Monday, December 05, 2005

Arts Council urgen rush about bill of rights legislation in PA

An urgent with four *s hit my email box today from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. These folks are about as political as my pinky toe on my left foot.

When we have the Cultural Center doing downtown development, we get the Ballet holding Nutcracker events without musicians. When we have arts groups making calls about the bill of rights -- I begin to wonder what the Court Jesters would have said about the loss of the king's head.

I don't have anything else to say about the call -- just yet -- today.

This is an important announcement concerning future support for arts and culture in Pennsylvania. Please read this completely and act today.

This week, fast moving legislation will go forward without public hearings or debate in the Pennsylvania General Assembly that could severely reduce state support for arts, culture, education, public broadcasting, history, arts education, heritage, preservation, support for lower and middle income families, agriculture, and a plethora of other things funded by the state that we may have not yet identified. This legislation, introduced in both houses, is known nationally as TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) or TEL (tax and expenditure legislation), and in Pennsylvania as the "Taxpayer Fairness Act."

Call, fax, e-mail or visit your legislators this week to ask them to explain the long range impact of this legislation. Stress that a NO VOTE on House Bill 2082 is essential. Click here to find your legislator and visit the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council's Advocacy Pages for information on what to include in a letter, fax or email to your legislator.

This legislation would set limits on the growth of state and local spending and tie state spending to a formula that includes the annual change in population plus the current rate of inflation. This legislation is based upon a Colorado law enacted in 1992 that implemented severe expenditure limits. The effect of this legislation was devastating in Colorado. Discretionary funding for programs such as arts and culture, higher and basic education, healthcare, and social services was severely reduced. In November 2005, after 13 years of a downward trend in quality of life, Colorado citizens voted to roll back TABOR.

Some facts about TABOR/TEL and Colorado
Colorado's Taxpayer Bill of Rights contributed to a significant decline in that state's social services and education programs since it was adopted in 1992. According to Americans for the Arts, fiscal year 2004 saw the Colorado Council on the Arts budget slashed by 93%. Research done by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, DC found that:

* Under TABOR, Colorado has declined from 35th to 49th in the nation in K-12 spending.

* Higher education funding has dropped by 31 percent.

* Tuitions have risen as a result. In the last four years, system-wide resident tuition increased by 21 percent (adjusting for inflation).

* Colorado has fallen to near last in providing on-time full vaccinations to the state's children.

* The share of low-income children lacking health insurance has doubled, making Colorado the worst in the nation.

How Pennsylvania's "Taxpayer's Fairness Act" might affect you
TABOR/TEL legislation in Pennsylvania would dramatically limit state spending in areas most important to low and middle income families and the state's quality of life institutions. According to an analysis done by the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, if TABOR/TEL had been in place when Governor Rendell took office, the current $24 billion state General Fund budget would have to be cut by over $2 billion. Ways to cut $2 billion out of the state budget might include:

* Elimination of state funding for higher education.
* Elimination of state funding for health care to low income citizens.
* Elimination of state funding to arts organizations, museums, public libraries, museums, historical societies, public television stations, and other arts and cultural agencies. Currently, Pennsylvania ranks 16th in per capita support for the arts.
* Reduction of the basic state subsidy for public schools.
* Elimination of all state funding for the Department of Agriculture.

Important Note: Pennsylvania already has a constitutional requirement for a balanced budget. The budget process already provides the General Assembly and the Governor with the tools they need to control the growth of state government. TABOR uses the term "Bill of Rights" which has a spin that may make some people think that they're talking "Constitution." This is not the case, and it is just a name for similar programs that have failed in other states to theoretically save taxpayer dollars.

Contact your state senator and representative ASAP. Ask them to VOTE NO on House Bill 2082 and oppose all TABOR/TEL both in an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution or other legislation.

Even if you are unsure of your position on this bill, please ask your senator and representative to explain to you what impact this bill would have on the ability of the state to support services to the people of the Commonwealth, especially those who need it most.

To locate your legislators Click Here.

Time is of the essence. Do not delay.
Contact your State Legislators NOW! Proponents of HB 2082 say they want to enact it before the end of the month.

More information about the TABOR/TEL legislation may be found on the following websites: Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
Pennsylvania AFL-CIO
Center for Budget and Policy Priorities - Information about TABOR-like legislation in other states, including a fact sheet and analysis on what happened in Colorado.
House Bill 2082 is also being opposed by the following organizations:
AARP Pennsylvania; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF); Citizens for Consumer Justice; Keystone Research Center; Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania; Maternity Care Coalition; Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania; National Council of Jewish Women-PA; Pennsylvania AFL-CIO; Pathways PA; Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators; Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center; Pennsylvania Council of Churches; Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations; Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group (PennPIRG); Pennsylvania School Boards Association; Pennsylvania Social Services Union (PSSU); Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA); Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY); Service Employees International Union (SEIU); and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776.

Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council
707 Penn Avenue, 2nd Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-3401
P: 412.391.2060
F: 412.394.4280

1 comment:

Amos_thePokerCat said...

I spent most of the last 20 years in Colorado, and from first hand experience, I found TABOR (Tax Payer Bill of Rights) to be an excellent thing. This people are nothing but usual suspects living off the unlimited spending of a government check. If there was a TABOR in PA, then the pay rasie would have been IMPOSSIBLE without a vote of the people.