Street Corner Soapbox: Budget Priorities

Category:  Street Corner Soapbox
Thursday, May 24th, 2012 at 9:19 AM
Street Corner Soapbox: Budget Priorities by Jay Stevens
aconaway

On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania House passed HB 1100, an amendment to the Tax Reform Code of 1971. The bill adds "the sale at retail or use of aircraft parts, including the maintenance and installation of such parts" and "the sale at retail or use of fixed-wing aircraft, new or used," to the list of exclusions from the Pennsylvania tax code.

A day later, thousands of Pennsylvanians took to the streets in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia to protest Governor Tom Corbett's cuts to the state education budget. Eleven were arrested in Pittsburgh, and 14 in Philadelphia, for blocking traffic.

At first glance, the two events seem to have nothing in common. But that would be wrong.

HB 1100 gives a tax break to those that buy and operate private planes. "Good news for Pennsylvanian families that planned on buying a Learjet or Gulfstream aircraft," quipped the Twitter feed of the Coalition for Labor Engagement and Accountable Revenues (CLEAR). It's the kind of generous break that those with wealth have been enjoying from the state. According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, state corporations will enjoy over $2 billion in tax cuts in 2012-2013 -- and that doesn't include the hundreds of millions corporations already save in various tax loopholes. And don't get me started on the weak bill requiring the fracking industry to pay only a nominal fee for drilling the Marcellus shale.

Compare the money big corporations are saving to the cuts savaging the state education -- a billion dollars from the last school year alone, and targeting the aid programs that poorer districts like Erie rely on. The governor is proposing other cuts in this year's budget, too, mostly to social services.

Meanwhile, the governor denies making cuts to the education budget at all. According to the governor, the missing money is the result of lost federal funding -- but that federal funding simply replaced the money the state had already budgeted for Pennsylvania schools. That is, Corbett is pretending the state's temporary reprieve from education spending was the way it always was.

Corbett's hostility to education apparently irks even members of his own party. Earlier this month, the senate in a rare bipartisan effort restored much of Corbett's proposed cuts in their markup of the state budget, including most of the money Corbett wanted to trim from higher education, and setting up a showdown between the governor's mansion and the state assembly.

Here's the thing. Cutting taxes isn't the silver bullet to fixing the economy, or even to drawing business to the state. The best way to fix the economy is to put money in ordinary Pennsylvanians' pockets, like, say, teachers -- not to sack teachers and line the pockets of corporate executives. And the best way to draw business to a region is by offering excellent infrastructure and amenities -- which includes the presence of a happy and educated workforce.

There's no logical reason to slash education spending in favor of generous tax packages for big business.

In fact, the cuts to education are so egregious that some suspect Corbett is actively trying to kill public education. Right now, it's hard to deny those charges.

 

Jay Stevens can be contacted at jay@eriereader.com.

Erie Reader: Vol. 4, No. 19
Now Available — Pick It Up Today

CURRENT

The public has spoken on net neutrality. Now we wait to see if the FCC was listenting.  

Scottish referendum ends in peaceful acceptance of the status quo. 

Apple wants you to want them, even if you don't love the free gift. 

Are we putting groundforces into Syria? What are those Scotts up to? Are area poverty rates on the rise? Find out here with your daily update.

How the undertakings of one small business owner reflect a greater need for more of the same in our area.

IN THIS ISSUE

A look at The Unholy Murder of Ash Wednesday.

Erie’s USPS mail-sorting facility is on the chopping block, again.

The Violent Nature of the NFL and the Business of Football.

It's time we look in the mirror and stop saying "if-only."

MIAC brings gifted storyteller, singer-songwriter to Erie.

Erie's Y-Co Dances, circa the '60s, have made a comeback.

A look at the upcoming season -- plus a film twelve years in the making.

Two former Colonels have made the news, and we're pretty excited about it. 

The harrassment of women in the gaming industry.

Welcome to a whole new level of the King's Rook Club