Today, Liberty is joining with 60 other organizations to bombard our legislators with calls, emails, and faxes, demanding that our State Senators and Representatives restore the cuts to the SSP.
Please find your legislators' contact information at www.libertyresources.org/takeaction and tell them that we oppose this continued $22 million cut, which affects 345,000 elderly, disabled, and blind Pennsylvanians.
IF YOU ARE CALLING IN, here are some answers:
What is the SSP? Where is it listed in the Governor’s budget?
The SSP is the State Supplementary Payment, which enhances the Supplemental Security Income given to very poor individuals by the Federal government. The SSP is given by the State. In the Governor's Budget Bill (HB 2297), the SSP is listed on page 102, lines 9-11, as "supplemental grants to the aged, blind and disabled."
Where can we get the money to restore these cuts?
We can place an Excise Tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco! This measure would recover almost twice the money necessary to restore the SSP cuts. We are the last state in the US not to adopt an excise tax on smokeless tobacco, and one of only two states that has no excise tax on cigars.
We can place a Severance Tax on natural gas extraction! PA could recover more than seven times the money needed to restore the SSP cuts, by enacting this tax. Many other states have enacted similar taxes, including our neighbor, West Virginia.
We can adopt Combined Reporting on corporate taxes! This move would recover almost three times the money needed to restore the SSP cuts. Right now, multi-state businesses can lawfully avoid paying Pennsylvania taxes by reporting their Pennsylvania profits in another state that has lower taxes. Combined Reporting would raise $67 million in the next fiscal year.
The amount we are giving this year is the same as last year's budget.
This would be the second year in a row that people on SSI would face this very serious cut. For many of these people, the cut came without any notice, in January 2010, when they saw that their SSI/SSP check was missing $5.30. This was a 19% decrease from the 2008-2009 fiscal year. After only a few months of the cut, people are having to decide which essential medicines they have to go without, which meal they have to skim down. I talked with someone who has to decide between buying bread or peanut butter for a sandwich for dinner.
Why should we restore these cuts?
Individuals living on SSI are among the most vulnerable citizens in Pennsylvania. They are either too disabled or too elderly to work. Their total SSI grants still keep them well below the poverty level, so every dollar counts. And this year, SSI grants did not receive a cost-of-living allowance. A reduction of $5.30 per month is a missed dinner meal, a medical co-pay that cannot be met, or the sacrifice of a paratransit ride to a grocery store or a child's school event. The people affected by this cut have already begun wondering how long they can hold on in the community.
IF YOU ARE EMAILING OR FAXING, here is an example of what you could write:
I am writing you to express my strong opposition to the cuts to the State Supplementary Payment. This $22 million cut is harmful and unfair to 345,000 of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens. These are very low income elderly, severely disabled, and blind people who are already living well below the poverty line, even with their SSI income and SSP grants. A continued cut of their SSP grant means another year of missed dinners, medical co-pays that cannot be met, or the sacrifice of a paratransit ride to the grocery store. This small savings of $22.9 million comes at the expense of 1 of every 47 people in Pennsylvania.
Rather than taking funding away from people who urgently need it, consider an Excise Tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco, a Severance Tax on natural gas extraction, or adopting Combined Reporting on corporate taxes. Any of these measures would more than double the amount needed to restore the SSP to its 2008-2009 levels. We cannot balance the budget on the backs of the poor. Fund PEOPLE First!
PLEASE consider joining us in this very important Advocacy Event.