Each day that passes without a state budget means that organizations waiting for state aid must make do, and the pantry is getting bare.
Kia Parks, who directs a preschool in Philadelphia, said yesterday, at a protest rally in Media, that she told her 10 staff members last week that she didn't have enough to pay them.
"We had to pretty much give them pocket change," she said.
While advocates for state-funded programs are frustrated by the delay in Harrisburg, they also say they're not ready to give up the fight. They support Gov. Rendell's proposals to increase taxes to prevent cuts to programs such as early education and mental-health care. The Republican-controlled Senate has passed a budget that costs taxpayers less and includes more program cuts.
"It should be a broad-based tax that everybody pays a little bit more," Shelly Yanoff, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, a child-advocacy organization, said at yesterday's rally. "We is stronger than I."
Rendell, a Democrat, last week signed a budget proposed by Senate Republicans in order to provide money to pay state employees and for certain emergency spending. But he vetoed all other funding lines, extending the budget impasse into its second month.
In that budget, funding for public libraries would have been cut 50 percent from $75 million to $37 million. The cut would strike a devastating blow to "the sanctuaries" of our communities, Rendell said yesterday.
Libraries are "where kids can go to get away from the rough, tough crush or realities and pick up a book and . . . transport themselves to a different place," the governor said during a news conference at the East Shore Area Library near Harrisburg. "Libraries might not be life or death . . . but they can be life-changing experiences."
State Sen. Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said yesterday that the Senate is amenable to restoring some of the library funding, but that the two sides aren't any closer to passing a budget. Pileggi (R., Delaware) said it is regrettable that some social-service organizations are having to operate without state funding and blamed Rendell.
"The governor has put people like those in Media today in the middle of a budget fight in an attempt to get leverage," Pileggi said.
More than 100 people from 27 organizations gathered in front of the Delaware County Courthouse to protest similar proposed cuts. About 30 children were on hand, holding signs with sentiments such as "Invest in me!" and "We are the future and you must take care of us."
"You're all government waste," Sharon Ward, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, a liberal-leaning think tank in Harrisburg, told the crowd. Budget cuts affect real people, she said. "They are our neighbors, they are our friends."
Zachary Lewis, 27, of Philadelphia, who watched the rally from his wheelchair, said the legislature might cut a program that provides him with home-health-care aides that help him dress and prepare meals.
Lewis, who lost the use of his legs seven years ago, has a full-time job with benefits and moved to his own apartment a year ago. While his medical benefits would help him pay to stay in a nursing home, they won't cover the cost of aides to come to his home, he said. He would have to ask relatives to help him.
"They're willing to pitch in," he said, "But they have their own lives."
Debbie Plotnick, director of advocacy at the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, said some organizations won't make payroll this week without state aid.
"Almost none of us will be able to make payroll by the end of the month," she said. "We need a budget now."