By Stacy Brown | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — More than 300 people who showed up at the Capitol for Gov. Tom Corbett's budget address did not go quietly into the day, after the governor outlined his fiscal plans for the coming fiscal year.
Protesters from across the state hissed and booed Tuesday, as Corbett addressed a joint gathering of the Legislature
. Following the address, the demonstrators held a mock funeral on the steps of the Capitol, complete with a silver casket donated by the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19
union from Scranton.
"I have been one who has depended upon social services and, like most things that we depend on in poorer communities, Corbett is cutting," said Angel Gober
, a community organizer with the Pittsburgh Northside Coalition for Fair Housing
, which represents 330 low-income tenants. "We want Corbett to know that these cuts affect the lives of real people who depend on child care, food stamps, public education and transportation."
The governor's proposal does not include a reduction in school district funding, but it does call for a reduction in funding to the state Department of Public Welfare, including eliminating cash assistance to about 66,000 residents. Those residents are needy individuals who rely on the nearly $185 in monthly benefits received through the state's cash assistance program, Gober said.
Further, while the governor said funding for education would remain the same, protesters argued that Corbett could do more to get big businesses to pay their fair share of taxes.
"According to the PA Budget and Policy Center
, the lack of a tax on Marcellus
shale drilling alone costs the state $300 million in lost revenue," said Jefferson Pepper
, an Occupy Harrisburg
protester. The center is a nonpartisan, statewide policy research project that analyzes tax, budget and related policy matters.
"Occupy Harrisburg will mourn the death of fairness as corporations don't pay their fair share at the expense of vital services to Pennsylvania citizens," said Pepper, who joined demonstrators, watching Corbett's address on two big screen television monitors set up in the Capitol rotunda.
The protesters began the day by lining up outside the Capitol Media Center, where Corbett’s Budget Secretary Charles Zogby addressed reporters about the proposed fiscal plan.
The protesters wore black shirts with anti-Corbett and "We are the 99 percent" slogans.
Capitol police said no disruptions were reported, and no arrests were made.
Before lawmakers gathered and throughout Corbett's address, which took place in the House chambers one floor above the protesters, the crowd booed and hissed as Corbett. One protester carried a large sign with the word "Boo," apparently to cue demonstrators when to speak.
The crowd also shouted "shame, shame, shame," when Corbett asked for a moment of silence for Joe Paterno
, the former Penn State University
football coach who died last month of cancer after he was fired by the university in November in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child-abuse scandal
Pittsburgh community activist Shanon Williams said she came to the Capitol not knowing what to expect from Corbett, but with little hope she'd hear what she wanted.
"Schools are failing, and there is no viable plan that we know of to help," Williams said. "It seems that all Corbett is doing is telling a story but not presenting concrete answers."
organizer Nate Kleinman
, who announced last week his plans to run for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 13th Congressional District, said he was hoping the governor would ask for a moratorium on Marcellus shale drilling and increase funding for public education.
"Corbett's budget, without those things, is a catastrophe for families across Pennsylvania," Kleinman said.