Senator Lisa Baker – Floor Remarks – State Budget & Veterans Services

Of all the desperation tactics we have seen in regard to state spending cuts and Senate Bill 850, the effort to scare veterans and their families is the most unfortunate and most indefensible.

It is one thing for the Administration to play political fun-and-games with state parks. They are incorrect in their contention, but there is ultimately no significant harm in it. The same cannot be said of wrongly raising alarm over veterans’ services.

Yesterday, we heard a speaker warn of veterans being put out on the street. That is ridiculous and irresponsible.

Nothing in the budget plan passed here imperils the care of a single veteran. Nothing in it denies one family life insurance. Nothing in it subtracts from the readiness of the National Guard. Nothing in it threatens the closure of a veterans home.

Our point was an important one. In a year when the state budget is over three billion dollars in the hole, Pennsylvania simply cannot afford the traditional “pad the line items” approach to budgeting.

The numbers in the budget cannot reflect what bureaucrats hope to have happen, or what they wish might happen. Rather, the numbers must, to the greatest extent possible, reflect what is clearly necessary, and what is truly expected to be needed.

Why should scarce dollars go toward vacant positions that will not be filled unless the Governor abandons all pretense of a hiring freeze?

Why should scarce dollars be tied up in wishing and hoping for levels of participation in programs that have never been reached?

Why appropriate money to make a political point, when those dollars are then effectively denied to education, or children’s programs, or disability services?

Veterans are not keeping score by the amount of money going their way in the budget. They are concerned about the quality of the services available. That is the priority.

There is no competition to determine who respects veterans more. We all have high regard for those who serve. We all appreciate the sacrifices the families of servicemen and servicewomen must make. We all thoroughly understand the obligations we have toward quality and accessible services for our veterans. In this time of extraordinary budgetary challenge, we do real honor to veterans by appropriating only the dollars that are absolutely necessary.

Contact: Jennifer Wilson
(570) 675-3931