When people hear voices nobody else hears, we provide medicine and a sympathetic ear. When people are old and frail, we hold their hands.
It is in that context, then, that we wonder about the calculus that leads our legislative leaders to use tricks to score political points rather than earnestly find a way to pay to respond to the very real needs of their constituents.
As the budget impasse wears on, it seems like the very real needs of Pennsylvanians who are hurting are being cynically disregarded in favor of political games that will do little good for anyone. Too many in the legislature are doing everything they can to justify their own view that government doesn’t work by making sure it can’t work.
Governor Wolf is defying political convention by taking the lead in proposing to raise the revenue we need to invest in ourselves and our communities.
Here is the new calculus: we can take the path to investing in educating a competitive workforce, in creating jobs, in protecting the weakest among us, in strengthening our communities; or we can continue to take the path to nowhere.