Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Senate Passes On-Time, No-Tax $27.1 Billion General Fund Budget, House Next Stop

The Senate tonight voted along party lines to approve the General Fund budget bill-- House Bill 1485 (Adolph-R-Delaware)-- which contains $27.1 billion in spending and a 4.1 percent reduction from the FY 2010-11 General Fund budget. The bill now returns to the House for a concurrence vote.

A summary of the environmental provisions in the budget is available on this Blog.

At the same time, House Republicans amended and moved a Fiscal Code bill to implement the Republican budget agreement-- Senate Bill 907 (Browne-R-Lehigh). The bill include language related to taking over the City of Harrisburg's financial problems. The Senate did end up passing Senate Bill 1151 (Piccola-R-Dauphin) on taking over Harrisburg after it was delayed by extensive Senate debate. The Fiscal Code bill was then referred back to the House Appropriations Committee for more work.

The House Republicans also recovered from yesterday's votes on the non-preferred appropriations bills for Pitt, Penn State, Temple, Lincoln and the University of Pennsylvania by passing House Bills 1727, 1728, 1729, 1730 and 1731 by the necessary two-thirds votes.

The Senate then moved the non-preferred House bills through Senate Appropriations and onto the Senate Floor in record time. At the same time, the Senate passed their own companion non-preferred funding bills-- Senate Bills 1122, 1123, 1124, 1125, and 1126-- this time unanimously and sent them to the House. Clearly there is more work to do on whose bills will go to the Governor's desk.

The Senate adopted an omnibus Education Code amendment to House Bill 1352 (Stephens-R-Montgomery), which is to be the vehicle for a variety of education program changes, and passed the bill and returned it to the House for a concurrence vote. The bill originally provided for additional background checks of prospective school employees.

The Senate Education Committee is due to consider House Bill 1330 (Quigley-R-Montgomery) providing an increase in the Education Improvement Tax Credit Program tomorrow.

On Welfare Code issues, the Senate passed House Bill 960 (Gringrich-R-Lebanon) which provides for verifying income eligibility for welfare programs and for inmate medical costs. The bill is on the Senate Calendar for action.

On gaming issues, the Senate today returned Senate Bill 1062 (Corman-R-Centre) to the House containing the Gaming Board appropriations for a concurrence vote, but without the transfer of the Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement to the Attorney General added by the House.

Marcellus Shale Fee

On the Marcellus Shale drilling impact fee issue, efforts in the House by both Republican and Democratic members, including Rep. David Reed (R-Indiana), the Chair of the Republican Policy Committee, fell apart to consider impact fee amendments after Gov. Corbett specifically threatened to veto any impact fee bill sent to his desk before the Governor's Marcellus Shale Commission submits its report at the end of July.

General Fund Budget

The entire budget was negotiated by Senate and House Republicans and the Corbett Administration without input from the Democratic minorities in each chamber, a point speakers in the Senate made over and over, and over, again.

Senate and House Republicans touted the fact the budget contains no new taxes and matches expenditures and state revenues.

"This bill represents a fiscally responsible, sustainable budget with no tax increases," said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi's (R-Delaware). "This is a transitional year for state government. Over the past 3 years Pennsylvania has received $7 billion in budget assistance from the federal government. Those days are over. This year marks a return to a state budget paid for with state revenue. It is difficult and necessary to reset state spending to reflect that new reality."

"We are very pleased to be voting today on a general budget bill that meets the Governor's parameters," said Sen. Joseph Scarnati (R-Jefferson), President Pro Tempore. "It spends less than last year, it spends without our revenues. The bill has no tax increases. There are no WAMs (legislative walking around money). And it has a significant tax decrease for job creators. And this budget will be on time, the first time in 8 years on time and signed by the Governor."

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