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State Budget Likely Poised for Passage; Libraries Level-funded

Posted By Glenn R. Miller, Monday, June 30, 2014

In what can only be described as the ultimate in “kicking the can down the road,” the Pennsylvania General Assembly appears on the verge today of passing an on-time, no tax-hike, austerity state budget that level funds all library programs. Click here for the particulars.

In short, this means that the Governor’s proposed cuts to Library Access and the State Library will not take place but, at the same time, his proposed $500K increase for state aid will not happen either. 

In the final analysis, it appears that the General Assembly had little appetite in an election year for tackling pension reform, liquor reform, or implementing new taxes on smokeless tobacco, cigars, and the extraction of natural gas.  This new budget is balanced without any new recurring revenue (i.e. taxes) and achieves “balance” through rosy future revenue projections and the one-time transfer from monies in dedicated funds outside of the state’s general fund.  The end result is that the budget will balance technically on June 30 but everyone recognizes that using one-time fixes simply masquerades a structural problem that could create a crisis for the 2015-16 budget, or perhaps sooner.

One caveat:  While not likely, it is still possible that Governor Corbett might veto the budget using this budget leverage to tackle the state’s pension underfunding.

Candidly, given the circumstances in Harrisburg, escaping with level-funding is not the worst outcome.  An early, quick review of the tentative budget agreement shows decreases in the following departments:

  • Department of Revenue—down $43 million
  • Department of Community and Economic Development—down $32 million
  • Department of Conservation and Natural Resources—down $15 million (a 50% cut)
  • Department of Military and Veterans Affairs —down $3 million
  • Department of Labor and Industry—down $1 million

Departments with the biggest increases were:

  • State Police—up $13 million (6.2%)
  • Department of Public Welfare—up $124 million (1.1 %)
  • Department of Education—up $316 million (2.9%)

The PDE increase requires a closer look.  The lion’s share of the $316 million increase goes two places—pensions and Social Security payments (up $164 million) and the Ready to Learn Block grant (up $100 million, but this is an increase that is $141 million less than the Governor requested.)  Many PDE programs—like libraries—were level-funded:  Basic Education, Head Start, and Pitt, Temple, and Lincoln Universities, to name a few others.   Some of the PDE programs cut include Tuition for Orphans and Children (down $10 million), Special Education for Approved Private Schools (down $3 million), and Youth Development Centers (down $2 million.)

That’s where things stand at the moment based on a quick look at the categories.  Legislative action is expected today, June 30.  PaLA will provide further information when (or if) the budget is finalized.  Thank you for all of your great advocacy that has kept libraries from falling further behind this year.  We’re in this for the long haul and we live to fight another day.

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Libraries in the Education Budget Need a Boost, Too

Posted By Glenn Miller, Friday, June 27, 2014

Libraries in the Education Budget Need a Boost, Too

 

The state budget action is now in the STATE SENATE.  Today, or as soon as possible, please reach out to your State Senator with these few talking points:

  • Libraries are a vital part of the Education budget and increasing education funding must include increasing library funding;  (examples:)
    • Library summer reading programs prevent student “summer slide”;
    • Libraries provide Internet access for all who need it;
    • Libraries aid people applying for work, earning a GED, learning English;
  • Libraries have paid their dues already through deep cuts; 
  • Library funding currently is 1/3 lower than 2008 levels;
  • Increasing education funding must include increasing library funding, too.
  • Please ask your Senator to urge his/her Caucus leaders to include increased library funding as part of an increased education budget:
    • Increase Library Access by $2.9 million;
    • Increase State Aid to Libraries by $500,000 as the Governor requested.

(more funding details:  Here.)

 

This could go OK, or even go well.  Or it can still go badly.  It may depend on how vigorous we are over the next few days.  Time is of the essence.  The more our Senators hear from the library community TODAY —and, in turn, the more Senate leaders hear from their Senate colleagues about the need to increase library funding—the better our chances.

 

Please contact your State Senator today, or as soon as possible, especially if they’re a member of the majority caucus—the Republicans—since they control the agenda.  Call the local and/or Harrisburg office with this request.  Follow it up with a short email message with a subject line such as:  “Libraries in the Education Budget Need a Boost, too.”

 

Thanks for keeping up the pressure, all the way to the finish line. 

 

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House Budget Plan: Level Funding - NOT the Final Word So Keep Pushing!

Posted By Glenn R. Miller, Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Today, the PA House of Representatives is expected to vote on a new state budget.  I wanted you to be up-to-date and to underscore that this is NOT the final word so we MUST keep pressing. Take Action.

 

For library programs, the House budget bill level-funds everything.  This means that there is no increase in state aid but also no reduction in the POWER Library program and no cut to the State Library—everything the same as this current year.  Overall this House-proposed budget increases spending less than 2%.  In the Education Department, the increase is 3% but 2/3 of that increase goes to cover pension obligations. 

 

But here’s the key—there WILL be changes in this budget ahead.  The House plan includes some revenue that may not happen.  The Senate has different priorities.  So does the Governor.  This is not done and we MUST keep pushing.

 

It’s easy to Take Action.   Or you can call simply call or mail your State Senator and State Representative TODAY with these few talking points:

  • Libraries have paid their dues already through deep cuts; 
  • Library funding is 1/3 lower than 2008 levels;
  • Libraries are part of the Education budget and we educate ALL Pennsylvanians all summer-long; all year-long;
  • Increasing education funding must include increasing library funding, too.

 

One last point.  The revenue shortage in Harrisburg is severe and agreement is not at all certain.  One fallback possibility that has been discussed is a budget that cuts 5% across the board.  We cannot afford to take any chances with an outcome like that.  Please call or email your elected officials with the above bullet points TODAY, or Take Action by sending a more detailed email message.

 

Thanks for keeping up the pressure.  PaLA will keep you posted.

 

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State Budget Expected to Run Late: Library Supporters Needed

Posted By Glenn R. Miller, Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Usually conventional wisdom is right. Usually.

The conventional wisdom has been that Governor Corbett and the state legislature would pass a state budget on time rather than risk criticism for missing the deadline in an election year. Nevertheless, it now appears likely that the budget struggle will go past June 30.

We must continue to push for our budget request. We need you to help support PaLA’s position, so please Take Action. A budget gap in the range of $1.3 billion means that easy solutions are not enough, and more time will be needed to find bigger solutions.

Buckle up. This could get bumpy. A fluid, unpredictable, election-year squabble like this is fraught with danger….and opportunity. This year’s budget process screams, STAY ENGAGED!

Arguments abound: Liquor reform. Pension reform. Taxing the extraction of natural gas. Raising other taxes or fees. Perhaps passing a budget-cuts-only state spending plan. Who knows what else?

Budget gap or not, Pennsylvania needs to begin the process of rebuilding library services cut to the bone since 2008. IF—and it’s a big IF—part of the state budget solution involves new taxes or fees, and IF education spending is increased, libraries need to be included so that legislators can highlight how local libraries were helped through any such increases. It’s easy to send an email simply by clicking on: Take Action.

Please spread the word.

· Libraries have paid their dues already through deep cuts.

· Library funding is 1/3 lower than 2008 levels.

· Libraries are part of the Education budget and need to be included in any new Education spending.

Your voice is crucial. Thanks for speaking up to Take Action.

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Tighter State Revenues Threaten All Programs; No Time to Waste

Posted By Glenn R. Miller, Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A new state budget must be passed in four weeks or less.  This is crunch time.  Lower-than-expected revenues are jeopardizing any funding increases for state-supported services across-the-board.  The situation in the Capitol is very fluid with conversations ranging from a “slash-and-burn-no-taxes-ever” scenario, to the very real possibility of some new taxes and fees to fill a $1.3 billion budget gap.  If, in fact, taxes and fees are going up, there is no better investment—financially or politically—than strengthening library services.

 

Taking all these election-year factors together, the smartest course continues to be this one—to push the Pennsylvania Library Association’s (PaLA) budget goals as hard as possible now and for the next four weeks.  There is no time to waste.

 

We’ve made it super-easy for you and supporters of your library to Take Action.  You can send the email message as drafted, or you can personalize it any way you’d like.  It covers PaLA’s budget goals listed here:

 

1.         Library Access: Increase by $2.9 million over current funding to a new total of $5.7 million. This increase will target: 

A. Restoring about 50% of the funding for Statewide Library Card Reimbursement (local library reimbursement program a.k.a. "Access PA") by $2.3 million

                        B. Boosting POWER Library (statewide online databases) by $500,000

                        C. Increasing Interlibrary Delivery Service support by $100,000

2.         Public Library Subsidy: Support Governor Corbett’s proposed $500,000 increase that will reach all local libraries

3.         State Library of Pennsylvania and Libraries for the Blind & Physically Disabled: Level funding—no further cuts—for this coming fiscal year in order to sustain current services and resources 

 

Please spread the word as quickly and broadly as you can.  Legislators and the Governor need to hear from all of us.  NOW is the crucial time to Take Action.  Thanks for all that you’re doing to advance libraries and to move PA Forward.

 

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