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Franklin, Fulton lawmakers await details of Pa. budget deal

July 01, 2008|By DON AINES

The $28.2 billion 2008-09 budget deal worked out Monday morning by Gov. Ed Rendell and members of the Republican and Democratic House and Senate caucuses will increase spending 3.8 percent this year, while holding the line on taxes, state Sen. Terry Punt said.

The devil might be in the details, many of which have yet to be spelled out, said state Rep. Rob Kauffman.

"We just got a briefing on the agreement ... It sounds like a fairly reasonable framework," Punt said Monday afternoon. The governor had proposed raising spending by 4.2 percent, but all parties agreed to the lower figure, he said.

"When you look at the initial numbers, it doesn't look too bad," said Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland. The projected spending increase lines up with inflation of 3.7 percent in 2007-08, but revenue projections for the fiscal year that started today seem optimistic, he said.

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Revenue growth was projected at 3 percent for 2007-08, but the actual growth was 1.7 percent, Kauffman said. Punt agreed that revenues underperformed last year.

"Our revenue surplus is down from what we anticipated," Punt said. When the 2007-08 budget was passed, a surplus of $427 million was projected for the end of the year, but the figure is down to about $159 million, he said.

State Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin, said he was waiting to find out how Franklin County would be affected by the spending plan. The appropriations committee had not released details, he said.

"The budget has to be voted on three different times. They want to have it done by Thursday," said Rock, who anticipates the impact for Franklin County will be neutral.

"Most people are happy," Rock said. "This budget will pass easily."

Rock and Kauffman both expressed concerns about the amount of borrowing in the budget. Kauffman put the figure at $2 billion, some of which would be spaced out over four years rather than borrowed all at once.

"That's another way you keep the growth of spending artificially low, by borrowing," Kauffman said.

"The only way that can get paid back is through the taxpayers," said Rock, who anticipates a significant number of "no" votes when it comes to borrowing.

Kauffman said he also wants to see how much "off-line" spending is being proposed, where projects and programs are paid for by moving them into dedicated funding streams outside the general fund.

The increase in the state's basic education subsidy will be a minimum of 3 percent, up from 1.5 percent proposed by the Rendell administration, Punt said.

"That's going to mean good things for school districts throughout my Senate district," said Punt, R-Franklin/Adams/York.

Other facets of the budget include an agreement on a $400 million water and sewer bond issue; $350 million for bridges paid for through the Motor License Fund; and an $800 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Fund spread out over four years, Punt said.

Punt said he has several local projects he wants to get funded in his final months before retirement. Among them are $2.4 million for a North Welty Road bridge in Washington Township; $2 million for Wilson College's science center expansion; $1.6 million for the Antrim Township Water Authority expansion project; and $500,000 for downtown revitalization in Waynesboro.

Staff writer Jennifer Fitch contributed to this story.

Details of Pennsylvania budget deal



Details of the budget deal struck early Monday between Gov. Ed Rendell and state legislative leaders:

BUDGET

· $28.2 billion for fiscal year 2008-09 beginning Tuesday

· 3.8 percent increase over past year's spending

· Does not require any broad-based tax or fee increases

· Uses about $550 million in one-time funds to fill hole in revenues

· Does not dip into state's budget reserve to support spending

· Agreement before fiscal year's end averts threatened furloughs of 25,000 state workers

BORROWING

· $800 million from slot-machine gambling revenues for dams and water and sewer facilities

· $500 million from electric utility gross receipts tax revenue for alternative energy projects

· $800 million from general tax revenues for civic redevelopment projects

· $350 million from motorist fees and taxes to fix about 400 of the state's most dangerous bridges

ADDITIONAL LEGISLATION

· Requirement that alternative fuels be added to each gallon of diesel or gas as in-state production rises.

- The Associated Press

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