Often times when debating or discussing politics and policy, facts are tossed aside in favor of more emotional arguments. Even worse, when one side of a legitimate but spirited debate falters, it has somehow become acceptable to either refuse to accept the facts as accurate or point out some comparable flaw in an effort to make two wrongs make a right.

I am writing this column from the floor of the House of Representatives as Governor Corbett presents his proposed 2013-14 state budget. While it will take a few days to break down the phone book-sized document to figure out the impact of his proposals, I thought it would be a good time to look at a few policy points about important areas we may be discussing as part of this year’s budget debate.

1. Last year, PA’s lottery had a record $1.06 billion net revenue and a record 8.5% sales increase. Lottery sales hit a record $64.7 billion nationally in the past fiscal year, an increase of 6.8%. PA’s lottery is the only one in the nation which provides entirely for senior programs.

2. Student loan debt for PA graduates in 2011 ranked the 2nd highest in the country, with an average $29,959 debt. PA also ranked 7th nationally in percentage of graduates with debt at 70%.

3. Face the Facts USA determined that one of every three Americans over 65 depends on Social Security income to stay above the seniors’ poverty line of $10,788. Without these benefits, the poverty rate among seniors would increase from the current 9% to 45%.

4. PA Partnership for Children found that only 75% of the 1.3 million PA children insured through CHIP or Medicaid are appropriately immunized against preventable illnesses like polio, tetanus or hepatitis. In addition, about 1 in 4 do not receive recommended blood tests to screen for lead poisoning.

5. The PA Budget and Policy Center estimates that employment in the Marcellus Shale core industries currently represents 1 out of every 200 jobs in PA. Meanwhile, private-sector jobs in manufacturing, education and health care account for roughly 1 out of every 3 jobs in PA, a ratio that is essentially unchanged since before the expansion of Marcellus Shale drilling in PA.

6. According to PaSDC, PA is home to 62,200 farms, totaling 7,650,000 acres. While this is 1,000 less farms and 100,000 less acres than the previous year, most products’ values have increased. PA’s top agricultural commodity, milk production, is valued at $2.3 billion (a $400 million increase). The estimated value of crops, including fruits and vegetables, is $3.3 billion (a $100 million decrease) and livestock, poultry and products is $4.3 billion (a $600 million increase).

7. A recent survey of 44 PA counties found that 89% had reduced program and service capacity at the local level; 63% eliminated one or more services; and 95% reported administrative reductions to decrease impacts to programs and services due to the 10% cut in the 2012-2013 state budget.

8. According to the U.S. Labor Department, PA is one of six states who recorded unemployment rate increases from December 2011 to December 2012. During this period, PA’s rate rose from 7.7% to 7.9% while the national average fell from 8.5% to 7.8%. The rate is below 7% in 25 states.

9. According to a new Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report, over 100 breweries in 34 counties are operating in PA, almost double the number from 2001. An estimated 2 million tourists spent $306 million visiting PA breweries in 2010.

10. PA Department of Labor & Industry recently reported that the claims workload in November 2012 was 16.3% less than in November 2011, but the Unemployment Compensation Service Centers (UCSCs) faced a 422% increase in phone calls in November 2012. In the last months of 2012, the UCSCs received over 11.6 million calls in October, over 15.5 million calls in November and about 6.8 million calls in December. January is typically their busiest month.


  1. So, 325,000 children in PA alone don’t have their most basic shots? AND they’re receiving free health care? That makes me sick to my stomach. I bust my ass working two jobs and pay a healthy % towards my medical coverage. Lazy f*cks need to get off their ass and take their children to the doctor’s.

    • There are a lot of reasons that children don’t have all the vaccines recommended. Could be a religious belief, could be that they are allergic to things in the vaccine (granted this is a very small portion) or they are too sick to have vaccines. A family member of mine was going through chemo and her oncologist stated that it was better for her not to get vaccines at this time since her immune system was compromised. It could also be that the parents have made an informed decision not to pump their children full of crap. Before judging people perhaps you should get all the information. I know it is just more convenient to call people lazy and say they are no good while whining and crying about how much you pay.

      Oh, and before you say it, no I am not on welfare or any other government sponsored program.

  2. Blueman, I’m sorry about your sick family member, and didn’t mean to strike a nerve. I’m in the medical profession, both jobs are here in Beaver County, both in the most depressed areas. I’m very compassionate towards my entire patient population, and volonteer my time to work with the homeless locally and in Pittsburgh. I also do missionary work domestically and abroad. I’m not blowing my own horn, just trying to illustrate that I’m not some cold-hearted whiney brat. And you’re right that a % of the 325,000 children could be sick, or maybe Amish? But even at 25% that’s still over 240,000 children not immunized. The abovementioned tests are mandatory in PA for grades K-12, two exceptions being medical or religion. Just a little frustrated lately due to what I see at work.

  3. I’m very distraught that the readers on this site aren’t more livid regarding the cuts that directly affect our seniors in Pa. This is such an injustice to all whom have worked their whole lives to support their families ,paid their taxes, good solid citizens, and now , when they need support the most, our politicians turn their backs on them.
    Our senior population is one of the highest nationally. Our medical care keeps providing more medications and more treatments to prolong our lives , but no one tells you how to afford it in the aftermath .
    My father worked hard his whole life however became disabled. His pension isn’t much and social security barely helps keep his bills paid. Every new medication is a life adjustment. Its not a matter of not buying his favorite cereal or not, its,”Can I move a bill to next month ….what will happen if I do??”
    I try to assist him financially whenever he needs it , but he’s a proud man who doesn’t like to ask for help. Most of our seniors are very proud people. They worked hard, didn’t ask for hand outs , and helped their fellow man.
    Now that they out lived their families and funds, our government turns their back on them. What happened to “Respect your elders?” Does everyone need to call every politician and remind them of the phrase, or do we need to remind ourselves?
    Please call your politicians and ask them how they support the elderly needs in your area .

  4. Agreed 100% at Bctaxpayer2. My father was the same way. My parents only lived with what they could afford without credit cards, which was not a lot. Both my parents together received $1122.00 per month, but minus $301.00 for the supplemental health insurance they needed to purchase. With the remaining funds they were to pay all household bills, food, car expense, had NO credit card or loans, their mortgage was paid off, thank god. But still did not have enough to pay taxes, if not for family help they would have lost their little 500 sq ft home. So if all this money goes to our seniors I would love to see who and for what, details please! I tried numerous avenues to get them some help and there was no funding, or they brought in too much money monthly, they had to bring in less then $756.00 per month to qualify. REALLY? my dad worked from age 14 to his 70’s. he did plan and even had a company run pension, that he put money into. However, at retirement the workers found out that the owner never put any of that money into their pension and had stolen it all. After years of lawyer fees these hard working men had to let it go, could not afford it any longer. So please someone, exact details please!



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