Posted by: webmaster | April 12, 2012

Commissioner Cozzone on the Governor’s 2012-2013 Budget Proposal

4/9/2012

Gov. Corbett’s gift resembles a Trojan horse

For many years, the county commissioners have been asking the state for more flexibility in spending state dollars. Counties’ needs vary from one county to another and the commissioners need the authority to direct limited funds to the areas with the most need. Too often we are left with unnecessarily difficult choices when demand for certain services rise beyond projections. Without any flexibility, we can’t shift funds from areas with less demand.

This year, Gov. Tom Corbett has included this new flexibility in his budget proposal – with a catch. He would roll seven different funding streams from the state into one Human Services Development block grant. The problem is that this new block grant would represent a 20 percent cut in the total of those seven line items from the previous budget!

What at first seems like a gracious gift from the governor turns out to resemble the Trojan horse. In Chester County, this gift is estimated to result in a $5 million cut to critical human services, some of which have been cut each year for nearly a decade.

The programs in question cannot absorb these cuts. These programs provide help for people with mental health diagnoses and intellectual disabilities and the families that care for them. They pay for drug and alcohol addiction treatments that keep people out of prison. They provide funding to help the homeless and protect children.

How can we allow a 20 percent cut to funds that help us keep people off the streets and help families who care for intellectually disabled loved ones to keep them out of institutions?

In addition to the block grant, the governor also proposes cuts to reimbursements for seniors in nursing homes and the Medical Assistance Transportation program. It is difficult to fathom how the county will deal with all of these funding cuts if the Legislature does not intervene. My fear is that the Legislature will restore part of the funding but still leave us scrambling to make up for a loss of funds for important programs yet again.

My hope is that we do not see a repeat of last year, where the governor and Legislature touted their ability to avoid state income or sales tax increases, while they cut funding for local schools and county programs, forcing many counties and school districts to raise property taxes instead. Chester County avoided raising taxes last year, but we may not have the ability to do it again without significant cuts to our services.

I urge the governor and our state legislators to fund important county services for our most vulnerable citizens to at least the level of last year’s budget, while keeping the flexibility that a block grant would allow. Chester County can’t afford the current proposal’s cuts, no matter how they’re packaged.

Kathi Cozzone
County commissioner

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