By Sharon Ward, Third and State
Governor Tom Corbett’s May 21 newsletter offered up responses to five “myths” the administration claims are circulating about his proposed budget for next year. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center examined these myths and the myths behind the myths to give you a clear picture about what is fact and what is fiction in Harrisburg.
Governor’s Myth #1: Pennsylvania spends more money building prisons than building schools.
We’re not sure where this one came from, but we will give it a whirl.
Fact: The Corbett administration’s budget includes a moratorium on new school construction projections, and NO FUNDING for school district projects in the pipeline.
Fact: If the Governor’s proposed plan for higher education is adopted, Pennsylvania will spend twice as much on prisons as it does on colleges. In 2009-10, the state’s corrections budget was $1.8 billion and college funding was $1.5 billion. If the Governor had his way, Pennsylvania would spend $1.9 billion on corrections and $980 million on colleges in 2012-13.
Fact: It costs the state much more to house prisoners than it does to educate a child. In 2011-12, Pennsylvania will house 49,000 inmates at a cost of $35,188 per inmate and spend $9.3 billion to educate 1.8 million students at a cost in state dollars of $5,305 per child.
Fact: It is better to build schools than to build prisons.
Governor’s Myth #2: The reductions in higher education funding will cause universities to raise tuition.
Well, cutting college funding is certainly not going to help keep tuition down.
Fact: Public subsidies keep college tuition more affordable. In 2009-10, the average cost (nationally) of a public four-year college education was $15,014, while the average cost of a four-year private college was more than double at $32,790.
Fact: From 1999 to 2011, Pennsylvania’s state funding for higher education fell by 12%.
Fact: The Governor and General Assembly cut public colleges by 20% last year, and the Governor proposed to cut 30% more this year.
Fact: Pennsylvania ranked 46th in public college funding as a share of personal income in 2011-12.
Fact: Our economy can’t grow if our children don’t have a college education.
Governor’s Myth #3: The proposed budget reduces funding for K-12 education and will force school districts to raise property taxes.
That’s no myth, that’s a fact.
Fact: The budget proposed by Governor Corbett and enacted by the General Assembly in June 2011 gave school districts $860 million less than they received the previous year. That included a reduction of 7%, or $421 million, in the basic education subsidy.
Fact: The Governor’s cuts killed jobs. School districts cut programs, raised taxes and eliminated positions. In 2011, the state lost 14,000 jobs in public schools and universities.
Governor’s Myth #4: The elimination of cash assistance will mainly hurt children and victims of domestic violence.
Fact: In February, the Governor proposed eliminating the General Assistance program. The Governor is right: most of those affected are people with a permanent disability waiting for approval for Social Security disability benefits, or those who have an addiction and are eligible to receive the $200 monthly grant for seven months, in their lifetime.
Fact: Women and children lost their health care, not cash assistance, when the Department of Public Welfare did a quick and dirty eligibility review and threw 88,000 kids out of state health insurance programs. Moms, seniors and people with disabilities (the only ones who can get health care coverage through Medical Assistance) lost their coverage too.
Fact: The budget cuts vulnerable adults as well as children. Do you feel better now?
Governor’s Myth #5: The proposed budget reduces funding for the arts.
Fact: The Governor has level-funded grants for the arts for two years. What has gone by the wayside is arts and music education that have been slashed by school districts as a result of the cuts to education (see Myth #2).