Mirabito Says Budget Hurts Rural Pennsylvania
HARRISBURG, June 30 – State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Lycoming, said he couldn't vote for the 2014-15 state budget because it hurts the quality of life in rural Pennsylvania.
Mirabito said the budget does not restore massive funding cuts to hurting school districts that resulted in increased local property taxes throughout rural Pennsylvania.
"Schools are flat-funded, which puts additional pressure on local school districts to cut programs and eliminate teaching and support staff positions," Mirabito said. "The education funding formula that took more funds from rural schools than suburban schools outside Philadelphia and Pittsburgh remains in effect."
Mirabito expressed concern that the budget does not include funding to restore the Pennsylvania State Police Aviation Unit to the Montoursville Airport.
"The lack of a state police helicopter unit in north central Pennsylvania is a public safety concern for rural Pennsylvanians," Mirabito said. "The unit served a broad area of rural Pennsylvania, including 10 counties: Bradford, Cameron, Clinton, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan and Tioga, protecting over 500,000 people."
The budget does nothing to aid flood-prone communities facing skyrocketing insurance rates caused by the federal Biggert-Waters Flood Act of 2012, he said. This flood insurance crisis threatens commercial and residential properties throughout the state.
"Here in Lycoming County, 10 percent of the 53,000 parcels are in the flood zone," Mirabito said. "If the owners of those properties can't afford their insurance premiums and they abandon those properties, it will result in increased property taxes for everyone."
Lastly, Mirabito criticized the budget because it does not include Medicaid expansion, even though 12 percent of the rural population in Pennsylvania - almost 412,000 people - do not have health insurance.
This is not a handout to welfare recipients, Mirabito said. These are hardworking families that can't afford health insurance because they work at low paying jobs.
"This budget continues to punish rural and urban Pennsylvania and treats rural and urban Pennsylvanians like second class citizens," Mirabito said. "Sadly, the lack of funding for important programs in this budget added to the cuts in Gov. Corbett's first three budgets have institutionalized poverty and inequality in rural Pennsylvania."