Pa. Democrats take issues into own hands, hold separate budget hearings

This Week in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Budget hearings continue in Harrisburg under the control of legislative Republicans. Many Democrats are frustrated over this, especially ones who’ve decided to hold their own hearings on topics they think are far more important.

State Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler (D-Philadelphia) is among a group of House and Senate progressive Democrats holding their own budget hearings. In contrast, they say, to the Harrisburg way of crunching dollars and cents being closed doors.

“Not in a place where the public …the people of Pennsyvlania who pay taxes with tax dollars we are spending can look at it and give thoughts and opinions on how we should spend their money,” Rep. Fiedler said.

Their first hearing was on the environment. Testifiers spoke of green energy jobs and spoiled land, water and air at the hand of fossil fuels and weak government oversight.

“The experience you had at the hand of corporations and the mishandling at the head of government are both immoral and reprehensible,” Bishop Dwayne Royster of Power Interfaith said. “We must do better.”

Others fear budget cuts will reduce further regulatory agencies.

“Whether operations go unregulated and unenforced because of underfunding, the health and safety of our community are threatened,” said Heaven Sensky, of the Center for Coalfield Justice in Washington, Pa.

Rep. Fiedler says Pennsylvanians deserve more.

“Everyone deserves to have their voices heard and the way things are in Harrisburg, that’s not the case,” Fiedler said.

Even for state reps. At a recent budget hearing, Fiedler tried to ask a question about the U.S. Capitol insurrection. She was shut down by the Republican chair.

The reality is House and Senate Republicans control the agenda, the votes and the microphones.

But not in the people’s budget hearings.

“I had control over my own mute button,” Fiedler said.

The people’s budget hearings continue on Monday with a focus on education.

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