Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner said Governor Tom Corbett's proposed budget compromises the tax payers of the county. According to Wagner, the budget will lead to Allegheny County residents being double-taxed by a governor who's from Allegheny County and has a background in law enforcement.
"Yet his budget is cutting our courts, and cutting law enforcement here in Allegheny County, forcing us to pay for those services here in Allegheny County and statewide," said Wagner.
At issue is a cut to funding for County Police. Tax dollars still go to pay for State Police. The state police investigate major crime scenes, do DNA testing, finger printing, and toxicology. Wagner said tax dollars go to these services, but not in Allegheny County. The County provides the services and "takes a burden off the state," but she said Corbett has cut all of the funding that goes to reimburse the county for the services.
"Governor Corbett has zeroed out $7.5 million that has gone in previous years to law enforcement and Allegheny County, specifically to pay for county police and the medical examiner, so now Allegheny County residents are paying for those services here in Allegheny County, and we're paying for them in every other county throughout the state," said Wagner.
During a press conference with County officials and labor leaders, Wagner said other areas that "compound the unfairness the budget visits on Allegheny County taxpayers" include:
- Failure to address the $64 million funding gap for the Port Authority of Allegheny County
- 20% cut in human services funding
- 5% cut to the Community College of Allegheny County
- 4% cut in Medicaid reimbursements that would substantially affect the services provided by the Kane Hospitals
Wagner said another big irony she sees, is the Corbett Administration is not recognizing that the revenue coming in this year has been far over budget. Between a lower-than-expected shortfall this year and higher projected revenue for 2012/13, the Independent Fiscal Office estimates the state will have approximately $815 million more than the governor estimated in February. The Governor's proposed budget is based on a predicted $719 million current year shortfall.
"These programs for Allegheny County are truly a drop in the bucket when you look at what's going on statewide, so I don't believe it requires either to cut other programs or to raise revenue, but he [Corbett] can get this very, very simply from the revenue that's already coming in," said Wagner.
Wagner has sent a letter to Governor Corbett, in which she outlined her concerns and asked that funding be fully, or at least partially, restored, and said she welcomes the opportunity to meet with the governor to discuss the budget.
Spokesman for Governor Corbett, Kevin Harley, said Wagner needs to get her facts straight.
"She was just completely factually wrong," he said, "the first argument she makes is that we cut $2 million for the courts in Pittsburgh when in fact for the past two years the Corbett Administration has kept funding the exact same, last year we didn't cut the courts at all and this year we've proposed the same funding stream as last year."
As for the County Police, Harley said funding for that law enforcement grant was cut years ago by former Governor Ed Rendell.