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Local lawmakers in dark on Pa. budget details

September 29, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

More than a week has passed since a Pennsylvania budget deal was announced, yet Franklin County's legislators say they remain in the dark about a lot of the details.

Among the unknowns is whether Scotland School for Veterans' Children will have its funding restored.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell proposed closing the boarding school in his February budget address. Lawmakers failed to meet their June 30 budget deadline and never reached an agreement for Scotland School, leaving the buildings' doors shuttered and the students enrolled at different schools across the state.

On Monday afternoon, state Sen. Richard Alloway's chief of staff, Sally Kohr, said Alloway hadn't received information about Scotland School's funding. Alloway is a Republican who serves Franklin and Adams counties and a small part of York County.

State Rep. Rob Kauffman said he, too, had heard "nothing at all."

House Republicans did not support the budget's handshake agreement announced on Sept. 18. Rendell, a Democrat, said he wants the bills that make up the annual spending plan on his desk on Sunday.

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"As I suspected, there was no deal on the details," said Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland.

Remaining sticking points included how to implement proposals to add table games such as blackjack and poker to the state's slots casinos, and a new tax on some small games of chance -- two sources of new revenue crucial to filling the state's recession-driven multibillion-dollar shortfall.

Kauffman said he agrees with speculation that some House Democrats are converting to "no" votes on the budget, as special-interest groups use the budget delay to become increasingly vocal.

Supporters of Scotland School for Veterans' Children traveled to the state capital often this summer. They donned red shirts and hats to make a visible statement for their cause.

The 114-year-old school north of Chambersburg operated with approximately 271 students, 40 teachers and 146 other employees when it closed at the end of the 2008-09 school year. Students in third through 12th grades were related to someone with military service.

Rendell said closing the school could save $13.5 million a year.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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