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Stopgap funding bill considered in Pa.

Measure would resume pay for state employees

Measure would resume pay for state employees

July 28, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

HARRISBURG, PA. -- Pennsylvania legislators and Gov. Ed Rendell are considering a stopgap funding bill to resume pay for nearly 80,000 state employees affected by a monthlong budget impasse.

State Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Franklin/Adams/York, said he has heard House Democrats have a strategy in which they'll bring up Senate Bill 850, a $27.3 billion spending plan that senators passed in May. It was voted down by the House and later resurrected by the House Appropriations Committee.

Rendell could "blue line," or reject, parts of the budget he doesn't like if Senate Bill 850 passes, Alloway said.

Alloway speculated the timing coincides with pressure from Washington, D.C., and allegations the state is violating federal law by not paying workers.

"Rendell knows he could pay those workers and should pay those workers," Alloway said.

"It's happening now because the governor sees his poll numbers tanking. ... He's thinking, 'I don't want this to be my legacy,'" state Rep. Rob Kauffman said.

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Hundreds of state employees rallied Tuesday with cowbells, signs and slogans, shouting "Do your job!" at the Capitol, The Associated Press reported.

Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland, sounded exasperated in a phone call when talking about the stopgap proposal.

"It's something a lot of us felt should have happened before the budget ran out" on June 30, he said.

Kauffman shared concerns that passing Senate Bill 850, which has been criticized for its education funding levels, would give Rendell too much power in determining the 2009-10 spending priorities.

"It kind of puts the governor in the driver's seat when you do things that way," he said.

If a stopgap measure passed, legislative leaders would argue over provisions, especially education, in coming months, Alloway said.

In 2003, Rendell's first year in office, debate about education funding continued through late December, Kauffman said.

Franklin County school officials have told The Herald-Mail they could encounter difficulties paying bills if the funding isn't established by their second semester.

State Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin, said he and other House members remain on "six-hour call," referring to the amount of notice they had been given before being called onto the House floor.

Rock had a lot of questions about any potential stopgap discussion that some say could happen Wednesday or Thursday.

"I made some calls to Harrisburg and haven't gotten any solid information," Rock said.

Alloway said the Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on extending unemployment compensation benefits as proposed by President Obama.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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