Local Healthcare Funding Is Vital for Our Community

An Op-Ed by Senator Joe Scarnati

As the budget stalemate continues in Harrisburg, I know the hardworking constituents who reside in my Senatorial District are growing frustrated with the consequences of state funding not being distributed in a timely fashion.  Rightfully so.  I too am upset with the impasse, but I refuse to agree to the massive taxes that Governor Wolf continues to push for.  Before asking for more hard earned tax dollars from Pennsylvania residents, we need to do all that we can to rein in costs and address structural problems within state government. 

Rural Pennsylvania faces our own unique set of challenges – one of them being access to medical facilities within close proximity of our homes.  Over the past several years I have been working with my colleagues in the Senate and House to ensure that our vital state services and programs, like medical centers, receive their needed funding. 

Unfortunately, Governor Wolf along with others, who are either misinformed or being intentionally misleading, continue to provide false information to the public on this important matter.

In a commentary that recently appeared in the Lock Haven Express, Bucktail Medical Center CEO Tim Reeves stated that “legislators continue refusing to fund burn care, obstetrical and neonatal services, and rural critical access hospitals”.   Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Since June of last year the Legislature has sent the Governor three budgets.  The first two budgets he vetoed in full.  With the most recent budget presented to him on December 23rd, he decided to line item veto certain parts.

The budget passed by the Legislature and presented to Governor Wolf in December received bi-partisan support and included nearly $5.77 million for Critical Access Hospitals, $3.8 million for Hospital Based Burn Centers and $3.7 million for Obstetric and Neonatal Services.  Governor Wolf’s decision to create a crisis by line item vetoing these critical programs is inappropriate.

Bucktail Medical Center and all Critical Access Hospitals in Pennsylvania deserve to be funded – not to be held hostage by Governor Wolf as he demands more and more taxes.   The Governor’s veto of this critical funding was driven by politics, not fiscal necessity.  The money that is allotted to these care centers has always received strong legislative support. 

I am disappointed that earlier this month the Governor tried to put forth yet another massive tax and spend budget without having even completed the 2015-16 budget.  It’s also important to note that Governor Wolf’s push for massive tax increases is not just in one area - he wants to raise taxes across the board, on working families, retirees and even college students.

A sign of a good leader is being able to bring people together – not further push them apart.  The voters of Pennsylvania did send a Democrat Governor to Harrisburg.  However, they also sent strong Republican majorities to the Senate and House of Representatives.  It is long past time for Governor Wolf to stop playing political games and to instead, sit down with us and have productive conversations about the future of Pennsylvania.

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