Questioning PA's stop-gap budget

    A long list of health services won’t get state funds during the budget stalemate

    When Governor Rendell signed a placeholder budget Wednesday, he said the plan was only a tool to keep pay flowing to state workers and to provide for “immediate critical public health and safety services.” A day later, pressure was mounting from community groups left out of the scaled-down spending plan.

    Listen: [audio:090806telineitem.mp3]

    Cancer screening and STD treatment are on the long list of programs struck from the budget. But a spokesman says the governor kept funds for life-or-death services like kidney dialysis and care for children who rely on a breathing machine.

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    Debbie Plotnick is advocacy director for the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania. She says the governor didn’t do enough to maintain health services.

    Plotnick: So many essential services are not done directly by the state they are contracted to the counties who in turn contract with non-profit agencies.

    Plotnick says her non-profit agency is relying on a line of credit during the budget impasse, but she expects those funds to run out by the end of August.

    Rendell’s spokesman says the bridge budget is only a short-term fix — not an indication of which programs the governor supports.

    Barry Ciccocioppo: Items left in are critical to health and safety of individuals who rely on those services, for example, renal dialysis, individuals relying on the funding for that program need that service as a matter of life and death.

    The chair of the Senate health committee is skeptical about the governor’s funding choices.

    Republican Ted Erickson …

    Erickson: The only thing that seems to make sense whatsoever is that he is simply trying to find a couple of other pressure points to pressure the legislature to deal with the budget as he wants to deal with it.

    Some of that pressure has begun. Several community mental health and substance abuse treatment programs say they haven’t been paid since June 30th and they’re running out of money.

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