Pa. lawmakers prepare for tough budget message from governor

January 30, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Top from left: Pa. Gov. Tom Corbett and Sen. Richard Alloway. Bottom from left: Rep. Rob Kauffman and Rep. Todd Rock.
Top from left: Pa. Gov. Tom Corbett and Sen. Richard Alloway. Bottom from left: Rep. Rob Kauffman and Rep. Todd Rock.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Franklin County, Pa., lawmakers expect grim news when Gov. Tom Corbett delivers his annual budget address Feb. 7.

Poor tax collections are resulting in an unexpected budgetary shortfall that some estimates place at $1.5 billion, according to state Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Franklin/Adams/York.

“We have an idea it’s not going to be good. We have our work cut out for us,” Alloway said.

Some legislative leaders are pushing for public education to be funded at the same levels as 2011-12, state Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin, said.

“If you level-fund education, other areas are going to take major cuts,” he said.

Before the launch of budget negotiations, the legislature is going to attempt to establish impact fees for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region.

Marcellus Shale is the No. 1 issue in the state capital right now, according to state Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland.

Rock said the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is considering a bill that would collect $160,000 over 10 years for each well drilled. He said the Pennsylvania Senate’s version is similar, but calls for collections of $360,000.

“We’re working now to find the middle ground,” he said.

The proposals include significant environmental protections and safeguard drinking water, Alloway said.

“Ensuring the drilling industry can operate safely without threatening the safety of our communities should be our highest priority,” he wrote in a statement.

Rock expressed concerns about redistricting issues hijacking the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s agenda in coming days and weeks. On Jan. 25, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out revised legislative boundaries.

Redistricting maps must be finalized as soon as possible because they affect elections, Rock said.

Kauffman said the court, which initially released only limited information, made a decision that affects equal representation as well as one vote per person.

“That was really a burdensome, disruptive decision to the electoral process and commonwealth. ... To run in 2011 district lines in 2012, many of us feel that is unconstitutional,” he said

Alloway said he does not think redistricting challenges will affect the legislature as a whole, but rather the commission focusing on that issue.

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