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Local reps say Pa. budget has too much spending

July 11, 2007|By DON AINES

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The budget impasse that sent about 25,000 Pennsylvania government employees on a one-day furlough is over with an apparent framework for a 2007-08 state budget, but it might be several more days before an actual vote is taken on the $27.5 billion spending package.

"Basically, it follows along the lines of what we told the governor all along," said state Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin/Adams/York. "A budget with no new taxes, spending in line with inflation, and no smoke and mirrors."

"All of these things have been agreed to by the governor as of 10 p.m. last night," Punt said Tuesday.

Monday's furlough idled thousands of state employees, closing state parks and driver's license centers and cutting many departments to skeleton staffs. Only a dozen of the 90 maintenance workers employed by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in Franklin County were on the job Monday.

"It was an unnecessary stunt," state Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin, said, referring to Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell's move.

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Rendell called for the furlough to pressure the General Assembly, but the decision backfired and was just embarrassing for the governor, Rock said.

"We're looking at ways to pay the state employees for the day off because it was no fault of their own," he said.

"The governor had insisted on his energy proposals being included in the budget," Punt said. "Some of the ideas have merit. Some may not. We will have hearings on them over the summer and bring the energy initiative up for a vote in the fall."

Punt said the energy initiative will be the subject of a special session in the fall.

"We understand there is some kind of a framework for a budget agreement, but there's a lot of things to be hammered out," said state Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland. While the agreement calls for no tax increases and "much of the borrowing has gone away," Kauffman said he is concerned about spending.

The budget deal could increase state spending by about 4.5 percent, "a significant increase over what we tried to pass at the end of June," said Kauffman. That proposed budget would have increased spending about 2.7 percent, he said.

"It's going to work out, but not to my liking," Rock said. "I wanted a budget somewhere in the neighborhood of the rate of inflation, which is 2.2 to 2.5 percent."

"We're looking at the sketchy details. I understand they're going to be crunching numbers tomorrow," Kauffman said Tuesday, adding that House Republican leaders were not present when the agreement was reached between representatives of the Senate, House Democrats and the governor.

"I anticipate voting no," Kauffman said of the budget. Although the state has a $700 million surplus, he said the proposed spending is still too high for him to support.

Rock said, "$1.1 billion worth of additional state funding is too much for me."

The House will be in session over the weekend, and a vote might not come until Sunday or Monday, Kauffman said.

Staff writer Jennifer Fitch contributed to this story.

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