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PaLA Legislative Update

Posted By Catherine Alloway, Friday, October 16, 2015

As the following item from the website "Politics PA" outlines, we are still not close to an approved state budget.

In this negotiating phase, most causes are taking a "wait and see" attitude, or are simply fatigued from pushing for their share of the budget.  We, however, recommend the following:

VOTE ON TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3 in your local elections.  

Most of you know that local elections are vital, because those are people direct local library funding.  In addition, we are voting on local and statewide judges in this election who play a large role in shaping the legal framework of our Commonwealth.  They rule on topics that affect our communities, including voting district boundaries, sentencing, and key constitutional issues that have great impact in our communities - and our libraries. 

The PaLA Legislative Committee will meet on Oct. 29 to discuss further strategies on the state budget front and other legislative matters.  Please let Jennifer Stocker or Cathi Alloway know if you have questions, concerns, or items for us to discuss. Our work continues under President/Interim Executive Director David Schappert and with ongoing support from Greenlee Associates.   Until our next update after the meeting, please prepare to be a responsible voter on Nov. 3.  As local election candidates campaign hard in the next few weeks, you have greater opportunity to meet and inform them about the value of the work we do to move "PA Forward" in our libraries.  Have your "elevator speech" ready to go!  

David Schappert, President/Interim Executive Director
Jennifer Stocker, President-Elect
Cathi Alloway, Co-Chair

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With School Year Looming, Pressure is Building; Progress is Slight

Posted By Glenn R. Miller, Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Time for a six-week update:

Both sides in the budget struggle seem locked in place and immovable.  The Governor’s Chief of Staff, Katie McGinty, resigned to become a candidate for United States Senate.  Her successor as Chief of Staff, Mary Isenhour, is respected by both parties and, it is hoped, her pragmatism will be a welcome addition to the talks.

Two special elections last week yielded one new Republican House member from Cumberland County, Greg Rothman, and one new Democratic House member from Delaware County, Leanne Krueger-Braneky.  Three more special elections will take place on Tuesday, August 11 in Philadelphia-area districts previously represented by Democratic members.

One can sense that the political heat is growing ever so steadily as we approach the beginning of the school year.  We know already that Pennsylvania’s 29 District Library Centers are feeling the pinch since, historically, those payments are issued in July.  In addition, at least one library that relies on funding from a local school district budget faces a delay in those payments until the state budget is resolved.  Other local libraries that rely on funding from or through school district budgets will likely face a similar payment delays.

We urge you to keep up the library pressure by Taking Action now.  Sent an email before?  Round up other library supporters, lean on your friends, or fire up your family.  This is no time to be hold back.

As library advocates, we need to keep up the pressure by stressing that:

·         Libraries ARE part of education;

·         Any plan aimed at improving education must include libraries; and,

·         After nine years of stagnant and declining budgets, libraries need and deserve increases proportionate with any new money targeted for pre-K, K-12 and higher ed.

Please Take Action now.  Follow the link to a sample email message that you can send as is, or you can edit it to make it more personal.  Help to keep the library message front and center by sending an email today.  Thanks for your vocal support and your vigilance.

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State Budget: Three Weeks In & Precious Little Progress

Posted By Glenn R. Miller, Tuesday, July 21, 2015

With the deadline for a new state budget now three weeks behind us, precious little progress has been made.  Both sides are far apart in terms of priorities and philosophy.

 

Pressure is just starting to mount as social service agencies scramble to plug service holes.  Processing of state payments has slowed to a trickle.  Some school districts will begin to feel the pinch as soon as mid-August.  For libraries, the first direct impact of the budget impasse hits District Library Centers which normally receive their state payments at the beginning of each fiscal year.  Those payments will be on hold until a budget is approved.

 

We urge you to keep up the library pressure by Taking Action now.  Sent an email before?  Send another.  This is no time to be bashful.

 

Governor Wolf and Republican leaders were scheduled to meet on July 21 in Harrisburg.  Few expect a miraculous breakthrough.  Last week, a moderate Republican state representative from Buck County, Rep. Eugene DiGirolamo, laid out a middle-course budget that seems to split the difference between the Governor and legislative Republicans.  His plan would add about $600 million to education funding, impose a new 3.2% tax on natural gas extraction, and raise the personal income tax by 0.25% up to 3.32% to provide for revenue for education and to stabilize Pennsylvania’s long-term credit rating, a rating that has been hit by five downgrades by in recent years.  No one is rushing to embrace this approach just yet but, at a minimum, it sets down a middle-of-the-road marker for the public and budget negotiators to consider.  Fuller details about Rep. DiGirolamo’s budget alternative are expected to be posted soon on his website, http://www.genedigirolamo.com/.

 

As library advocates, we need to keep the fires stoked to the greatest degree possible through the Dog Days of this standoff.  We cannot stress enough that:

·         Libraries ARE part of education;

·         Any plan aimed at improving education must include libraries; and,

·         After nine years of stagnant and declining budgets, libraries need and deserve increases proportionate with any new money targeted for pre-K, K-12 and higher ed.

 

Please Take Action now.  Follow the link to a sample email message that you can send as is, or you can edit it to make it more personal.  Help to keep the library message front and center by sending an email today.  Thanks.

 

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**State Budget Action** Library Advocates Heard But Ongoing Pressure Needed

Posted By Glenn R. Miller, Monday, June 29, 2015

While the state budget is far from settled, the process took an important step forward this past Saturday, a step that revealed our library message—at least one important part of it—is being heard in Harrisburg.  You can keep up the pressure by Taking Action today.

 

First, some background.  Republicans in the State House passed their version of a new state budget (H.B. 1192) in a mostly party line vote, 112-77.  The State Senate is expected to pass it as well by the Tuesday, June 30 deadline and send it over to the Governor’s desk.  Governor Wolf describes this budget plan as inadequate and unacceptable, and promises a veto either in full or in part. 

 

Two things seem clear at this point.  The GOP plan will not be our state budget for next year.  Likewise, it seems safe to say that the Governor’s plan which calls for significant revenue increases and significantly more for spending—especially for education—will not be adopted in its original form either.

 

Most observers agree that the final budget will be at some middle point between the $30.2 million GOP plan and the Governor’s plan.  Which brings me to the importance of the GOP budget plan.

 

Consider these specifics:  The Republican plan checks in at about $1 billion more than this current year’s budget, a 3.6% increase.  On education, the GOP plan would add $100 million (+1.8%) for basic education, $41 million more for higher ed, $20 million more for special ed, and $25 million more for pre-K.  For libraries, the GOP plan would add $963,000 (+1.8%) for the Public Library Subsidy, level fund Library Access and Library Services for the Visually Impaired and Disabled, and (unfortunately) slice $125,000 (-6.4%) from the State Library.

 

Please note this key point:  The Republican budget plan provides the same percentage increase for the Public Library Subsidy as it does for the Basic Education Subsidy—1.8%.  This is an important benchmark because the Basic Education Subsidy, currently funded at $5.5 billion, is the central focus of every education budget. 

 

Although far from perfect, the GOP budget is good news for libraries because it is the clearest indication yet that our collective voices are being heard.  We have been saying since March that:

  1. Libraries are an important part of Pennsylvania’s education backbone;
  2. Increasing support for education, by definition, means increasing support for libraries;
  3. Libraries today receive one-third less state money following recent budget cuts totaling more than $196 million, and libraries have not had any significant funding increase in 9 years; and,
  4. Libraries need and deserve a fair and proportionate share of whatever education increases ultimately are agreed to in the final state budget. 

 

So you see, keeping increases to the Public Library Subsidy consistent with increases to the Basic Education Subsidy would be a huge step forward.  And for those who might be inclined to view 1.8%—or 2.8% or 3.8% or 4.8%, or whatever level the Basic Education Subsidy increase ends up to be—as dollars too few and too late, please take a deep breath and consider the following:

  1. We began this year with the Governor’s budget proposal that included level-funding for three library appropriations, and a proposed cut to Library Access;
  2. The GOP budget plan—even though it will not become law—includes the same percentage increase (1.8%) for schools and for public libraries;
  3. A linkage between the Basic Ed Subsidy and the Public Library Subsidy would be a long-term benefit for libraries even if it meant a slower recovery from our years of budget cuts.  In my memory, the Basic Ed Subsidy has never gone down and in the world of Pennsylvania libraries, I think we all would welcome that, even the years of smaller increases. 
  4. Our goal is to make some progress—any progress, but as much as possible—this year and continue to work with the Governor and legislators on our additional, long-term challenges in succeeding budgets—Library Access, school libraries, Libraries for the Blind, and the State Library to name a few.

 

I urge you to keep pushing.  Send a message today.  Our voices are being heard. 

 

Let’s keep it simple and crystal clear—in a new state budget that boosts education, whatever percentage increase is negotiated for the Basic Education Subsidy should apply to the Public Library Subsidy as well.

 

Thanks for all you’re doing to make the case for libraries with decision-makers in Harrisburg.

 

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**Budget Update** Harrisburg Needs to Know that Libraries are Bursting at the Seams with Young Summer Readers.

Posted By Glenn R. Miller, Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Summer is a super-busy season in public libraries across Pennsylvania.  Tens of thousands of kids flock to libraries attracted by this year’s Summer Reading Club theme, “Every Hero Has a Story.” 

 

Governor Wolf and every state legislator need to know about the heroic impacts that Summer Reading Clubs have on reading skills in the following school year.   The Governor and every legislators could become heroes for these summer readers, but only if we send a message and ask them for support.

 

Recently, one local librarian quizzed students about a favorite superhero:  “What was Superman afraid of?” An excited fourth grader yelled back, “Lois Lane!” 

 

Actually, Superman is afraid of kryptonite — and — the consequences of declining literacy in our state. 

 

Public libraries are a key educational resource for everyone, from preschoolers to retirees.  They face greater demand than ever for their books, computers, meeting rooms, and education programs, but can’t meet public expectations due to nine years of stagnant and declining state funding. 

 

Since the start of the Great Recession, cuts in state support for library services total more than $196 million forcing reductions to hours, book purchases, technology upgrades, and storytimes.  Pennsylvania now ranks 40th in overall funding for libraries, far behind our surrounding competitor states.

 

Through it all, libraries continue to stand ready to help every Pennsylvanian tell their own hero story. 

 

This year, Pennsylvania appears poised to boost support for education, and public libraries must be part of this educational investment.  We simply ask for a fair, proportionate share of education dollars including:

  • Public Library Subsidy funding of $62,693,625
  • Library Access funding of $4,149,750
  • Library Services for Visually Impaired & Disabled funding of $2,667,000
  • State Library funding of $2,663,750

 

Our role in serving Pennsylvania is big and our request is relatively modest within the scope of the Education budget overall.

 

Be a hero today and Take Action with your State Senator, your State Representative, and with Governor Wolf asking for their support to restore library funding and services.

 

We may be entering a crucial stage of the budget battle so your emails now are more important than ever.  Even if you wrote before, send another message.  Many thanks.

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