By cutting a wide swath through Harrisburg's safety-net spending, Gov. Corbett's proposed fiscal plan for Pennsylvania may look as if it balances the budget without breaking his no-tax pledge. But what if his plan backfires?
There's a compelling case to be made that the supposedly fiscally prudent course being taken by the governor, with a roughly 20 percent cutback on welfare spending, could drive up other state, county, and city costs while needlessly subjecting thousands of needy residents to suffering.
That's going to be the rallying cry in Harrisburg on May 7 as advocates from across the state plan to gather in protest of the welfare cuts.
The Corbett cuts already have included the incomprehensible jettisoning of 89,000 low-income children from the state's medical-assistance rolls, and plans are pending to deny food stamps to recipients who have only several thousand dollars in assets.
Modest general-assistance grants that max out at the $205 paid monthly in Philadelphia will end for 68,000 adults, but advocates calculate that it won't take much to whittle the $149 million savings that Corbett foresees.
According to a group of 100 organizations (pacaresforall.org) allied against the general-assistance cuts, the savings would be wiped out if only a fraction of the recipients turn to such services as city shelters, or get arrested after resorting to crime.
That concern, of course, stands apart from the issue of the callousness of these cuts themselves. The aid provides a leg up to adults who are temporarily disabled, women fleeing domestic violence, recovering addicts, and children who, but for the grants, would go into foster care.
While an administration aide contended the state's "hands are pretty much tied" due to expenses stretching revenues, the welfare cuts are driven by Corbett's fealty to an unworkable ban on broad-based tax increases that could help bridge the gaps. If those policies prove to drive up costs, that's doubly misguided.