PHILADELPHIA, October 23, 2015 – At a news conference held at Center in the Park in Germantown, State Senator Art Haywood joined Women Against Abuse, the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, elected officials and community members urging the Senate to remain in Harrisburg until a state budget agreement is reached. The budget impasse, which began on 30 June, has reached day 115. The Pennsylvania Senate has only convened for 14 days during that time, taking a break between mid-July and mid-September. Republican leadership is proposing an additional two week recess between 29 October and 16 November.
“I understand that Senate Republican leadership has decided it is time for us to go home for two weeks – without a budget agreement. My question is: why did Republican leadership send us home this summer? And why is the same leadership sending us home this fall?” Senator Haywood asked the crowd. With a majority in the Senate and House, Republican leadership sets the session calendar in Harrisburg. “When lives are at stake we cannot take a break,” Haywood said. “Republican leadership should keep the Senate in Harrisburg until a budget agreement is reached.” The senator has long supported Governor Wolf’s proposal to restore funding to schools and human services as a part of the state’s budget agreement.
The 115 day budget impasse has left non-profits, social service agencies and Pennsylvania schools struggling to make payroll. Lynn Fields Harris, Executive Director at Center in the Park, said the organization, which serves seniors in Germantown, receives funding from the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging to cover over 60% of their operating costs. Ms. Fields Harris said the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging has exhausted its line of credit and can no longer honor invoices. As a result, she said “more than 200 homebound adults will not receive services from care managers, and an additional 200 seniors will be unable to receive Center in the Park’s lunch – for many, the most nutritious meal of the day.”
Jeannine Lisitski, Executive Director of Women Against Abuse, said the budget impasse is crippling the organization. “We’re being asked to pay for services that we don’t know if we’ll ever be reimbursed for — all to ensure that the thousands of Philadelphians who are being beaten, raped, stalked and coerced have somewhere to reach out for help when they need it,” she said. Women Against Abuse is the largest domestic violence service provider in Philadelphia. “We need our elected officials to do the job for which they were elected,” Ms. Lisitski said.
If the Senate passes a recess resolution next week, the members will not convene again until day 139 of the budget impasse on 16 November. Moody’s Investors Services has already given Pennsylvania’s credit a negative outlook because the state is more than 100 days past the budget deadline. “Pennsylvanians deserve better than 14 days of work during a 115 day impasse,” Haywood said. “The Republican strategy of sending the Senate home and refusing to compromise has failed. I call on Senate Republican leadership to schedule and continue session until a budget agreement is reached. I also call on Pennsylvanians to make their voices heard on this issue. That is how we can ensure Republicans will negotiate.”
Contact: Melissa Ostroff