Group files lawsuit over Corbett's proposed budget cuts

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

They've rallied and protested and complained about Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed cuts to welfare programs, and now advocates for people with intellectual disabilities are taking the state to court.

In a lawsuit filed in Commonwealth Court, the Disability Rights Network claims Pennsylvania is breaking a 1966 law that requires adequate services for those with mental health issues.

"These services are a core responsibility of government and what Governor Corbett has chosen to do is fund different priorities," said the group's legal director, Mark Murphy. "He's decided that he can cut 20 percent to people who have no other options, who have no other ability to get services."

A Department of Public Welfare spokeswoman issued a statement calling the lawsuit frivolous since the governor's budget is a proposal and not yet final, but to Murphy's group the issue is hardly frivolous.

"As soon as the governor submitted his budget to the Legislature asking for insufficient amount of funds, that was a violation of the law we contend," he said.

Also a violation, in their mind, is the governor's proposal to send one pot of money to counties, with the twenty percent cut, and no mandated mental health line item.

In an interview Tuesday with abc27 News, Corbett wasn't specifically asked about the lawsuit, but did speak about welfare cuts.

"You have folks in wheelchairs saying 'you care more about the corporate folks and giving tax cuts and tax breaks.' Wrong. The bottom line is I care for the people of Pennsylvania," Corbett said. "I'm trying to control the spending, trying to grow the economy."

Murphy's group disagrees. They say growing the economy by shrinking the budget for mental health issues is illegal - and a bad idea.

"When he says he doesn't have the money, he's really not going to have the money when all of a sudden people who are getting services for a dollar lose that service and come back and say now I need a three dollar service," Murphy said. "That's exactly what's going to happen if he cuts these community-based services."

Corey Rogers