Pa. Legislature passes $28 billion budget bill

June 30, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- It happened with only hours to spare Wednesday, but the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a budget before deadline for the first time in years.

Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat whose second and final term ends this year, said he would not sign the $28 billion spending plan until companion legislation was approved. The governor was awaiting a measure to authorize borrowing for capital projects as well as the fiscal code, which specifies how the money is to be spent.

The Pennsylvania Senate vote tally was 37-13, which sent the bill to the House for a Wednesday evening vote. The House voted for it 117-84.

None of the "yea" votes came from Franklin County legislators.

"By passing this budget today, it guarantees us a $3 billion deficit next year," said state Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin.

Revenues will be below expenses, but expiring stimulus money was used to plug that gap, Rock said.


The Franklin County lawmakers expressed concerns about $850 million being sought from Congress. That would be Pennsylvania's share of $24 billion in aid being requested by governors of recession-wracked states.

State Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland, called it "non-existent federal money."

"That means if the federal government doesn't approve the funding, Pennsylvania will have to come up with an additional $850 million by raising taxes or further cutting budget funding," Kauffman said in a news release.

Rock said he fears the $850 million would be taken from allocations to the state's 500 school districts, which received an additional $250 million in basic education funding in the budget.

As the final budget details were being hammered out, state Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Franklin/Adams/York, said basic education funding was one of the last sticking points. Overall, he said Republicans were pleased that Rendell's proposal for $1 billion in new taxes failed.

"That's a win for us. ... We talked him down to no tax increase, which is fabulous," he said.

Like Rock, Alloway said he worries about the effect for 2011-12.

"The decisions we made today are going to have an impact on next year's budget," Alloway said.

"Because we didn't make the cuts, we'll have to make them next year," Rock said.

Alloway said his "no" vote was tied to the $200 million increase in new spending over 2009-10. He said he wanted to build upon $400 million in cuts made last fiscal year and "start a real downward trend in spending," with additional cuts identified each year.

Kauffman said the budget contains no measures to offset $654 million in education-designated stimulus funding that will end next year.

"More stringent cuts needed to be made, and I could not in good conscience vote for a budget that spends more money than we have and does nothing to prepare us for the future," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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