Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children President and CEO Joan Benso today made the following comments on Gov. Tom Corbett’s 2012-13 budget proposal, which includes harmful cuts to key programs that help children and their families.
“On the whole, the governor’s budget priorities fail to show adequate commitment to the well-being of Pennsylvania’s children, and his short-term attempts to cut costs will cause long-term setbacks to the commonwealth’s efforts to build a competitive workforce,” Benso said.
The governor’s proposed budget calls for more than $30 million in cuts to high-quality early learning programs, despite Corbett’s campaign pledge in 2010 to double the number of children who benefit from these proven programs.
“As a candidate for governor, Tom Corbett vowed to make early childhood education funding a priority, yet halfway through his term, we see no signs of that campaign pledge being put into action,” Benso said. “Every year that goes by with inadequate funding for early childhood education is another year of missed opportunities for tens of thousands of young Pennsylvanians.”
Similarly, the governor’s proposal for funding K-12 education falls short, according to Benso, who noted the elimination of the Accountability Block Grant program likely will mean fewer children benefitting from full-day kindergarten. In addition, a number of line items to fund public education services have been blended into a newly created Student Achievement Education Block Grant, resulting in a net loss of more than $78 million to meet the public education needs of Pennsylvania’s children.
Benso also questioned the governor’s projected Medicaid costs for the Department of Public Welfare. In recent months, DPW has removed more than 88,000 children from the Medicaid rolls, allegedly because they were ineligible, yet many families have claimed they are eligible and their children were cut from Medicaid due to bureaucratic backlogs in processing paperwork.
DPW officials have publicly claimed the reduction in the Medicaid rolls will yield savings. “However, if children who were improperly dropped from Medicaid due to bureaucratic issues re-enroll, those estimated cost savings will diminish and possibly disappear entirely,” Benso said.
“In the interim, those affected children might have to seek medical care through avenues such as hospital emergency rooms, which are considerably more costly than a physician’s office visit,” Benso added. “In the worst cases, parents might defer medical care for a child due to a lack of insurance, risking greater medical issues, higher medical costs and possibly life-threatening situations.”
A bright spot in the governor’s budget is the proposed implementation of the federal Fostering Connections act, meant to promote adoption and legal guardianship and provide greater support for older youth who remain in foster care.
“Fostering Connections can increase the number of older youth who find permanent families through adoption or legal guardianship and save the commonwealth and its counties money,” Benso said. “It is a great example of public policy that helps young people while using taxpayer resources wisely.”