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Franklin Co. legislators frustrated with budget process

July 01, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Franklin County legislators on Wednesday found themselves committed to be in the state's capital indefinitely as Pennsylvania entered its new fiscal year in the midst of a budget impasse.

Pennsylvania was one of more than a half-dozen states to enter its 2009-10 fiscal year without a budget. The legislature was supposed to pass its spending plan by Tuesday night.

State Sen. Richard Alloway, state Rep. Rob Kauffman and state Rep. Todd Rock, all Republicans from Franklin County, placed much of the blame with the Democrats and Gov. Ed Rendell.

"Seven years (under Rendell), seven missed budget deadlines, never before (that) in Pennsylvania history. That should tell people who the problem is," said Kauffman, whose district includes southern Cumberland County and northern Franklin County.

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"They wait until the last minute and turn everything into a crisis," said Rock, who represents southern Franklin County.

If the legislature doesn't pass a budget by July 16, many state workers will be without paychecks. Some services could be suspended, state officials said.

"We're all responsible for this. Ultimately, I recognize that," Alloway said, adding he remains frustrated, that the Pennsylvania Senate put forward its proposal more than 50 days ago. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has not put forth a budget.

The state is anticipating $27.5 billion in tax revenue and stimulus money.

Rendell, a Democrat, met with caucus leaders in his home several nights this week. They went through the budget line item by line item.

Alloway, who represents portions of Franklin, Adams and York counties, questioned why those meetings didn't happen months ago. He expressed dissatisfaction that negotiations are being done behind closed doors.

"The thing that's unacceptable to me and a lot of the members is how the process works. I wish it were a more open process," Rock said.

Alloway said Tuesday he booked a hotel room for the next 13 days. Kauffman was awaiting word whether he'd be in session on July 4 and miss his son's birthday again this year.

"We go in every day and wait to see what happens," Rock said.

All three said they don't know what will happen to Scotland School for Veterans' Children, which was identified as a cut in the governor's budget proposal. Students and staff at the boarding school north of Chambersburg left for the year not knowing whether the 114-year-old school has a future.

"They're not eliminated yet because we don't have a budget that does that," Kauffman said.

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