Wednesday, May 26, 2010

PA Congressmembers Key to State Budget Funds!

The PA Congressional Delegation is KEY to securing $848 million needed to balance the state budget. As of Tuesday night it appears likely that the US House leaders are short of the votes needed to pass HR 4213, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act (jobs/tax extender bill) before Memorial Day. Congressional failure to act on this bill will have a ripple and very negative effect on the state budget. This bill includes an extension of the enhanced federal Medicaid match rate (FMAP). If the bill doesn't pass, the 2010-2011 Commonwealth Budget will have a gaping $848 million hole on top of existing deficit projections, creating pressure for DEEP CUTS ACROSS THE BOARD.

The current enhanced FMAP is set to expire in December 2010. The pending legislation would provide states with another temporary (6 months) enhanced FMAP. Direct and immediate outreach with the following members of the PA Congressional delegation (and the editorial pages/radio shows in their districts) is critical:

  • Congressman Patrick Murphy (202) 225-4276

  • Congressman Joe Sestak (202) 225-2011

  • Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (202) 225-4731

If you live or work in their districts, or serve people who do, please call their offices today!

Background: The H.R. 4213 also includes crucial extension of the provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) related to unemployment (extended benefits/less state costs absent action benefits will be cut off), COBRA (federal subsidy of a % of the cost to workers when they lose their jobs and want to continue their health insurance), a temporary extension of the Emergency Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) fund, as well as other provisions.

The cost of the bill is causing push back from some members. Given the continued poor performance of the economy, staggering unemployment (9% for PA), increased demand for Medicaid and other health and human services, these temporary extensions are needed to promote continued economic recovery and to provide support to PA families who are suffering the fall out of the recession. Call and urge them to invest in PA's future. To shortchange efforts for continued economic recovery is shortsighted and harmful to Pennsylvania communities!


Q – Doesn’t the enhanced FMAP remain in effect through December 2010.

A – Yes, the enhanced FMAP rate (the federal government covering more of Medicaid costs as well as child welfare costs) remains in effect through December BUT the state fiscal year begins July 1st and that budget is being negotiated right now.

Gov. Rendell’s budget assumed the $848 million from an extended FMAP. Rendell wasn’t alone 29 other governors did the same thing given the positive/consistent signals from Congress – signals that included a May 7th letter to Democratic leaders that all of the representatives listed above signed.

Without Congressional action, Rendell and legislative leaders will have to assume that Congress likely never will advance the FMAP extension so they will have to adjust the 2010-2011 state budget blue print extracting the $848 million from the revenue bottom line.

Given the state’s $1 billion + deficit, the loss of $848 million will absolutely require dramatic revision of the pending budget including dramatic cuts already suggested by Governor Rendell (25% to child welfare, elimination of homeless and D&A services, 50% reduction to domestic violence and rape crisis, etc).

The vulnerable won’t only lose access to needed/critical services but any hope that the state can turn the corner on staggering unemployment will be overshadowed by additional job losses in the public and private sector.

Q: How do we justify such spending at a time of soaring national debt/deficits?

A: America’s immediate debt is disconcerting but the real threat to America’s ability to be restored to economic stability is linked to our long-term deficits and debt. This long-term debt is driven, in part, by rapid and dramatic health care costs and earlier Congressional decisions to enact tax cuts (i.e. the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, including for the top 2% of the income brackets) that significantly reduced the degree to which the federal government had available revenues.

Tough choices must be made, but such choices must be balanced and recognize the need to undertake some short term degree of federal spending to strengthen the economy, spur employment, and help states respond to mounting demand for health care, nutrition services, child care, and other supports that help families faced with pink slips instead of paychecks.

Make the Call, Place the Email, Send a Tweet so PA’s delegation steps up to the plate!


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