Midday Must Reads: The Post-Budget Edition

Just days after Governor Tom Corbett signed the Pennsylvania state budget a few minutes before midnight, the effects are transparent — even if the process was not. To start things off today, the Harrisburg Patriot-News takes a look at the newly passed state budget.

The nearly $27.7 billion budget includes no tax increase or new taxes. It ensures that no public school or public university receives less money than last year.

The 2012-13 budget cuts business taxes by $288 million and doubles funding for tax credits for businesses supporting education.

At the same time, it cuts spending on child care programs for low-income working families, eliminates cash assistance for a slice of the state's welfare recipients, cuts funding for county-provided human services and cuts funding for environmental protection. ...

"It is the choice of the governor and the Republican-controlled House and Senate that we don't have money to spend on children with disabilities, on people in wheelchairs, on college students and students in school," said Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster. "I understand that this budget before us is a little bit better than what Gov. Corbett had proposed initially ... but that doesn't make this one a good proposal."

For more budget-related information throughout the day, please head over to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center's website.

Passage of the budget led to severe cuts for many vital human services, the Lancaster Intelligencer-Journal reports that although the cut to General Assistance will be delayed a month, the impact will be devastating to the nearly 70,000 individuals who will lose benefits.

The budget, signed by Gov. Tom Corbett last night, eliminated the $150 million General Assistance program, which since the Great Depression has provided cash assistance to single people. The program was initially slated to end today, July 1, but Democrats won a one-month delay so the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare can notify recipients — including 1,518 people in Lancaster County — that they will lose benefits.

Valerie Case worries about a ripple effect that could wind up costing the state far more than the $150 million saved by eliminating the program.”

Finally, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette takes a look at the 20 counties that will participate in the human services block grant pilot program (including a 10% funding cut) and asks county commissioners about the impact.

Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi noted the task of maintaining human services with increased flexibility, but with fewer state dollars.

"The upside to that is who would better know who needs money than the local government, rather than somebody in Harrisburg deciding who should get the money here in Washington County?" he said. "The downside is the state keeps cutting those dollars, and they look to us -- the commissioners, the local government -- to fill that gap."

While Westmoreland County Commissioner Ted Kopas, worried combining the lines would ease the way for future reductions.

"Anytime you put money into a block grant, it becomes a dollar figure," he said. "The further you move from the people at the end of the line, the easier it is to cut. I've seen this act before."

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