No Library Cuts Proposed for First Time Since 2007
PaLA Supports Level Funding & POWER Library Boost
The General Assembly recently completed hearings on the 2013-2014 Pennsylvania budget. Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis appeared before the Appropriations Committees of the State Senate and House of Representatives to answer questions about education issues and funding. Representatives from PaLA and our lobbying consultants, Greenlee Partners, have begun a series of meetings with key legislators and staff members, as well as some administration officials to underscore the importance of library services and the funding required to provide good library services to students and the public. We’ll also continue to educate key decision makers about PaLA’s initiative, PA Forward, highlighting the link between libraries and literacy, and how better-leveraged libraries can move our state forward.
By every indication, 2013 shapes up to be another difficult budget year. The Governor’s proposed budget of $28.4 billion represents an increase over this year of 2.4%. However mandated and growing line items, such as Medicaid and state pensions, consume an ever-increasing share of the budget (so modest overall increases really don’t go very far). Additionally the Governor’s plan balances the next budget by assuming the legislature will approve plans to restructure state pensions, privatize the state liquor system, and raise wholesale fuel taxes. These and other hot topics will almost certainly lead to extensive debates in Harrisburg this spring.
With this as the backdrop, PaLA’s Legislative Committee met to weigh these factors and develop a plan of action for the next budget. The committee recognized that Governor Corbett’s budget plan related to libraries—while not increasing our funding—represents the first time since 2007 that a budget was put forth that proposed no new cuts to library funding. While some may see that as small consolation, nevertheless it is a positive sign in an economy which is still struggling to gain momentum.
As things stand right now, our funding would remain level for next year. But that very well could change. Why? As noted above, the Governor’s budget proposal requires major legislative action and if such action is not achieved, then the budget plan’s revenues and spending would be out of balance and other revenue (taxes) or new cuts would be needed.
Make no mistake about it. Level funding in this environment is not the worst outcome and we are not out of the woods for sure. We ask for your help with your elected officials
PaLA’s Legislative Committee also concluded that, even with the current economic realities, it is important for this and future years to keep making the case for improving library services. As such, the committee agreed that seeking an increase for Library Access to bolster the quality of POWER Library makes the most sense in this still-tight budget environment. Increasing funding for POWER Library has appeal because:
1. Even a modest funding increase could improve public and school library services broadly across the state;
2. This is technology-based service which most decision-makers like;
3. POWER Library enjoys strong support among public and school librarians who are willing to advocate for it; and
4. This request will be viewed as credible and not a pie-in-the-sky proposal that would be dismissed out of hand in this tight fiscal environment.
So this spring, PaLA will pursue a two-pronged strategy:
1. Protecting level funding for the Public Library Subsidy, for the State Library, and for Library Services for the Visually Impaired and Disabled;
2. Seeking increased funding to improve the quality and quantity of electronic resources offered statewide through POWER Library.
To achieve these two goals, we need your help. It’s easy to do. Send an email to Governor Corbett and to your State Senator and State Representative. Please take a few brief minutes to send your message—expressing support for the no-cuts, level funding budget proposal, and seeking increased support for POWER Library. As always, please remember that we need to speak as one voice to be successful. The more pro-library voices we raise, the greater our chances for success. Thank you.