Welfare cuts or cost savings? Pa. lawmakers debate

    Pennsylvania lawmakers are questioning the Corbett administration’s budget plans for the Department of Public Welfare. Some see it as cuts, others characterize it as cost savings.

    DPW Secretary Gary Alexander is defending a spending plan that eliminates a cash-assistance program, revises eligibility requirements and makes cuts in the name of rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse.

    But Sen. John Blake, D-Luzerne, says that oft-stated mission could be obscuring cuts that cannot rightly be called savings.

    “I think if we’re not careful about that rhetoric we miss the fact that there are many people, and users, consumers, who are not involved in waste, fraud, and abuse, but are in dire need of the services that your agency provides and that we provide across the state,” Blake said. “And these so-called savings cannot be traced back to waste, fraud and abuse.”

    Blake points to proposed “savings” in the DPW budget that involve cuts to certain programs such as mental health services.

    He’s asking the agency’s secretary to explain why the cost savings really are savings.

    The expected budget deficit and rising costs have put the state’s programs on a “collision course,” Alexander said.

    “We have to put parameters around some of these programs before they grow entirely out of control. We have a safety net in place,” he said Tuesday. “If we don’t start to control costs, that safety net will end up shredding.”

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