The LuLac Edition #1243, July 21st, 2010
PHOTO INDEX: "WRITE ON WEDNESDAY" LOGO.
20 MILLION WRONGS
The Pittsburgh Post Gazette recently published an editorial on the "found" money for the Specter-Murtha libraries. A really good piece: State should not fund Specter, Murtha libraries
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) Published: July 17, 2010
Gov. Ed Rendell got lost in the stacks when it came to funding for libraries this year. At a time when state dollars for libraries and literacy programs - along with many other vital services - are taking financial hits, the governor chose to jump-start plans for libraries that will house the personal papers of two of the state's longest-serving members of Congress. The governor authorized up to $10 million in funds from state economic development bonds for the Arlen Specter Library at Philadelphia University for archives from Specter's career, which included serving as the Philadelphia district attorney and five terms in the U.S. Senate. Rendell also designated up to $10 million for the planned John P. Murtha Center for Public Policy on the University of Pittsburgh's Johnstown campus for Murtha's papers and other records from his 36-year congressional career. Since his death Feb. 8, the Murtha Foundation has been raising money for a facility that will include classroom and meeting space. The next event, a reception hosted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and congressional leaders, is set for July 28 in the Washington, D.C., area. That's the proper way to generate money for these specialty libraries, similar to fundraising for presidential libraries.
Granted, the $20 million couldn't be used to solve the budgetary challenges facing public libraries and literacy programs. That's because these are capital funds to be used for economic development projects, and the dollars cannot simply be moved to the operating budget. However, these allocations are evidence of misplaced priorities. And while it's hard to imagine how much economic development can spring from either a Specter or Murtha collection, it is indisputable that every dollar spent teaching adult Pennsylvanians how to read, preparing them for education and employment, saves the state far more money in the long run in the cost of unemployment compensation, medical assistance and other social services.
Yet state funding for adult literacy programs, which serve 40,000 to 50,000 people each year statewide, has been cut from $21 million two years ago to $14.8 million in the current budget. Even that lower figure is not stable. Because Congress failed to approve higher levels of federal assistance to states, there is an $850 million hole in the state's budget that could mean significant further cuts across all programs. It's unseemly to spend state dollars to honor Specter and Murtha with all of that misery as a backdrop. The state should shelve its plan to fund these tribute libraries.