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DeLissio, Other State Reps Talked Budget at St. Joe's Thursday

A policy committee hearing on the state's budget cuts was held Thursday at St. Joseph's University.

According to Rebecca Poyourow, a parent of children at Cook-Wissahickon Elementary School, Gov. Tom Corbett's budget is "a punch to the gut."

"Although it's blunt, that's what it feels like," the Roxborough resident said to a panel of state legislators Thursday at a Policy Committee Budget Hearing at St. Joseph's University. 

The hearing was requested and co-chaired by state Rep. Pam DeLissio, D-194, and focused on how the budget's significant cuts will affect human service organizations, education and economic development. 

Mark Davis, the director of public policy for JEVS Human Services in Philadelphia outlined the significant cuts that organizations who work with struggling and special needs populations are facing. 

According to Davis, organizations are looking at a 16 percent cut in attendant care which allows special needs populations to live independently and in the community. Davis also said the welfare to work program will see at least 50 percent in cuts. 

"What's going to happen to these folks," he asked. 

Echoing his sentiments, Stacy Levitan, the executive direction of the Bala Cynwyd-based Judith Creed Homes for Adult Independence said this budget is creating a dire situation. 

"People are really starting to believe that they're no longer going to be able to provide services anymore," she said. 

Although there are no easy answers, state Rep. Mike Stulra, D-96th, chair of the committee, said he believes the crisis situation is something that didn't need to occur. 

"This year the state brought in $800 million more than we expected to and we refuse to use it and instead decided to cut services," he said. "That is the abomination of this budget."

Human services isn't the only area suffering, an education panel that included two parents of Cook-Wissahickon students and Steve Brandt, the principal of Roxborough High School, expressed fears that the "devastating" cuts would hinder progress within districts throughout the commonwealth.

According to Brandt, Roxborough High School lost 20 positions. 

"It is going to take our students time to rebound from this and regain trust," he said. "We are losing our foundation."

Although Jose Peguero's daughter isn't in high school just yet, he fears for her success. 

"I am afraid for her," he said. "Class sizes are going to increase and each student is not going to get the attention they deserve, the statistics are there."

Although there aren't any answers Poyourow said she thought a step in the right direction would be go back to an elected school board rather than the SRC. 

"I think this will bring back openness and accountability," she said. "It will get us out of this statement."

But, state Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-185th, said, sadly, the panel was preaching to the choir.

"We are on your side and we're going to keep fighting this fight for you," she said. "No one on this committee voted for these cuts."

State Rep. Louise Bishop, D-192nd, agreed. 

"The state that does not invest in education is a state that is going to have to invest in prisons," she said. "In my 23 years I have never experienced a budget so cruel, so cold and so calculated."

But in regards to economic development Jane Lipton, executive director of the Manayunk Development Corporation, said she doesn't want the committee to be the choir. 

"You guys need to be the pastor on the pulpit slamming the good book down in the name of all these things," she said. "I want you to be our super advocates because we need the support of our state and our federal government."

DeLissio, who owned two small businesses within the past decade, encouraged representatives on the economic development panel to talk to district business owners in their district about public advocacy. 

Sturla asked representatives from each panel to reach out to his or her elected officials about what funding and programs or services they would like to see restored if some funding were to be restored. 

"Thank you for fighting the good fight," DeLissio said. "We'll do the same."

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