HARRISBURG — Advocates lobbied for additional state spending Tuesday to boost living supports for individuals with disabilities, provide post-high school employment for them and restore previous cuts to county-based human services programs.
Gov. Tom Wolf included these items in his proposed budget in the $30 billion range, the subject of closed-door negotiations Tuesday between the governor and legislative leaders.
The governor’s proposal contains a nearly $19 million increase to move 1,000 people off waiting lists for key services, $5 million to draw down additional federal funds to help young people get jobs and work experience and nearly $1 million to transition 50 residents in state centers to communities.
Lawmakers of both parties voiced support for disability programs with two weeks to go before the June 30 budget passage deadline.
The spending increases would help offset a 10 percent cut in state aid under the Corbett administration, said Donald Broderick, executive director of The ARC of Northeastern Pennsylvania, who attended a Capitol rally.
“We’ve been trying to crawl out of the hole ever since,” he said.
Broderick said his agency fields the call when an emergency placement is needed for someone who has lived with an elderly parent who died. That process goes smoother when fewer individuals are on the waiting list for services, he said.
Broderick said it is important to make Pennsylvania an employment-first state where disabled individuals have meaningful work.
“We want to have people as taxpayers rather than as tax recipients,” he said.
Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, sponsored legislation to enable the state Office of Vocational Rehabilitation to draw down $10.5 million in available federal money to help teenagers and young adults with disabilities who want to work. She said that legislation is moving in the Senate.
Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich, D-Taylor, said he has seen what having a job can mean for these young people.
“It allows them to have a sense of pride and value,” he said.