Meadville Tribune

State News

June 30, 2014

Pennsylvania House approves Republicans' $29.1B budget

HARRISBURG — The Legislature voted late Monday to put a looming, $1.5 billion shortfall in its rearview mirror, with a deal to pass a $29.1 billion budget that increases state spending by 1.8 percent but doesn’t hike taxes.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett issued a statement after the House vote, saying he does not intend to immediately sign the bill, while he still pushes for a pension reform vote.

“The budget I received tonight makes significant investments in our common priorities of education, jobs and human services. It does not address all the difficult choices that still need to be made," Corbett said in a statement released just before 11 p.m. Monday.

“I will continue to work with the legislature toward meaningful pension reform. I am withholding signing the budget passed by the General Assembly while I deliberate its impact on the people of Pennsylvania,” Corbett said in the statement.

The governor's resistance came after a fiercely debated bill passed both chambers without any Democratic support.

Division remains over how that $1.5 billion gap is reconciled. Republicans say the spending plan shows how government can live within its means, while Democrats say it leans heavily on gimmicks and shortchanges schools.

Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer County, dismissed the package as a “smoke and mirrors budget crafted out of paper clips.”

He said the budget’s over-optimistic assumptions suggest the state faces a dire financial crisis by the end of the year.

Republicans, who control both houses of the General Assembly, defended the plan as the best option available.

“Considering how bad our economic circumstances are, it’s a pretty good budget,” said Republican Rep. Brad Roae of Crawford County.

The Senate voted Monday afternoon to pass the spending plan, followed by a House vote later in the evening, just as the final minutes of the fiscal year were ticking away.

The 108-95 vote in the House and the 26-24 Senate tally followed sharply partisan debates in both chambers that echoed the state’s gubernatorial campaign.

The budget closes a gap that was created as 2013-14 tax revenue repeatedly missed projections. At one time the shortfall was estimated to be as much as $1.5 billion.

The budget includes one-time shifts of $100 million from each of two business loan funds to the school employees’ pension fund. It also transfers $225 million from two investment reserves into the pension fund.

To balance the books, Republicans also boosted how much the state expects to receive in tax collections in the coming year. The budget increases revenue by $224 million.

The budget also indicates the government will collect $95 million more for allowing gas companies to expand their activities in state forests — which is $20 million more than Gov. Tom Corbett said he expected when he unveiled the idea in February.

Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria County, called the timing of the budget maneuvers suspicious considering Corbett, all of the state House and one-third of the Senate are up for re-election. Wozniak said this isn’t a “live within your means” budget but a “spend-and-pretend” one.

The budget has two charms, Wozniak said. One, it means incumbents don’t have to vote for a tax increase before the fall election. And, with polls showing Corbett lagging his Democratic challenger, Tom Wolf, the spending plan could be designed to saddle a new governor with a crisis when he comes into office.

“That’s my opinion,” Wozniak said.

As Democrats lambasted Republicans for shifting money from loan funds, Republicans defended the strategy as the same one employed by any homeowner or merchant trying to balance a checkbook.

“If you’re running a small business and you have funds not being used, before you go to your customers, or the taxpayers, you would spend the money you have on hand,” said Rep. Dick Stevenson, R-Mercer County.

Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-Northumberland County, said the alternative is raising taxes.

“I don’t think the folks back home can afford that,” she said.

Longietti said that while the new budget provides more than last year, when it comes to classroom funding, schools are still getting less than they did in the pre-federal stimulus year of 2008.

Rep. Fred Keller, R-Union County, said the objections raised by Democrats amount to little more than “grandstanding.”

Republican Rep. Greg Lucas of Crawford County said he’d love to vote for a budget that spends more money on schools, social services and job creation.

“It’s the only budget we got,” he said. “Without raising taxes or making an excise tax on Marcellus gas drilling, we’re where we’re at.”

John Finnerty reports from the CNHI Harrisburg Bureau for The Meadville Tribune and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. Email him at jfinnerty@cnhi.com and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.

The following is information on increased state spending by area school district in the 2014-15 budget along with the percentage increase of the change.

Conneaut

Increase: $396,007, 2.4 percent

Crawford Central

Increase: $875,055, 3.8 percent

PENNCREST

Increase: $801,578, 3 percent

General McLane

Increase: $509,319, 3.5 percent

Union City

Increase: $309,387, 2.6 percent

Commodore Perry

Increase: $158,711, 3 percent

Jamestown

Increase: $126,224, 2.9 percent

Lakeview

Increase: $292,400, 3.2 percent

Titusville

Increase: $489,667, 2.8 percent

Source: House Appropriations Committee

1
Text Only
State News
  • Well inspectors trying to keep up during boom time

    The state’s 83 well inspectors face a daunting enough challenge keeping tabs on 120,000 active oil and gas wells that have been drilled over the last century.

    July 27, 2014

  • PennDOT seeking outside help to make bridge repairs

    State officials are poised to sign a massive deal that will enlist outside help to rebuild and maintain up to 600 bridges, marking the Corbett administration’s latest foray into privatizing key government functions.

    July 24, 2014

  • Gov. Corbett pressures lawmakers in pension fight

    Gov. Tom Corbett is ratcheting up pressure on the Legislature to reform the state’s pension system by focusing on how often school districts use tax increases to offset costs.

    July 22, 2014

  • Experts: Expanding coverage fuels doc shortage

    Pennsylvania’s health care system absorbed more than 300,000 new patients who signed up for insurance through Obamacare’s exchanges. But experts worry the system can’t handle another wave of patients, twice as large, should the state expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

    July 13, 2014

  • Jerry Sandusky’s son tells story to Oprah Winfrey

    Jerry Sandusky’s adult son is speaking out about what he says was sexual abuse by his father.

    July 8, 2014

  • Environmentalists criticize drilling-for-dollars plan in state forests and parks

    Pennsylvania’s just finished budget calls for raising almost $100 million by expanding leases for gas development in state forests — even though leases the state has already issued are far from tapped out.

    July 3, 2014

  • Pennsylvania House approves Republicans' $29.1B budget

    The Legislature voted late Monday to put a looming, $1.5 billion shortfall in its rearview mirror, with a deal to pass a $29.1 billion budget that increases state spending by 1.8 percent but doesn’t hike taxes.

    June 30, 2014

  • Food safety delivery concerns rise with fuel prices

    A few weeks ago state agriculture inspectors forced a trucker to toss 2,000 pounds of food in the garbage after finding the cargo had not been kept at safe temperatures.

    June 15, 2014

  • Tow truckers hope to put brakes on dispatch system

    Some tow truck operators are boycotting a computerized dispatch system put in place by state police, complaining that it’s confusing and leads to longer response times than when troopers and dispatchers manage a call.

    June 1, 2014

  • 'Economics' of state gubernatorial campaigns

    Gov. Tom Corbett’s re-election campaign hailed April’s jobs numbers. Pennsylvania’s unemployment dipped to 5.7 percent — its lowest since 2008 and well below the national average of 6.3 percent.
    “The people of Pennsylvania elected me to Harrisburg on my promise of less taxes and more jobs, and we continue to see that promise ringing tr

    May 25, 2014

Business Marquee
AP Video
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Amphibious Landing Practice in Hawaii Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks