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Bill would set deadlines, penalties in budget process

August 04, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Paa. -- As Pennsylvania enters its sixth week without a budget, state Sen. Richard Alloway is preparing to co-sponsor legislation that would establish more deadlines and penalties for passing a spending plan.

The proposal would create deadlines for revenue to be reported to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. It also would establish deadlines for each chamber to pass a balanced budget.

Penalties, including forfeiture of pay, are included in the legislation penned by state Sen. Mike Brubaker, R-Lancaster. Both the legislative and executive branches would be affected.

"The monthlong budget impasse has demonstrated the flaws in the current system," Alloway said.

The legislation has not yet been introduced.

Alloway, R-Franklin/Adams/York, said he's often asked what penalty exists for missing the June 30 deadline.

"There is none. The only penalty is voters will be upset," he said.

Legislators have been missing paychecks along with state workers, who could get back pay within a week thanks to decisions made Tuesday.

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State Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin, said he supports the concepts in the bill being drafted by Brubaker. A similar proposal exists in the House.

However, Rock does have some concerns.

"We need to make sure we don't empower the governor," he said, saying any future governor could use the deadlines to manipulate legislators.

House and Senate leaders should face penalties because they do the negotiating, not the rank-and-file members, Rock said.

State Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland, said similar ideas have been discussed in the capital for several years. They are easy to support, but they won't come to fruition, he said.

"The same people who control budget talks are the people who control what legislation comes to the floor," Kauffman said.

The rank-and-file members suffer "sheer maddening frustration" when their hands are tied concerning the budget, according to Kauffman. That's especially evident for Kauffman and Rock in the Democrat-controlled House.

"We are as frustrated, and honestly we're more frustrated, than the average person. We're there and we see what's wrong," he said. "This is a democratic process. We individually cannot move this along."

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