- Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States
- February 4 Non-Partisan Training: HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013: HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion
- The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
- Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor
- Mind the gap: Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Leaves Low-income Families Behind
- Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday
- PA Revenue Strong Midway Through Year; Tax Cut Could Have Big Impact
- What to Make of the Fiscal Cliff Deal?
Arlen Specter's Responsibility for the Pennsylvania Budget Crisis
Yesterday, the PA Senate finally started the process of approving Philly’s pension change and sale tax hike that will keep the infamous ‘plan c’ from happening. Good. It is sort of hard to cheer such a basic thing, which should have been done a lot earlier, but, good.
Still in front of us, however, is the PA Budget. And, if Senate Republicans get their way, the State budget would arguably have an even greater impact on Philadelphia than the city’s own budget disaster. Cuts in everything from social services to parks to nursing homes for veterans to legal services for the poor are on the Senate chopping blocks. Basically, if the Senate gets its way, civil society in Pennsylvania fundamentally changes, for the worse.
And although we rightfully focus on Senate Republicans, especially Dominic Pillegi, for their current stance, the Joe Sestak campaign has reminded us of one guy who really has not gotten enough ‘credit’ for the huge gap in Pennsylvania’s budget: Arlen Specter. In fact, Arlen Specter is largely responsible for the entire gap between Ed Rendell’s original budget proposal and the infamous Senate Bill 850. How? With his ‘courage’ in the battle over President Obama's Recovery Act.
Back in May, the Pa. Senate Republicans released Senate Bill 850 (SB 850), which slashed every program imaginable to the bone or simply totally killed its funding. The difference between the Senate and Rendell’s budget was about 1.7 billion dollars. In effect, the Senate GOP was using the crisis as a chance to make an ideological stand to gut and gut and gut our civil society. But, guess what? That huge gap would barely have existed at all, except for the work of a couple ‘moderate’ Senators, led by our own Arlen Specter.
Nationally, most economists knew at the time of the stimulus that the original package proposed by the Democratic House was a good bill, but probably not big enough given how fast our economy was shrinking. And then, in a battle that echoes the global warming and health care fights, the Senate took the package and made it much worse. In the interest of ‘compromise,’ an Arlen Specter led group of Senators slashed 100 billion from the package, and shifted a lot of the funding towards tax cuts. Specter in fact lamented that we couldn’t have slashed all spending from the Recovery Act:
The agreement we reached was the best one we could under the circumstances. We were able to cut out $100 billion from the package and include 35% in tax relief in the overall bill. My preference would have been John McCain’s proposal, which I voted for, to have the stimulus package of $421 billion in tax cuts alone. I voted for the Reagan tax cuts back in 1981 and that would be the best course, but in a legislative body you don’t have exactly your own choice.
So, Specter didn’t get all of the cuts he wanted, but he was sure happy he was ‘able to cut 100 billion from the package.’ And what was one of the cuts he was successful in getting? 40 billion dollars for the state stabilization fund. In other words, 40 billion dollars in direct payment from the Federal Government to the states to help them with their huge budget problems.
According to Pa’s share of the national population, Arlen Specter’s Recovery Act cuts cost Pennsylvania about 1.6 billion dollars, or almost the entire gap between Rendell’s original budget proposal, and SB 850. Since then, the budget gap has grown. But even now, it would be halved if Arlen Specter didn’t slash the Recovery Act.
So the next time Specter brags about his vote on the Recovery Act, just remember what he was bragging about a couple months before he switched parties, and how that potentially could endanger Pennsylvania civil society as we know it.