Tom Ulrich of We the People of the Lehigh Valley organized a “Take Back Democracy” rally in West Bethlehem on Saturday, March 19, 2011. At least 50 Lehigh Valley residents gathered to show support for a responsible budget in Harrisburg that will foster economic growth and education. Elisa Zaehringer, Advocacy Coordinator, spoke on behalf of Community Action Lehigh Valley.

Here are her remarks:

Common Good is under attack on multiple fronts. First, let’s talk about the Federal budget.
We continue to face gridlock in Washington as the Congress continues to pass short term continuing resolutions 6 months into the fiscal year.
Just this week the Congress settled for yet another stop gap measure that would fund the government through April 8th. The Congress now has three weeks to: pass another stopgap measure; reach some kind of compromise; or face government shutdown. In the meantime, Americans are waiting and programs related to Human Services, Education, and Healthcare are slated for deep cuts.
The Community Services Block Grant, the core funding source of Community Action is in danger in both this fiscal year and next year. The House voted to virtually end CSBG funding for this year. Even if the Senate restores funding, our fight is far from over.
President Obama proposed cutting CSBG by 50% and restructuring how the funds will be allocated to Community Action agencies in his proposed 2012 budget. This would severely damage Community Action’s ability to serve low-income families in the Lehigh Valley and to promote and develop programs that foster economic development.
I ask the Congress, why? Why this program? The entire budget for CSBG is minuscule in comparison to federal budget. The total budget amount for CSBG is $750 Million. That amount of money is spent in just 18 hours in Afghanistan. I ask you, where are our priorities?
The picture gets even more grim when you look at Governor Corbett’s proposed budget. The Governor proposed deep cuts to higher education, human services, and community development.
For example. . .
The Homeowner Emergency Assistance Program, the program that helps people stay in their homes when they are in danger of foreclosure—eliminated.
The Human Service Development Fund, a flexible block grant that helps local government provide services for low-income people—eliminated.
The Department of Economic and Community Development, the department which creates jobs and works to build viable communities, cut by 31%.
At a time when America is still facing record high unemployment rates, and the private and public sectors are slow to create jobs, the government is slashing programs that assist people with their basic needs. I ask you, where are our priorities?
The common good is under attack.  Programs aimed at helping those who are experiencing tough times and attempt to build healthy communities are being slashed while billions of dollars are being given to large corporations who ship jobs overseas and to the wealthiest of Americans in the form of tax breaks.  We need to take back democracy and demand a responsible budget from our leaders.  It’s time for our leaders to look at raising revenues instead of only slashing programs.  We must ask ourselves “What kind of Community do we want to live in” and demand that our leaders support the programs and raise the revenue required to build it. 

One last time I ask you, where are our priorities?

Thank you.