PITTSTON TWP. — With two state legislators at his side Friday, Pennsylvania State Education Association regional Vice President Jeff Ney said public schools are not being funded at adequate levels and that’s the wrong message to be sending.
“Kids, not cuts, that should be the message,” Ney said at a press conference held at the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 office on Route 315. “We’re concerned about our students and their future.”
Ney was joined by state Sen. John Blake, D-Archbald, and Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, to discuss Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget and to critique his performance to date. The Democrats say Corbett has done one thing well since taking office in 2011 — cut jobs.
“You can’t trust what this administration says,” said Pashinski. “It’s time for all Pennsylvanians to stand up, speak out and get involved. We need to make Pennsylvania No. 1 in job creation, not 49th.”
Blake said Corbett should have enacted a severance tax on the natural gas industry to add millions of dollars to the state coffers.
“We are the only state in the country sitting on such a reserve with no severance tax,” Blake said. “There is so much evidence of bad judgment in this administration.”
Ney said Corbett’s cuts to education have been “devastating.” About 20,000 public school employees have been cut, resulting in significant hits to the state economy, he said.
“We shouldn’t be talking about cuts to education,” Ney said. “We should be talking about restoring what has already been cut.”
Pashinski, a retired public school teacher, said the governor should be looking for revenue from the natural gas industry by enacting an extraction tax and advocating that drilling jobs be given to state residents.
“Gov. Corbett has given billions of dollars in tax breaks without guarantee of one new job,” Pashinski said. “Instead he wastes money trying to change the lottery system and by pushing for voter ID. Millions have been spent for no reason.”
Pashinski said Corbett should approve the expansion of Medicaid — a move he said will create 35,000 to 40,000 jobs by 2020. “There’s no reason to not do this,” he said.
Pashinski also criticized tax breaks given by the administration to lure the Royal Dutch Shell cracker plant to western Pennsylvania. The deal has not yet been finalized. “Again, these breaks are promised with no guarantee of jobs for Pennsylvanians,” Pashinski said.
Blake said bipartisanship has been absent in Harrisburg. Democrats and Republicans need to work together to turn around the state’s economy and reduce the rate of unemployment, he said.
“Our sales tax revenue is in the tank,” Blake said. “Unemployment in my district is over 9 percent. People don’t have money to spend. And this administration is continuing its assault on education.”
Blake said Corbett’s plan to privatize the state’s liquor system is another example of bad judgment.
“The current system is not broken,” he said. “And this would put another 5,000 Pennsylvanians out of work. That’s not good when we are still trying to recover from the worst recession since the 1930s.”