JUNE 27, 1996
Within the confines of our minority position, we had some input into this document. But make no mistake about it, the boundaries were drawn by Republicans, and we all operated within those boundaries.
This is a Republican budget, and we in the Senate Democratic caucus believe it inadequately supports many worthwhile programs and services on which our citizens depend.
Had we been in the majority, we would have written a budget radically different from the one we have before us tonight.
We would not have knocked a quarter million people off health care. And let us not forget for one minute that the travesty of denying health care to 220,000 poor Pennsylvanians was part of this budget.
Had we been in the majority, we would have provided funding for basic education, especially for the poorer school districts.
Let this be a warning. I'm afraid that we Democrats stand here tonight, destined to be remembered as the prophets whose early warnings were ignored. The issue of equality in education must be addressed if we are to comply with our Constitution. It requires us to provide a thorough and efficient system of education for all children of the commonwealth, both rich and poor.
Our failure to live up to that responsibility will come back to haunt us, in the financial obligations we will deal with in future budgets, and in the lost educational opportunities for thousands of Pennsylvania school children who are not fortunate enough to live in wealthy school districts.
Had we been in the majority, we would have provided additional money for mass transit.
Had we been in the majority, we would have insisted on funding for dozens of worthwhile programs that this budget undercuts or eliminates.
The shame of it is, we have already demonstrated that Pennsylvania has enough money to pay for these programs. In April, we listed $478 million worth of money that we found in the budget -- taxpayer money that should rightfully be used to improve the quality of life for the people of this commonwealth. In that too, Democrats were largely ignored.
Having said that, the process used to negotiate the budget this year was distinctly different than last year's. Although we were not permitted to participate in negotiations to the degree that we have in past years, there was a marked change from last year in attitude, in the courtesies that were extended to us, and in the degree of input that we were allowed to have in the process.
Although this is not a budget of which Senate Democrats are proud, we were permitted to change some things we felt had to be changed. I said in February that this budget would cause pain in this state, and I still believe that's true. But through our input we have been able to mitigate the pain for some people, and reduce the extent of the damage this budget would otherwise have done.
Quite frankly, the input we had was beyond what was required by our minority position with 20 votes on this floor.
Because of that, both myself and Senator Mellow feel honor-bound to vote for this conference committee report. But our vote should in no way be construed as an endorsement of everything this budget contains.
We are still unhappy with much that is in this report, but we don't believe that we should attempt to bring state government to a halt because of it.
Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank and commend the House Republican Appropriations Committee staff, the Senate Republican Appropriations staff, and my staff. And I give special praise to the Senate Republican staff that was faced with the challenge of drafting this bill at the last minute, and came through with flying colors on their technical merit and expertise.
In short, we did the best with what we had, and more than that we cannot ask. However, we believe there were many things that could have been done and should have been done, but were not done.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo