Tell PA House: Don't Hold Higher Education Hostage

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As negotiations for the 2017-2018 Pennsylvania state budget drag on, an astonishing possibility has come into view: the House Republicans, led by Speaker Mike and Turzai and Majority Leader Dave Reed, appear to be prepared to block funding for the four state-related universities – Penn State, University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Lincoln University – rather than agree to the Governor’s demand that they raise $600 to $800 million in new recurring revenues.

What that means is that Republicans appear to be ready to gut funding for our flagship state universities to avoid having to raise new, recurring tax revenues, including a bi-partisan proposal to create a severance tax on natural gas drilling.

We must tell our state representatives that this is absolutely unacceptable.

Now is not the time for us to be decreasing funding for higher education. Quite the opposite. And the ideal way to fund higher education is with a proposal Governor Wolf and a bi-partisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans have been supporting – a severance tax on natural gas drilling. While we have this limited resource – and while gas production is increasing in the state – we need to be turning it into an unlimited resource – generations of Pennsylvanians who are highly educated. Nothing brings new jobs and higher wages faster than better-educated young people. Nothing helps insure that the next generation is even better educated than to increase access to higher education widely through the population.

It’s time to close out this budget with new recurring revenues – ideally a severance tax on natural gas drilling – that will allow us to fund our state-related institutions like Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln now, and will also help stabilize our state budget for years to come so we can invest even more in the future.