FUMO CITES UNMET NEEDS WHILE BUSINESS TAX BREAKS CONTINUE
Remarks on the Floor of the Senate, June 20, 2001:
No budget is ever perfect, and there are always needs that are unfunded. A budget is in fact a political document. The budget is in fact an expression of what the General Assembly and governor consider important or not important.
I have always believed that government was created to help those people who cannot help themselves.
And in this particular case, this budget did not help poor school districts in Pennsylvania who cannot help themselves.
And I donít just say Philadelphia, because Philadelphia is a large problem, but there are just as many rural and poor districts out there who have the same problems, in fact worse problems than Philadelphia. They just donít deal with the same numbers. We have still not addressed that adequately in this budget.
We have still not addressed adequately the needs of our senior citizens who need help with prescription drugs. And yes, we have not addressed the needs of our volunteer fire companies. And I think a lot of that was aggravated by the executive branch going in to Senate districts presenting Ė I canít call them WAMS any more because they donít exist Ė but presenting grants to volunteer fire departments and saying "This is only the beginning. There will be millions for you," and then not doing anything about it.
I think thatís the two-fold problem of volunteer firemen.
I think if the governor were sincere when he said itís a one-time deal, thatís easily accomplished with a bond issue. We could have floated a bond issue for $25 million for 30 years, and the debt service on that would be $1.6 million a year. Thatís not a lot of money to pump $25 million into those volunteer fire departments. And that would have been in one year, and believe me we could have found $1.6 million in the operating side of this budget. Believe me, we could find that much in rounding errors.
Mr. President, when it comes time to say where we will get the money, we seem to forget that the triggering of the next phase of the capital stock and franchise tax cut alone will cost us $214 million.
Thatís a lot of money. It would have taken care of a lot of poor school districts. It could have taken care of prescription drugs. It could have taken care of the steel industry. And it could have taken care of volunteer firemen out of operating expense.
Itís not that weíre here advocating for tax increase.
Weíre here questioning what are we getting for what we gave back. We already gave back to big business billions in tax reductions, and weíre still 45th, 43rd, or 42nd in new job creation.
They have not given back to us, the citizens of the commonwealth, what we deserve in creating new jobs. For them it was just a bonus to their bottom line and their shareholders. Government has an obligation to extract from business, when it gives them that cash back, a commitment for job creation.
So in that sense, we think that money was wasted. If we were going to just throw money away, wouldnít it have been better to save our kids with education, and save our senior citizens with prescription drugs? Thatís the debate that we have here.
Mr. President, I do want to thank the majority leader. I recognize that this is his first budget, and I think heís done a commendable job. Heís learning more and more, and he will learn more, especially about those bad guys in the House. But we hope to really teach him some lessons soon, when thereís a change in the front office, and then we will really have budget negotiations, with all five parties at the table. That will be his first budget, and we welcome that day, and we are happy to say it is coming soon.
I want to thank everybody on our staff, although we didnít have that much to do this year, but at least we had the answers on short notice.
Every year this is more than just passing a budget. Itís saying goodbye for the summer, and itís almost a point of melancholy sometimes.
So I want to thank the majority leader for his efforts on behalf of the Senate and all its members in negotiations with the House and the governor.
I will vote for this budget because I feel a moral obligation on behalf of the minority leader Senator Mellow and myself, but I do recognize that some of our members are not going to vote for this budget because of the very strong feeling that they have about some of the issues that they spoke about.
In closing I want to say again that we would not have had some of the problems we had if the executive branch had not gone into our membersí Senate districts and handed out checks and made promises that they did not keep.
We recognize that thereís not enough money to do everything, but more importantly we recognize that when you give your word you keep it. And when you tell people things you keep your word, because the credibility of politicians is something we should all guard. And we should be just as upset when someone from the other side of the aisle tells the public something thatís not true as we are when one of our members does it. We are always suspect when it comes to the public.
We have an obligation to keep our word. We have an obligation to tell people "no" when we think itís no. We get ourselves into trouble, and in this case the executive branch did when it promised things and then didnít deliver.
Thank you, Mr. President. Iím not going to urge people to vote one way or the other. This is strictly a conscience vote on our side of the aisle, but I will be voting yes. Thank you.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo