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Pa. budget passes with increases in spending

July 03, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, PA.

Gov. Ed Rendell has signed Pennsylvania's 2006-07 $26.1 billion budget that passed the legislature in the early hours Sunday with four area lawmakers voting against it.

"It increases spending so much that I don't know how we're going to pay for things next year," said state Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin/Adams.

The budget, with at least a 5.8 percent increase in spending, does not include a tax increase, although state Reps. Patrick E. Fleagle, R-Franklin, and Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland, cautioned it could lead to one.

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"The bottom line is that this year's budget spending could lead to next year's tax hike," Fleagle said in a news release. "Gov. Rendell is writing checks this year that the people of Pennsylvania may have to pay for next year."

"We're setting the stage for a necessary tax increase to cover the spending," Kauffman said.

Fleagle, Kauffman and Punt, along with state Rep. Stephen Maitland, R-Franklin/Adams, voted against the budget.

State Sen. Robert C. Jubelirer, R-Blair, voted for the budget, although he said he would have preferred to lessen the spending increase. The governor's version of the budget, presented in February, had "a lot of excess funding" that was later whittled down, he said.

That was done by not fully funding a few new programs, Kauffman explained.

Friday marked the end of the state's fiscal year.

"We're certainly not going to shut down state government in a partisan argument with the governor," Jubelirer said, mentioning New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine's shutdown of nonessential government services during a budget dispute.

In Pennsylvania, the Senate unexpectedly voted the budget down late Saturday, with most Democrats opposing it because Republicans refused to vote on a separate measure that would make revisions to the state's 2-year-old slot-machine gambling law. Democrats later relented and the Senate passed the budget bill 28-21, following earlier House approval, 130-68.

"The Democratic senators realized they made a mistake by doing that," Punt said.

Sen. Vincent J. Fumo of Philadelphia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, "admitted he tried to blackmail the legislature in bringing up the gambling legislation by holding the budget hostage," Punt said.

Punt expressed frustration that $50 million was taken from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and given to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Fleagle focused on his disappointment with drastic increases in the welfare budget, saying that under Rendell, welfare spending has increased by more than $2.6 billion.

"The governor sure has a sweet tooth for welfare spending," Fleagle said.

"Welfare is the largest pot in the budget. It's enormous and continues to grow. (Rendell has) generated more welfare recipients than new jobs," Kauffman said.

Basic-education subsidies for public schools increased by almost 6 percent in the new budget to $4.8 billion.

Fleagle said that increase provides more for urban school districts, while Jubelirer and Kauffman didn't share those concerns.

"All my schools were in pretty good shape in Fulton, Bedford, Huntingdon and Blair counties," Jubelirer said.

"My schools actually made out fairly well," Kauffman said, saying he was happy that the legislators chose to focus on growing school districts.

While some lawmakers were critical of the size of the spending increase, Rendell contended that the boost is lower than many budgets approved in other states. The budget "is a full percentage point lower than the average increase in the 41 budgets that have been approved by legislatures and signed by governors around the United States of America," Rendell said.




How they voted



House

Votes Saturday as the House, on a 130-68 vote, passed a $26.1 billion state budget bill. Voting "yes" were 39 Republicans and 91 Democrats. Voting "no" were 68 Republicans and no Democrats. Here is how local House members voted:

Patrick E. Fleagle (R-Franklin), N

Dick Hess (R-Bedford), N

Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin/Cumberland), N

Mark Keller (R-Perry/Franklin), N

Stephen Maitland (R-Adams/Franklin), N

Senate

Votes early Sunday as the Senate, on a 28-21 vote, passed a $26.1 billion state budget bill. Voting "yes" were eight Republicans and 20 Democrats. Voting "no" were 21 Republicans and no Democrats. Here is how local Senators voted:

Robert Jubelirer (R-Blair/Fulton), Y

Terry Punt (R-Franklin/Adams), N

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