Harrisburg, PA – For the first time in years, the Commonwealth will have a surplus of more than $15 billion from state budget surpluses and unspent federal pandemic relief funding at the end of this fiscal year. If this is not the moment to enact a budget that works to help hard-working Pennsylvanians and their communities, when will that time come?
Earlier today, the We The People – PA campaign and its partners gathered alongside legislative leaders on the capitol steps to demand a just budget for all Pennsylvanians.
During this rally, activists called on legislators to stop hoarding and to spend Pennsylvania’s accumulated surplus the way it’s intended to be spent—meeting the state’s responsibilities to our families and communities and to our democracy. The state has the money to do big things this year, and even a bold, inclusive spending bill would leave a substantial surplus for years to come!
House Democratic leader Joanna McClinton called on her colleagues in the majority caucus to “come to the table and invest wisely” highlighting that “our schools need it, our seniors who haven’t been able to access the property tax rent rebate program, they need it!”
“Our state’s $15 billion extra dollars aren’t actually a surplus—it’s our tax dollars that legislators are hoarding instead of spending responsibly on what our communities need. We kept our end of the bargain by paying our taxes, now our legislators have to keep up their end by spending the $15 billion on the education, homes, and communities we need and deserve” said Lorena Arias, Make the Road PA member leader.
Hildamarie Hernandez spoke on behalf of CASA Pennsylvania, highlighting the urgency of climate justice, and advocating for voting modernization – in particular implementing the voting law from 1965 Section 4e because “voting with knowledge and fully understanding the process can make a difference in the public offices that represent us […] The ones who move all of Pennsylvania is us!” Quien mueve todo Pensilvania somos nosotros, WE THE PEOPLE!
Rev. Gregory Holston reminded us that “the problems of gun violence are merely a symptom” and that when we invest in our children and our communities, and our neighborhoods, “we create the safe-havens. We reimagine public safety in a different way.”
Legislators can, and should, act boldly to enact a state budget that includes affordable college and workforce training, economic relief for families dealing with rising costs of gasoline and child care, aid to small businesses recovering from the pandemic, affordable housing and aid to repair homes, environmental sustainability, funding for elections, and a $15 minimum wage by 2027. We the people want to see a state budget that deals with immediate economic problems *and* addresses long-term inequities.
Representative Sara Innamorato called out the harms of austerity and the “pain caused by an upside-down tax system that favors the hoarding of wealth over hard work.” Adding, “wealth and power will always tell you that basic dignity for Pennsylvanians, it’s just too expensive. That it can’t be done. but somehow they always find the money to protect their own wealth and power. And to that, we say: no more!”
Steve Catanese, SEIU Local 668, emphasized that point, saying: “anyone who tells you we can’t afford to invest our communities, they’re lying to you.”
Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa lifted up the programs that the budget could invest in, such as a program to invest in small businesses in disadvantaged communities, saying “those are the types of thoughtful things that we need to do as we go forward because that’s what’s going to make an impact. That’s what’s going to make the difference in the lives of many Pennsylvanians.”
“What we’re facing here is a decision. A choice.” said We The People – PA director of campaigns Nick Pressley, pushing legislators to make the choice to prioritize helping people, not large, wealthy corporations. “We can ensure that families in Butler County aren’t dealing with poverty at the same time as we can help families in Philadelphia. We can address the failed infrastructure and aging homes in Blair County alongside addressing the same issue in Allegheny County.”
Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler stood with activists and called on her colleagues to make the right choice, stating: “It’s disgusting to me that any lawmaker sitting on a giant pile of cash would be part of a scheme to hoard billions of dollars and refuse to invest it in the working people of this state. It doesn’t have to be that way.”
“We have a moral obligation to start addressing what has been put off for too long. The simple reality is that Pennsylvanians have been hurting, dollars are in the bank. The question is about priorities. Is our priority about addressing those who have been left behind?” said Representative Matt Bradford.
Marc Stier, PA Budget and Policy Center director, stressed the importance of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by asking “If federal funds specifically enacted to help Black, brown, and white Pennsylvanians deal with the impact of COVID doesn’t justify spending to help small businesses recover and families deal with the high costs of housing, child care, and gas, what would justify it? If not now, when?”
Scott Seeborg, PA state director of All Voting is Local connected these discussions to the importance of free and fair elections, stating: “Sitting on billions while Pennsylvania continues to recover from the pandemic is shameful, and pointing the finger at elections as the problem while also not funding them or giving counties what they need is so cynical, so shameless, that it would be hard to believe if it wasn’t happening under our noses.”
We call on lawmakers to take action to meet the needs of Pennsylvanians, and enact a people’s budget to build a stronger, healthier, and more just future for us all!
As Senator Vincent Hughes said in his speech, “It is the people’s money! Therefore it needs to be the people’s priorities!”
- Nick Pressley, We The People – PA
- Estrella Lopez, Interpreter, CASA Member Leader
- Marc Stier, PA Budget & Policy Center
- House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton
- Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa
- Loreana Arias, Make The Road PA
- Rep. Sara Innamorato
- Hildamarie Hernandez, CASA Pennsylvania
- Rep. Matt Bradford
- Scott Seeborg, All Voting Is Local
- Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler
- Steve Catanese, President, SEIU Local 668
- Rev. Gregory Holston
- Senator Vince Hughes
This event was live-streamed on the We The People – PA Facebook page.
WE THE PEOPLE – PA is a campaign of, by, and for all the people of Pennsylvania. Our goal is to ensure that everyone can thrive no matter whether they are Black, brown, or white; native-born or immigrant; Asian; Latin; poor or rich; or live in cities, suburbs or rural areas. We call for decisive leadership and bold action from state lawmakers to keep our families safe today and to build a stronger, healthier, and a more just future.