Polls Show Support for Human Services FundingJune 19th, 2012
In the eleventh hour before a draconian state budget is passed, polls indicate that most Pennsylvanians oppose cuts in human services.
In a few days, the Pennsylvania State legislature must finish its deliberations on Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed state budget, and pass a budget by the July 1 deadline. Recent years have seen long delays in the budgetary process, but all indications are that the Governor and legislature are committed to meeting the deadline this year.
And as you probably know from previous Project H.O.M.E. communications, this is a very troubling budget, with deep cuts in human services, including the elimination of the General Assistance program, which serves many of Pennsylvania’s poorest citizens. Programs to reduce and prevent homelessness in Philadelphia will also take big hits, which could mean increases in the numbers of persons and families forced onto the streets.
Despite enormous opposition, including thousands of emails messages to legislators from Project H.O.M.E. friends and allies, at this eleventh hour, prospects for any significant changes in the Governor’s proposed budget are slim. The Governor and legislators seem fiercely committed to what they consider a “fiscally responsible” budget that does not include any new taxes or revenue, and decreases taxes for many large corporations. (Relatedly, Governor Corbett has proposed a $1.7 billion tax break for Royal Dutch Shell, one of the world’s wealthiest companies, as an inventive for building a facility in western Pennsylvania.)
What makes this policy push more disturbing is that recent polls show that a significant majority of Pennsylvanians have very different feelings about state budget priorities. Recent public opinion surveys conducted by Franklin & Marshall College's Center for Opinion Research reveal some dramatic and important findings:
- - Nearly six in 10 Pennsylvanians think the state is moving in the wrong direction,
- - More than 70 percent supported raising taxes on natural-gas producers and on smokeless tobacco and cigars as ways to balance the state budget.
And most importantly, we think:
- - 79 percent oppose balancing the budget by cutting human services
Other recent polls suggest similar discontent among Pennsylvanians:
- - According to the United Way of the Capitol Region, more than 80 percent of registered voters in three central counties supported taxing cigars and smokeless tobacco in order to ensure adequate funding for human services. Fifty-five percent said the state spends too little on human services.
- - Meanwhile, a Quinnipiac College poll found the 53 percent of the public disapprove of Governor Corbett's handling of the budget, versus 33 percent approving.
These results are hopeful, but it indicates we have work to do: We need to expand the public dialogue about budget priorities, and lift up the voices and concerns of those Pennsylvanians – those struggling with poverty and others as well – who believe in a caring society. Even as Americans face tough times, there is a deep reservoir of concern for fairness, justice, and the common good. Despite the tidal wave of negative political rhetoric, the majority of citizens recognize that public investment in meeting the needs of vulnerable persons is healthy for the whole society. Our elected officials must hear that message.
To help advocate for a more humane budget for all Pennsylvanians, go to www.pacaresforall.org/.