“Don’t Cut You, Don’t Cut Me…

Cut the fellow behind the tree". Taking liberties with Senator Long’s famous quip proves a point: countless groups will stage protests and rallies decrying the various state budget proposals but few, if any, will take the next step of identifying how valuable their pet program is and what function should go in order to save their expenditure. It is past time for them to do so.

Just yesterday hospitals and arts organizations, along with supportive Legislators, rallied at the Capitol. The hospital lobby noted that cuts under the proposed spending plans (anywhere from $105 to $280 million) are unacceptable because "the proposed budget cuts could result in potential job losses for thousands of individuals who are either directly employed by hospitals or through jobs in communities that are related to hospitals".

Later a state senator noted "We must send a clear message about the need for arts in Pennsylvania…and that "the arts are an economic engine for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County" (likely no mention of the support for the arts through the Regional Asset District sales tax).

So here is the chance for the clear message, one that goes beyond a rally. What specific function or line item should go in order to fully fund health and arts? It is easy to demonstrate, a lot harder to say "arts are more valuable than the Opportunity Grant program" or "hospital funding should take precedence over early childhood education". If the groups truly believe in their importance, then it is incumbent upon them to identify another program that should be de-funded in order to close the ever growing budget gap. If they don’t like the feeling of pitting their program against another that is too bad-they need to make their case. Failing that, come out is support for a specific tax increase to fund their wishes.

It’s easy to rally and then go back to work. In fact, more rallies are planned for the remainder of the week. It’s harder to offer meaningful suggestions.