Diverse Coalition of Organizations Launch “PA’s Choice” Budget Campaign

John Neurohr and Marc Stier |

A diverse coalition of groups from across the state, including education advocates, community service organizations, faith-based groups, environmental groups and labor organizations launched the “Pennsylvania’s Choice” campaign today to bring attention to the devastating consequences of budget cuts across the commonwealth and to advocate for a Pennsylvania budget that best serves the people.

If Pennsylvania continues to enact unbalanced state budgets, the commonwealth will run a deficit that grows every year. Without new tax revenues, Pennsylvania will not be able to maintain the needed funding for education, human services, the environment, or community and economic development.

Pennsylvania’s Choice” partners will be organizing in areas across the state, bringing together community members to make clear to elected officials that, if the state cannot secure new revenues, these communities will face devastating cutbacks to programs in these and other areas that are critical to Pennsylvanians every single day.

Utilizing earned media events, digital media and face-to-face meetings, the campaign will be highlighting stories of how budget cuts — and continued threats of additional budget cuts — are affecting Pennsylvanians from rural communities, to suburban towns to big cities.

Many of the partner organizations were in Harrisburg today for a kick-off press conference:

Marc Stier, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center explained the genesis of the campaign: “We’ve come together because it is time to face the reality of the fiscal cliff. We’ve come together because the time for budget balanced in name only is over. We’ve come together because we must avoid the devastating cuts that would be necessary to balance the budget without new revenues. We’ve come together because we know that it is possible to raise new revenues without putting the burden on Pennsylvania’s middle class. And while we call the campaign ‘Pennsylvania’s Choice,’ we’ve come together because we know that the truth is we really have no choice. We must deal with the fiscal crisis honestly and transparently. Or we will all suffer terribly.”

“The Arc of Pennsylvania supports a budget which protects and enhances the right of people with disabilities to live, learn, work, and thrive in their communities,” said Ashlinn Masland-Sarani, Policy and Development Director for The Arc of Pennsylvania. “The Arc of PA and its members believe that providing community access to people with disabilities and supporting their families is a core responsibility of our state government.”

“The people of Pennsylvania have a right to clean air, pure water, and the preservation of the environment – that right is compromised if the lead agency charged with upholding it can’t even afford to fill necessary vacant positions. The Department of Environmental Protection has been systematically underfunded for years, and we cannot allow that to happen again in 2016,” said Sierra Club – Pennsylvania Director Joanne Kilgour.

“We can no longer afford to continue down the same path of papering over the problem with accounting gimmicks unsustainable revenues and empty rhetoric. Our children cannot afford it. Our communities cannot afford it. Our Commonwealth cannot afford it,” said JoAnne Sessa, Secretary-Treasurer, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 668.

“The 2015-2016 budget embodies the absolute failure of our state government both to meet the needs of Pennsylvania’s public school students and to pay the obligations the Commonwealth owes to school districts in construction reimbursement payments,” said Susan Spicka, Director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania. “With this budget many schools will experience a substantial decrease in money available to support academic programs and services for students and communities will shoulder significant additional costs, as the state has shifted a considerable financial obligation onto the shoulders of local taxpayers. Education Voters of PA is joining together with the diverse coalition that makes up the PA’s Choice campaign so that we can work together to ensure that the travesty of the 2015-2016 budget does not repeat itself.”

Learn more about the campaign at www.pachoice.org.

Organizations Supporting “Pennsylvania’s Choice”

The Arc of Pennsylvania

Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition

Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley

Consumer Health Coalition

Education Rights Network

Education Voters of Pennsylvania

Great Public Schools Pittsburgh

Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger

Hunger-Free Pennsylvania

Just Harvest

Keystone Progress

Mental Health Association of Northwestern Pennsylvania

Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania

Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania

One Pittsburgh

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center

Pennsylvania Council of Churches

Pennsylvania Food Banks

Pennsylvania Health Access Network

Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association

Pennsylvania State Education Association

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers

Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers

Public Citizens for Children and Youth

SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 668

Sierra Club – Pennsylvania Chapter

Unitarian-Universalist Pennsylvania Legislative Advocacy Network (UUPLAN)