The following is a guest post from Working America member Kayleigh Metviner
Volunteers, supporters, and media gathered at Working America’s Pittsburgh office on Tuesday morning to call for an economically just and fiscally responsible state budget, in contrast to the budget proposal anticipated from Governor Tom Corbett (R-PA) later in the day.
With over 500,000 members in Pennsylvania, Working America is a formidable force in the state, and we are overwhelmingly in support of a state budget that focuses more resources on public education, higher education, and social services.
Our members know that money doesn’t materialize out of thin air, so their calls for well-funded education and social services are accompanied by practical and equitable solutions: closing the Delaware tax loophole that deprives Pennsylvanians of hundreds of millions of dollars a year and expanding Medicaid.
Expanding Medicaid will not only allow more Pennsylvanians to access health care, it also has the potential to lower overall health care costs. On top of this, it will be 100 percent funded by the federal government for the first three years, and that rate would modestly and gradually decrease to 90 percent during years after that. Lowered costs from expanded Medicaid, combined with increased revenues from corporations paying their fair share of taxes will enable our state to fulfill its commitment to our public schools.
Several Working America volunteers read community member comments aloud at the press conference. One member urged Governor Corbett to “budget with greater consideration for education support instead of corporate tax breaks/” Another wrote: “Please, stop the practice of subsidizing large corporations with taxpayer money when programs and research to help the vulnerable are so needed.”
We want to thank those who shared their stories and urge all Pennsylvanians to continue spreading the word about the real possibilities for economic justice right here, right now.
Text JOBS to 30644 to join Working America’s movement for economic justice in Pennsylvania.
We don’t ask for every politician to agree with us. But saying one thing and doing the opposite? That’s another story.
Tom Corbett was elected Governor of Pennsylvania in part because of his promises of reform: in his words, ending perks and special privileges and cutting red tape. “Tom Corbett believes that we need to shrink the size of government through accountability and transparency,” reads the Issues page of his website.
New policies implemented by Corbett’s office, however, run completely counter to the promises he made during the campaign. Or to put it another way, it turns out that Corbett’s promises apply to some Pennsylvanians and not others.
A group of activists for disabled citizens also want “accountability and transparency,” which is why they planned to protest at the state Capitol in response to Corbett’s cuts to transportation. The Governor’s response? Keep them out, and keep them away.
The group of disabled activists, who call themselves American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT) called the protest to help stop the “erosion of consumer choice,” “restricting eligible consumers from services and creating waiting lists” and creating fraud “where none exists” as an excuse to “institutionalize the disabled community.”
In response, the Capitol building has been locked down and barricaded, specifically, the building’s elevators, to keep the activists from getting inside. Allentown Morning Call politics blog Capitol Ideasis on the scene, Tweeting photos of the barricades.
So when Corbett promised accountability and transparency in government, I guess he wasn’t including himself. He should’ve made that more clear on the campaign trail.
This is only one in the long line of policies coming from this governor that do an about-face from his campaign rhetoric. The man who pledged small government and less red tape placed the entire city of Harrisburg under state control, with a state-appointed, un-elected financial manager named David Unkovich. The latest news is that three elected City Council members object to the “fiscal recovery plan” of the un-elected financial manager. If the will of the state-appointed manager overrides the wishes of the local government, isn’t that the very definition of the “big government” mentality Corbett ran against?
Corbett’s response to Harrisburg? State control. Corbett’s response to school districts running out of money as a result of his budget cuts? State control. Corbett’s response to activists who want to express their displeasure with his budget cuts? Use taxpayer-funded security to keep them out.
And it’s a huge coincidence that his big campaign donors include oil drillers, private school owners, and corporate executives?
When it comes to government, we expect that people will have different opinions. Working America members believe that government does have a limited role to play in people’s lives; that we are collectively better off when we have basic public services, a fair tax code, and public funding for better roads, bridges, education, and healthcare for those who otherwise can’t afford it. Disagree? That’s fine. That’s your right.
But Corbett’s policies are not about “limited government” or “accountability and transparency.” His policies are about taking care of his rich and powerful friends while the rest of us deal with worsening schools, deteriorating roads, underfunded universities, rising energy costs, and a seemingly endless unemployment crisis. And when it comes to the average working stiff wanting to make their voice heard, government suddenly becomes very big indeed.
During Kevin Pape’s first week of training, he met a guy who was confrontational at first, but was passionate about the fight to keep good jobs in Ohio. He shared how his family is trying to survive in the face of outsourcing.
Canvasser Christina Jens relates a story of a new member in Minnesota who was excited by our work on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). As a single mother of disabled boy, this new member was glad to know there’s an organization working on improving health care, wages and good jobs for working families.
At first he didn’t have time for me. I quickly explained, “No, sir, we’re fighting to keep good jobs in the US. Jobs are being outsourced and American people are losing work.” He let me in, took the clipboard from my hands and looked it over. He paused at each point. “Good jobs,” he said, “That’s like fair wages, right?”
He told me he’s a contractor for a delivery service and he can’t keep up with job expenses. His employers are tapping him for money that he doesn’t have and he can’t afford his family medical bills. He was grateful for what Working America does.
Hello fellow Americans, my name is Curtis and I just finished a canvassing campaign in northeast Iowa. I have to say it was quite rewarding. We canvassed in areas needing our message. The cities and towns were Waterloo, Marion, Vinton, Marengo, Urbana and Shellsburg.
We found people working in factories for less than $10 per hour and worried about their futures. We found folks getting the rug pulled from under them on their pension plans. We spoke with people who had the face the threat of their jobs going to Mexico. This was fighting side of what we do.
The friendly side of what we do involves the “hey, come on in and sit down.” This happens in Iowa. We canvassed some towns of 600 people or less and it was everything Hollywood could attempt to make it seem. We met some of the feistiest yet friendliest senior citizens you will ever meet. I met a lady whose birthday was close to mine. She hoped to make it to 98. She looked about ten years younger and had my same spirit. I met a ton of conservatives who joked with me about who we individually were going to vote for but they still agreed with us on the issues and became members.
Iowa has national attention because it’s the state the politicians pander to in the electoral process. Iowans know it and it does make them more aware.
My last night in Iowa I was canvassing in Shellsburg, population 500. I was walking down Main Street where I met a man. He asked me what I was doing. I told him and he paused. He looked and it seemed like he was almost sad when he said, “Thank you.” His wife had already signed up a block before. I told him I was out for 28+ more members. He wished me luck. I told him, “I won’t need any luck. The people in this town are so great. I’m blown away by their laid-back greetings at the door.” Every door that night was a conversation and not a rap. I saw him at the end of the night, and he said with enthusiasm, “did you sign up as many new members as you wanted?” I said with a wide eyed smile, “yeah, and and then some!” It was a great finish to a great campaign.
I’m a proud Iowan and I would encourage anyone to visit here. It’s not a cakewalk so I don’t want you to be misled. It’s a rewarding experience encompassing small town values with progressive idealism from people willing to stand up for what is right. Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.
While canvassing in St. Paul, I knocked on the door of a high school student who had just turned 18. He was concerned about the job market but had no idea about the candidates or the upcoming election, or how to make a difference. After talking about the issues for a while, he found that he agreed with the labor-supported candidate, Melvin Carter, on almost everything. Now, he is proud to be able to cast his first vote for Melvin Carter.
Today I spoke to one of our members, a man in his mid-forties, and I asked him what I ask everyone: what’s your most important issue, what do you do for a living, and who are you planning to vote for? He answered that health care was his most important issue, he was unemployed, and he was voting for Steve Beshear, the labor-endorsed candidate for governor here in Kentucky. I said that he didn’t seem too happy about that, which he didn’t, to which he replied that he wasn’t. He explained that his job at a local chemical plant had recently been outsourced due to its inability to unionize, and that his son, who has special needs, was not receiving the proper medical attention.
The kicker was, he was a registered Republican and had voted the party line his entire life. This election would be the first time he voted for a Democrat. He said he couldn’t justify voting for a man that was doing nothing but hurting the middle class, and that it would be sheer ignorance for him to vote for Ernie Fletcher, the Republican incumbent governor, again.
I assured him that not only would Beshear be better for the job, but that Working America would do its best to hold him accountable once elected. He cracked his first smile of our conversation and I wished him a good night.
Paid for by AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education Treasury Fund.