On a call with reporters this afternoon, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pa.) and Gov. Bill Ritter (D-Colo.) urged their Republican colleagues to vote for a $26.1 billion state-aid package.
The bill will come up for a cloture vote — meaning it needs 60 votes to move forward — tomorrow.** **It is fully offset, meaning it does not add to the deficit. And it will provide much-needed and promised dollars to states to keep teachers on the job and to provide funds for Medicaid.
Without the bill, states would be forced to lay off tens of thousands of workers in the next few months. States will cut firefighters, services for the elderly and services for the disabled, Boxer said. Patients using Medicaid will pay higher co-pays. Fewer doctors will accept Medicaid patients, eventually increasing emergency-room use.
The bill is a whittled-down version of earlier jobs, education and state-aid funding bills that could not pass — Republicans refused to vote for legislation that would increase the deficit.
Here is a flash transcript of some of the remarks:
Boxer overviewing the legislation:
We’re here today to talk about critical legislation that is so important, really to every state, and I can say to my home state for sure. The legislation is clearly about jobs. It’s about protecting our critical investments in our safety, in health care, in public safety and in the education of our children. This recession has hit our cities and states very hard.
The economic downturn has forced schools across the country to make painful decisions between firing teachers, over-crowding classrooms, canceling summer school and shortening the school year. In Calif., 26,000 teachers received pink slips this summer.
The good news is, if we just get one Republican tomorrow, we will be able to mitigate this damage quite a bit. … [The legislation] would keep 140,000 teachers in the classroom [and would] also provide critical support to Medicaid programs in our states.
[Not passing this bill] will set back our efforts to help the economic recovery. This bill is fully paid for through a combination of spending cuts and closing tax loopholes. So it’s hard to understand why any [of my] colleague[s] would not [vote for it].
*Rendell on the importance of the bill to Pennsylvania: *
There’s a lot of debate about [whether] stimulus creates jobs. The debate should end here. Because…if these funds are not extended for an additional period of time, in Pennsylvania, we would lay off 12,000 people by the first or second week of September, [mostly teachers].
It would be particularly tragic for Pennsylvania, because we’ve done very well. In the last four months, we’ve gained jobs … We’ve seen a little momentum building. To lay off 12,000 people…it would be crippling for us.
It would be tragic and I can’t understand why our Republican colleagues [would not vote for it]. I understand pay as you go. I’ve vetoed many bills in my time as governor because they were not paid for. Republicans should be for it. No ifs, ands and buts. If they say they care about job creation, they should be for this. There’s no excuse that it’s not paid for. Stand up and be counted for the American economy.
Ritter on the importance of the benefits to Colorado: *
Our state constitution requires that we balance our budget. If it’s out of balance, I have to make up the shortfall. … We’ve done that for $3.5 billion over the last few fiscal years. That’s a significant amount of money when you have a $7 billion general fund.
We have tried to do our level best to preserve essential services, vital services for our citizens. … But doing that at the same time you’re balancing your budget can be quite difficult.
I heard that there was the likelihood of an FMAP extension…and so we balanced our budget against that. And we believed in our legislature there would be that extension in place. Now, we’re down to the last hour. Our fiscal year started July 1. If this [legislation] does not happen in the next few days, it’s likely I’ll have to present a [new] balanced budget [to the legislature.] That means making $200 million in cuts immediately.
I’ll tell you where those cuts will come from. Public safety, we don’t want to cut that. Human services, prisons, health care, those are caseload-driven. So we [are left with] higher education, which has already been cut, and K-12 [which we don’t want to cut]. That’s the likelihood.
We’re looking at the very real possibility of governors [having] to make the decision about whether to extend the cuts in their education systems [that have already faced cuts].
It’s just one of the sad consequences of this. Our revenue is also starting to pick up. We have the prospect of growing in the last two quarters this year. The growth might be slow. But having said that, there’s a good chance the economy is turning around.
Rendell on the immediate impact: *
There were 30 states that included [the FMAP funding] in [their] budgets, Pennsylvania included. We’d lose $850 million. … The reason we [included the funding in the first place is that] the Senate has passed [a bill containing it] twice and the House has passed it once, and the President is in support of it. We had every reason to believe it was going to get done. Then, it became a political football.
We have made bitter choices in the last three years. We’ve raised more than $1 billion in revenue and cut spending by $3.5 billion. It’s not like we’ve done nothing and are coming to Washington to say, “Bail us out!”
*Boxer on the importance of the bill: *
Here’s the thing for me. The question is: Whose side are you on? Are you on the side of our children?
The question to me is not a discussion over an academic issue over who’s helping whom. We all have to step up.
We know we’ve got to help [states]. We know we want to do it on a paygo basis. … We have figured out the way to do it. … We can do this. We can pay for it. That’s the key.
*Boxer on valuing public employees over private employees:
I’m trying to help all workers. We’re also, before we leave here, we’re trying to get a single Republican vote on small business jobs bill. It would create tens of thousands of jobs, because it would leverage $30 billion in [loan-backing to community banks] to more than $300 billion [in loans for small businesses].
I don’t pit one kind of working person against another. … I’m willing to do what I can do and do it in a responsible way. This is responsible.
Boxer on the likelihood of passage:
I’m just going to say that Harry Reid, our leader, is very optimistic. He has not said he has secured [the 60th vote]. But he has said he’s very optimistic. The reason we hope we’ve had movement is because of the governors. The governors have really let people know we need to pass this — Republican governors, Democratic governors — and that has been very, very helpful.