Harrisburg, April 17, 2013 – Senate Democrats’ 2013-14 budget priorities are heavily weighted toward job creation, education investments, strengthening the social-services safety net, modernizing liquor sales and refocusing Pennsylvania’s business tax menu to help small businesses, they announced today at a Capitol news conference.

Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said that Senate Democrats will go into this year’s budget negotiations with a clear purpose and “are resolved that the state’s economy must be jump-started. New jobs must be created and we have to reverse the negative course that the Corbett administration has plotted for Pennsylvania on education and protecting our most vulnerable.”

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“We have an opportunity and a responsibility to seek new investments and use resources that are available to change policy direction during this year’s budget negotiations.”

Costa said Senate Democrats believe that more than 120,000 jobs can be created quickly by enacting a responsible transportation plan, expanding Medicaid and using economic development policies outlined in their PA Works plan.

Costa was joined by a host of Senate Democrats in making today’s announcement.

Sen. Vincent Hughes, who serves as the Democratic chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that by taking action now on key economic initiatives then restoring job creation and community programs to their past luster — before Corbett budgets sliced them to the core — is an excellent starting point.

“We need to start creating jobs right now and we can do that by working on transportation and Medicaid expansion,” Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) said. “These initiatives coupled with rebuilding water and sewer systems, investing in schools and new technologies will create economic growth immediately.

“In addition, by investing in programs such as Main Street, Elm Street and international business we can help small business here while they market their products abroad.,”

Democratic Whip Sen. Tony Williams (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) said that the caucus was turning up the heat on the Corbett administration on jobs, health care, education and social safety net issues because the governor has failed to lead.

“We’ve outlined reasonable strategic policy alternatives that will reverse direction and provide a new path and we’ve identified revenues that will pay for the proposed expenditures,” Williams said. “Pennsylvania is rudderless on job creation and our economic numbers and business indicators under this administration illustrate the problem.

“Our most vulnerable can also not withstand another senseless round of Corbett cuts and we have to restore programs that promote help for those in need.”

Williams said that Pennsylvania is now 43rd in job creation, falling from eighth place among all states under Gov. Ed Rendell’s leadership. Plus, he said, last month’s unemployment claims fell nationally to below 350,000 but, because of Corbett policy short-sightedness, Pennsylvania led the country in new unemployment claims.

Senate Democrats said that they have laid out specific plans to achieve results in the 2013-14 budget in five areas. These include: strategic investments to create jobs; improving education; repositioning business taxes while closing business tax loopholes; modernizing the wine and spirits stores; and repairing and protecting social safety net programs.

The caucus leaders said that they’ve noted at least $750 million in annual savings, plus another $150 million in one-time revenues. They also said that we need to find resources to pay for specific new expenditures including $225 million for basic education, $50 million to aid distressed cities and communities, $40 million for transitional housing and homeownership among other items, and funds for new tax credits for a variety of areas including film production.

Democrats said that priority details include a three-year phase in of new monies to restore education dollars and key student-performance based initiatives that were cut by the Corbett administration in the last two budgets.

They also said that they would emphasize rebuilding struggling communities through their Growth, Progress and Sustainability (GPS) plan; seek new funds for transitional housing and new homeownership opportunities; and push for modernizing the wine and spirits stores rather than the opt for the risky privatization scheme that has been sought by the Corbett administration.

The Democrats indicated that they expected the negotiations to become more focused once the Senate returns to session in late April.