Pennsylvania Observer

A blog for progressive people in Pennsylvania. Greens, Democrats and others who want to comment on current news items in the Keystone State.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Storm Clouds Gathering—2005-06 PA Budget Will Mean More Cuts for the Poor.

Storm Clouds Gathering—2005-06 PA Budget Will Mean More Cuts for the Poor. Governor Rendell’s Budget Address is scheduled for February 8, but there are clear signs that next year’s state budget is going to mean dire straits for the poor. The Rendell Administration seems to be going out of its way to make sure the public is not surprised by cuts in services for the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable. Estelle Richman, Secretary of Public Welfare, spoke to a gathering of healthcare providers and activists at the United Way in Philadelphia. She warned that a combination of federal cuts, especially from Medicare and Medicaid, and more people qualifying for DPW services will mean a shortfall of at least one billion dollars just in medical assistance. A few days earlier David Feinberg, Deputy DPW Secretary for Medical Assistance, made a similar projection to his Medical Assistance Advisory Committee. Michael Masch, Rendell’s Budget Secretary issued the same message to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (12/11/04) and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (12/16/04). Under questioning, neither Richman nor Feinberg would rule out major cuts to services for the poor. Masch specifically mentioned Medicaid and the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families as programs that were likely to feel the axe. Richman suggested that cuts to programs serving the elderly, especially nursing homes, would see some kind of cutbacks in service or limits to eligibility. “We have to face some unpleasant realities,” Richman told the United Way gathering, pointing out that while the elderly make up only 12% of PA Medicaid eligibility, they consume 40% the expenditures.

DPW’s budget this year is about $20 billion, out of a state budget of roughly $50 billion. DPW serves abut 1.7 million Pennsylvanians, and the number of those eligible for its services is growing. In fact, Richman talked about an alarming trend among those eligible for Medicaid—working people. Medicaid eligibility is limited to those with extremely low incomes, but as wages decrease and fewer employers provide medical coverage, the numbers of the employed qualifying for Medicaid is growing.

It is clear that Rendell’s people are preparing us for the budget storm to come. It is also clear that they are testing the public’s response to balancing the budget on the backs of the poor. There was nary a peep when they raised taxes on working people by 420% in 2004 (Occupational “Privilege” Tax), so perhaps they are hoping there is no outrage expressed by the public for cutting welfare.


  • At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Rendell hated the poor and working people when he was mayor. Why should he change now that he's governor?


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