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Amid budget stalemate, education, human services funding shrink, Hughes says

State Sen. Vincent Hughes, (D-Phila.), makes a point in the rules committee ahead of floor debate at the Capitol in Harrisburg. — AP Photo/Chris Knigh

State funding for key human services and public education continues to shrink amid partisan politics in Harrisburg, State Sen. Vincent Hughes told the Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC) leadership Thursday.

Many of those programs are administered by the coalition, led by President Sharmain Matlock Turner, who thanked the Democratic Senate Appropriations chairman for staying responsive to the needs of the community.

Hughes appeared at the Wells Fargo bank administrative building in Center City for a Thursday morning meeting with UAC partners before heading back to Harrisburg.

He offered no hint on when the three-month budget stalemate would end, saying longstanding issues have stalled the first state budget drafted since Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf took office in January.

The impasse in Harrisburg has affected many programs, from summer employment, human services, public education funding, and community development, Hughes said. The senator said there’s strong disagreement among both parties in Harrisburg about taxing natural gas reservoirs and property tax reduction for homeowners.

Each year, the UAC steers more than 1,000 students to summer jobs.

Hughes supported traditional Democratic party themes while blaming Republicans in the GOP-controlled houses in Harrisburg for funding shortfalls. He also criticized the Republican-run state government for failing to fully fund programs. He also called attention to wide gaps in spending on public education in city schools and its peers in the suburbs.

“We don’t have the same financial resources in the city even in the newer high schools,” said Hughes, whose legislative district encompasses Philadelphia and parts of Montgomery County.

Following the session, Matlock Turner said UAC’s mission is aimed at encouraging eligible voters to register and cast a vote because each vote ultimately decides who wins office and votes major pieces of legislation into new law, from voter identification requirements to state Supreme Court nominees.

Early registration for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, held annually on the civil rights icon’s birthday, was also announced, signaling community groups and volunteers to start planning and organizing for the event.

David Thornburgh, president and CEO of the Committee of 70, a political watchdog group, also talked about how data on voter behavior has become more sophisticated since 2008. Thornburgh said consumer behavior studies and other data are used in election campaign strategists to target specific types of voters, those most likely to vote for the candidates whom they endorse into office.

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