Pennsylvania has endured an unprecedented budget impasse
Despite months of negotiation and public outcry, the Pennsylvania state legislature and the Governor were unable to reach agreement about the 2015-2016 state budget. On March 28 of this year, Gov. Wolf allowed the non-negotiated budget to become law, but refused to sign it to protest what many saw as a lack of meaningful funding for human services, nonprofits, and education. He has also vetoed the fiscal code, which provides instructions on how budget funds should be appropriated. In this climate of partisan gridlock and dysfunction, Pennsylvania is now poised to enter negotiation for 2016-2017 budget. The people of this great state are wondering: Do Pennsylvania politicians actually believe they are accountable to the people?
We believe that PA People Count. In November, The Pittsburgh Foundation, the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania and the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership announced the first-ever statewide coalition of community philanthropies, nonprofit leadership organizations and United Way organizations, which have joined together to demand a state budget that fully funds human services. The coalition is now 34 members strong and growing, and includes The Philadelphia Foundation, Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia and the United Way of Chester County.
Using the hashtag #PAPeopleCount nonprofits and coalition members have generated well over 1 million interactions asking legislators to fully fund human services. News coverage of the impasse is tracked here.
Pennsylvanians have paid a hefty price for the impasse: The partisan gridlock that led to this dysfunction has hurt small businesses that rely on state contracts. Also struggling are school districts and vulnerable populations served by human services organizations. The impasse has now also resulted in a downgrading of the state’s credit rating, meaning it will now cost Pennsylvania more money to borrow the funds required to sustain mandated programs that help our citizens succeed. Schools and human services agencies statewide have had to borrow money, dip into reserves or investment funds, lay off staff, reduce staff hours and services, and sometimes all of the above in order to remain open. In other words, the people of Pennsylvania have been held hostage in this political battle.
As we prepare for next year’s budget, the #PAPeopleCount coalition is exploring how other states ensure timely passage of annual budgets. We also continue to encourage people to contact their legislators on social media and by phone, mail and email to demand a budget that fully funds human services. Join with us in keeping the pressure on by spreading the word to your own social networks and sharing your story by using the hashtag #PAPeopleCount. Together, we are documenting the toll the impasse is taking on Pennsylvania's people. What services are at risk? How many families, individuals or children are being affected? Don't forget to tag the governor and your legislator so that they can see the impact the impasse has on voters like you.
Download materials to use on social media
The Pittsburgh Foundation is happy to provide you with materials to get you started including video stories, memes and letter ideas.
Contact your elected officials
Ready to contact your elected official? This section contains contact information and Twitter handles for appropriate state officials.
Social media tips to make your words count
Not sure how to get started with the #PAPeopleCount campaign. Check out some helpful tips.