Tuesday, July 02, 2013

State Senator Daylin Leach Gives Pennsylvania Legislators A Reality Check

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Daylin Leach is a candidate for Congress. Since Allyson Schwartz is running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, he's running to replace her as the Representative for northwest Philly/Montgomery County. He's campaigning hard, but that doesn't mean he's neglecting his current job as a state senator. The video above was in response to the reactionary Republican budget, which passed the House 111-92 just hours before the Sunday deadline. Gov. Tom Corbett signed it immediately, although it is likely to result in immediate credit ratings downgrades (and higher borrowing costs for the state). Last week, Moody's rated Pennsylvania the 8th worst among all 50 states in terms of liabilities to revenues. Corbett scheme to privatize state-run liquor stores and hike taxes and fees to fund a $2 billion transportation plan failed.

Daylin's speech addressed the root causes-- right-wing ideological derangement when it comes to adequately finding crucial public services, particularly public education, which Republicans have been on a jihad against.
Findings from a secret poll conducted by a prominent Republican firm [Public Opinion Strategies] proposes that Gov. Tom Corbett attack the Philadelphia teachers union to overcome widespread opposition to his education policies and bolster his faltering re-election prospects. "Taking on this fight moves Corbett's approval scores on handling education" and "boosts his overall approval numbers."

...The poll suggests that Corbett, a governor who has long suffered from low public-approval ratings, condition state aid to Philadelphia schools on major union concessions and kickstart his hobbled reelection campaign with a high-profile fight against the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

...The poll first establishes Corbett's low approval ratings and widespread public opposition to his education policies, finding that "not only do voters believe that public education in the state is off-track, but they overwhelmingly disapprove of the way Corbett's handling the issue."

Sixty-nine percent of respondents said that Pennsylvania public education is on the "wrong track," and 64 percent blame Corbett-- 43 percent strongly so. In the Philly suburbs, 84 percent said that the city's schools are in the wrong trac. Seventy percent statewide believe that it is Corbett's job to help find a solution.

...[T]he poll does not query voters as to their attitude toward the nearly $1 billion in budget cuts to schools orchestrated by Corbett, which have affected school districts statewide and forced many to enact extraordinary property tax hikes... Twenty-one percent of voters say that education is the most important problem facing the state, second only to the economy.


"When," Daylin reminded his fellow legislators Sunday, "a politician debating the budget says 'We have to do with less' what they really mean is that poor kids, schools and sick folks have to do with less." That kind of attitude-- and a willingness to speak out about it-- is why Blue America has endorsed Daylin. This Daylin:
When people say, “we only can spend what we have,” it’s an odd thing to say because we control what we have.

It is not like we are given a limited amount of money from an outside source and that’s all the legislature and the government can spend-- we decide what the tax rates are, we decide what the fee rates are, we decide what the tax breaks are-- we decide all of that. But we make the decision as to what we have to spend.

To say, "we can only spend what we have," ignores the fact that we control what we have. It implies that we have no choice in what policies are made in this chamber, and the effects that they have on people are something that are just forced upon us. That we are innocent vehicles for realities beyond our control-- but we all know that is not true.

Previous speakers on this budget have said, “No one wants to pay more to the state government. If you take a poll and ask the voters, 'Do you want to pay more taxes?' the answer will be 'No.'" And I agree, that is probably the answer the poll would get.

I would, however, say that I know about polling. I know a lot about how poll questions can be skewed to produce desirable answers. For instance, if a pollster asks someone, "Do you want to spend more money out of your own pocket?" in a vacuum, without that person knowing what that money is going to be spent on, most people being polled will say "no."

It becomes interesting when you ask people, "Do you think we should neglect our schools? Do you think that we should shred our social safety net? Do you think that we should not provide adequate funds to protect our air and our water?” People say "no" to that too.

Then, when you juxtapose the two issues, "Would you pay more taxes if you knew that it would make the schools better?" people say "yes." Of course, people do not say they want to pay more money to the government for no apparent purpose-- but they will say they want to spend money to make our schools and our roads better.

I believe the people of Pennsylvania and the people of the United States are not hard-hearted people. They are not indifferent to the condition of our society. If you ask people in my district (and I can only go by my district), "Do you want to invest in the public schools?" They say "Yes."

When you ask people in my district, "Do you want to hire enough water quality inspectors to go out and make sure that the industries that are providing energy in this state are doing so safely and in a way that does not harm people, animals, wildlife, or the environment generally?" They will say "Yes." They will say "yes" overwhelmingly.

If you ask, "Is it a good idea to cut off all cash assistance for the poorest people in Pennsylvania?" They say "No." And you tell them, "There are 800,000 people in Pennsylvania right now who don’t have health insurance and the state government has increased that number by eliminating Adult Basic Care and other policies that provide health care." Then ask them, "Is that a good idea?” They say "No."

If we are going to make the argument that "we are doing what the people of Pennsylvania want," we should be accurate about what the people of Pennsylvania want.

One of my other colleagues said earlier during this debate said we can’t play "Santa Claus" with state spending. And, with due respect, saying that is demeaning. We are not playing Santa Claus, we are not giving gifts on Christmas morning. When you provide health care for a sick child, that is not playing Santa Claus. When you provide enough money for someone to be able to afford a lousy flop room so they don’t have to lay down on the streets at night-- that’s not Santa Claus, that’s not a Christmas gift. When you tell a kid that lives in a poor neighborhood that we’re going to give you an education that will enable you to someday get out of this poor neighborhood - that is not a Christmas gift, that is not Santa Claus.

The idea that the people of Pennsylvania are saying, "Not one penny, not one more penny for schools-- not one more penny for any of these things-- if it comes out of my pocket!" is just not accurate.

And beyond that, other members of this body keep quoting the private sector. But the private sector doesn’t want these things. The truth is, the private sector doesn’t want us to neglect education because today's school children are the people who will be working jobs in the private sector in the next five, ten, fifteen, and twenty years. The private sector does not want us to neglect roads and bridges because that’s how the private sector's work force gets to their jobs and that’s how the private sector moves its products to market.

As we consider this budget and as we consider future budgets, this legislative body should not fall for the idea that we are forced to neglect the basic roles of government and our society.

There is one more thing that troubled me, when someone said, "Families are struggling, so we are going to have to make do with less." This implies-- well, I don’t know what this implies-- but let's be clear, no money goes to "us." We are not spending tax money on beer and knockwurst for legislators. This money is going to help poor people. This money is going to help kids all across the Commonwealth. This money is going to fix roads. This money is going to aid law enforcement. But more than that, this money is going to programs that will make it unnecessary to spend so much money in the future on law enforcement because these programs are proven to reduce crime.

Saying state government is "doing with less," is framing the discussion in such a way that somehow by spending less money, we are doing something noble.

However, when we say we are "doing with less," what we really mean is that poor kids are "doing with less." Sick people are "doing with less." Handicapped and the elderly people are "doing with less." People who have to drive over crumbling roads and bridges every day to get to work are “doing with less.” Those are the people who are "doing with less."

"We" are fine either way. It’s not "us" that has anything at stake in this budget. It’s the people of Pennsylvania who desperately need the services that, in my view, we are not funding adequately. And I just wanted to make it clear that this really is what’s at stake here.
Please help make sure this safe Democratic seat goes to the progressive, not to some pathetic corporate shill being pushed by the Establishment (nor someone's mekhutonim). You can contribute to Daylin's congressional campaign here.


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