Philly’s Presence Known at Capitol Budget Protests
Yesterday, Gov. Tom Corbett gave the budget address everyone expected. It consisted of education cuts, a balk on infrastructure funds, no new taxes or tax loophole closings and about 66,000 residents can expect to be cut off cash assistance in the near future.
And since the budget had been anticipated for some time, about 300 protesters showed up at the Capitol to let their voices be heard, including local participants from Action United and Fight For Philly. They were joined by members of Occupy Harrisburg, the Pittsburgh Northside Coalition for Fair Housing, One Pittsburgh, and several state and local unions.
PW caught up with Elizabeth Days, a volunteer with Fight For Philly, who got on a school bus yesterday morning and made the trek out to Center State for a little nonviolent action. Days says she felt the need to get involved over the past year because she has literally seen, first hand, products of the education system on the streets of her neighborhood. “I feel like they’re putting morons on the streets as it is right now,” she bluntly says. “And you keep tapping away at it and tapping away at it, the more morons you have. We’re talking about our future.”
She goes on to say that the cuts in education are perhaps hurting the promise of the next generation being better off than the previous one. And when she got off the bus in Harrisburg yesterday, she wanted to make sure her voice was heard loud and clear.
Many demonstrators showed up with anti-Corbett T-shirts, according to reports, and they even chanted “Shame!” in the Capitol hall while the governor asked for a moment of silence for the recently passed Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. When lawmakers and state government workers first emerged to walk through the Capitol Hall, they kept quiet as two walls of protesters screamed at them and chanted slogans.
“They knew what we were there for,” she says. “The ones in our corner, they stopped to speak to us on the way out. They encouraged us. It was obvious who was with us. They stopped and shook our hands, so that was encouraging.”
But acts of kindness on behalf of lawmakers were few and far between. Budget Secretary Charles Zogby was seen snubbing Temple students who traveled to have their voices heard (above). Corbett called for a 30 percent cut in Temple’s funding.
The group from Philadelphia brought with them proposals that would generate, they say, nearly $1 billion dollars by closing tax loopholes “that keep rich corporations from paying their fair share to support public schools and universities, roads, infrastructure and public transportation, healthcare and other services.” Those proposals include closing the Delaware loophole, a Marcellus Shale extraction tax and closing the sales tax loophole.
The group also provided research from the PA Department of Revenue, which states 75 percent of Pennsylvania companies do not pay the corporate income tax while another 10 percent pay at or less than $1,000 per year.
At one point, says Days, a man identified as Gov. Corbett’s press secretary began running down the hall to escape the chants. “He ran,” she says. “I couldn’t believe it. I thought there was a fight at first.” Protesters also held a mock funeral on the steps of the Capitol with a silver casket donated by Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 in Scranton.
“We the people,” says Days on her motivation for joining the protests, “we put you there. We sat back out of ignorance, but now we’re advocating. This is the beginning of the end of the ignorance. Things aren’t going to continue the way they’ve been. There has to be some sort of change.”