Gov. Corbett's proposed budget would eliminate intake workers at city homeless shelters, reduce counseling services for people with HIV, and dramatically cut after-school programs for children, Philadelphia's health commissioner said Friday.
Donald Schwarz told a group of state senators from Philadelphia that Corbett's proposals also would reduce spending on programs that get rid of lead in children's homes.
He said the budget would eliminate nutrition education for hundreds of poor children and their parents. And, he said, it would reduce home visits to families of children with special needs.
"We in city government do understand the need for fiscal responsibility and accept the reality of a still weak, though improving, economy," Schwarz said. "But what we do not understand is the need to balance the budget through a reduction in services to those who need the most - children, the elderly, those who are homeless, and those with mental illness, HIV, or substance-abuse issues."
Some of the proposed reductions, including those for HIV care and lead poisoning, could cause the city to lose matching money from the federal government, Schwarz said.
The state made steep cuts in funding for programming for children and teens through the city Parks and Recreation Department.
In addition to Schwartz, representatives from local colleges, the Philadelphia School District, and local hospitals testified before Democratic State Sens. Shirley Kitchen, Vincent Hughes, Tina Tartaglione, and LeAnna Washington at a roundtable discussion at Temple University.
Corbett has said huge cuts are the only way to close a $4 billion deficit in the state's $27.3 billion budget.
In his March 8 budget address, Corbett proposed dramatic cuts to higher education, including eliminating $625 million, or about 50 percent, of funding meant for 14 state-owned universities and four state-related universities - Temple, Penn State, Lincoln, and Pitt.
Anthony Wagner, chief financial officer of Temple University, said the budget could bring large layoffs. If the school were forced to compensate entirely with tuition increases, students could start paying $16,000 yearly instead of $11,000.
But he said such major increases were unlikely.
"Of course, we're not going to do that," Wagner said. "That would not be good for the families of our students."
Eric Almonte, executive associate to the president at Cheyney University, said the budget changes could kill funding for the school's Keystone Honors program, which gives scholarships to the best students.
"For us to lose that program, it would significantly impact our ability to retain and attract the highest-caliber students," Almonte said.
Michael Masch, chief financial officer of the Philadelphia schools, questioned why educational cuts fell so much harder here than in other cities.
Corbett has proposed reducing state funding to Philadelphia schools by at least $292 million. Combined with the loss of federal stimulus money, that would leave the district with a budget gap of at least $465 million.
"Over 25 percent of the proposed cuts fall on the School District of Philadelphia," even though it "educates just over 10 percent of Pennsylvania's public school students," Masch said.
The district faces large layoffs and may have to consider such changes as switching to a half day of kindergarten instead of a full one, he said in response to questions.
Representatives of local hospitals said they feared that Corbett's budget, which has yet to spell out details for funding for their industry, could drive up costs by increasing the number of uninsured people, leading to more expensive emergency-room visits.
Corbett ended adultBasic, the state-subsidized insurance program for adults who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance. The loss of coverage for those 41,000 people last month is the biggest cut to human services so far.