HARRISBURG, June 30, 2014 – Because it fails to address Pennsylvania’s real issues – like property tax reform and taxing Marcellus Shale companies – state Sen. Sen. Judy Schwank today voted “no” on Pennsylvania’s $29.1 billion 2014-2015 budget.

“We have worked hard in Harrisburg to help Republicans and Gov. Tom Corbett understand that Pennsylvania is deeper in its financial quagmire because of the policies of the past four years,” Schwank, the Democratic chair of the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee said.

“Pennsylvanians, unlike Marcellus Shale companies that are reaping billions of dollars in profits taking natural gas from beneath our earth, are struggling. Yet we can’t even agree to a small tax on the gas Marcellus Shale companies extract because Republicans and the governor are only interested in protecting them,” Sen. Schwank said. “Pennsylvania is the only state not to tax the natural gas that is being pulled from our ground.”

Had Pennsylvania levied a 5 percent severance tax on gas drillers, as Senate Democrats proposed in March, Schwank said the tax would have generated $700 million in new revenue to improve education, better protect the environment and spark new economic development.

Coupled with the $400 million that also would have flowed to the commonwealth under Medicaid expansion, most of the state’s $1.5 billion deficit would have been painlessly covered and 500,000 residents, including 23,000 veterans, would finally have received health care insurance.

“Instead, our $1.5 billion Corbett deficit has been ‘covered’ by inflated projections and deep cuts to essential economic development, environmental protection and job creation programs.  And, no new funding streams mean we will have less ability to offset fiscal shortfalls if projections fall short, as some are anticipating could happen by early 2015 to the tune of $2.5 billion.

“Billions of dollars are being squandered by the commonwealth. This should be money we can invest with to offset education funding shortfalls that schools districts continue to pass on to local taxpayers through higher property taxes.

“School property tax bills are being mailed out now and I am painfully aware the effect this is having on residents, particularly seniors and those on fixed incomes,” Sen. Schwank said.

“The window is closing on the chance for us to deliver true property tax relief to our homeowners, but the General Assembly has some time to address this critical issue before the 2013-14 session ends later this year,” she said.

While Democrats in the Senate and House have been vocal about what they believe needs to be done to right Pennsylvania’s financial ship, Schwank said they were invited late to budget talks.

“If all parties would have been at the table, perhaps a consensus could have been found to find real solutions. Instead, partisan politics took center stage to the detriment of our commonwealth and our residents,” the senator said.



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