PA Budget Crisis Explained in Plain English


Credit: Alan MacBain from The Mercury

Credit: Alan MacBain from The Mercury

Yes, the Philadelphia public library system is about to close. In case you missed it, here’s the announcement. This week I have seen the uproar of the entire Philadelphia public library system shutting down on October 3. And I’ve known about this situation for months now, and I’ve been to demonstrations, called representatives, but it never occurred to me to say something on my blog except for this. I’m sorry for that. 

Yes, Philadelphia’s famed “Doomsday Budget” is upon us and if no budget, it will be enacted on October 2. This is Mayor Nutter’s “Plan C” budget that was created as a result of the impasse in Harrisburg to pass a Pennsylvania budget. 3,000 city workers will be getting two-week, lay-off notices this coming Monday, September 14th. The Inquirer explained the details succinctly and clearly – so clicky right here

But I hope people dig a little deeper and recognize that the misery is far bigger than the layoffs, library closings, and the shuttering of rec centers. Yes, all those things are extremely bad, but that is only the tip of the iceberg.

The entire Philadelphia services system is running on fumes. Since July, money from the State of Pennsylvania has stopped and anybody to who uses state money gets nothing. Because my agency works with people with HIV/AIDS, I know this first hand. My agency has had layoffs and is borrowing money to stay open. From a bank – with interest. So, yeah the State money will eventually come in, you think, and then everything will be ok.

No, things have changed. Forever. Imagine if your boss stopped issuing you a paycheck and said she’ll pay you back later. You are living paycheck to paycheck. Rent needs to be paid and you need to eat today. So you move in with somebody, sell your stuff, eat Ramen, and stop going to the doctor. And then you get the money back – you can’t exactly recoup your losses easily. So you get a new place and new stuff, but some things are lost forever, until you can make a profit again. But wait, we have a recessed economy. Raises aren’t coming anytime soon and cost of living increases. So essentially, you are fucked. 

That’s how it is for lower-income people in Philly. Services are shuttered already and they aren’t coming back. Pouring food on a person dying of starvation may not save them, since they are to weak to open their mouths to eat. And the budget we are begging for has deep cuts in services. So yeah, we’ll get a budget eventually. But we’ll be getting less. Oh yeah, there will be interest to pay too – so money will be going to the banks as well as the people who need services.

I hate the word services – it is so vague. So let me be specific. Right now, day care centers can’t stay open, which means kids with no place to and working parents scrambling for help. Foster parents aren’t getting paid, which means they can’t buy their foster child school supplies at the start of school. And since Philadelphia teachers can’t get money to have books in their classroom (yeah, teachers usually buy stuff out of pocket for their students), no books at school. Senior citizens don’t have a place to go during the day. Cuts in housing in a city that is desperately in need of it – so more people in shelters and the streets. And the health centers aren’t getting money, so if somebody is sick, well I guess they can wait in line longer. Or hit the ER and endure the 6 hour wait. 

I could go on…but I think you get the picture.

As for what you can do, I say call your state rep. If you know anybody who lives in Delaware County, get them to put pressure on State Senator Dominic Pileggi. He’s on the Senate Appropriations Committee and a mover and shaker with this budget stuff. He’s also a Republican and not sympathetic to Philadelphia so he’s needs nudging. So talk to him. 

Also, what you can do is work to improve life in Philadelphia over the long run. The recession has devastated us all, but threatens the very survival of poorer people. Get involved now and stay involved. Putting in some volunteer labor & throwing in some charitable donations can’t hurt either. In fact, I’ll be hitting you up for the Philly AIDS Walk soon.


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