Monday, June 27, 2016

Bipartisan Budget Faces Tuesday Vote In House, No Agreement With Senate, Wolf, Conservative Republicans

House Republicans and Democrats on the Appropriations Committee Monday evening voted 36 to 1 to report out Senate Bill 1073 (Browne-R-Lehigh), the FY 2015-16 General Fund budget bill, after amending it to include their FY 2016-17 General Fund budget proposal totaling $31.55 billion.
The House budget proposal has not been agreed to by Gov. Wolf or Senate Republicans.  Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), leader of a conservative bloc of Republicans said he opposed the budget because the “spend number is way too high.”
Jeffrey Sheridan, Gov. Wolf’s spokesperson, said in reaction to the House Appropriations Committee action, “As Gov. Wolf has said, he is focused on a final budget that is balanced with sustainable revenue, invests in education, and provides funding to combat the heroin crisis. The governor looks forward to continuing to work with the legislature, and as the budget moves through the process, he is hopeful all sides can reach an agreement that achieves these goals.”
Rep. Bill Adolph (R-Delaware), Majority Chair of the Committee, said the bill includes a $200 million increase in basic education funding, $20 million in pre-K funding, $5 million for Headstart, $20 million special education and a $345 million increase in pension payments for school employees, the first time in 15 years the state is meeting its obligations.
Community College funding remains the same as in FY 2015-16, as does higher education generally.
Rep. Adolph said the proposal addresses some environmental funding issues, including restoring Growing Greener Program funding and using about $44 million in General Fund monies to support DCNR’s General Government, State Park and Forest Operations rather than Oil and Gas Lease Fund revenues.
The proposal includes $2.25 million for the Heritage Parks Program.
The Department of Environmental Protection receives a 3.6 percent increase, which represents little more than a cost-to-carry budget.  The only line item to get a real increase in DEP’s budget was for a new combined West Nile Virus and Zika Virus Program line which received $1.4 million more.
Rep. Joseph Markosek (D-Allegheny), Minority Chair of the Committee, said the proposal does not entirely eliminate one-time revenue measures, but they are at an historic low.
He also noted, the $31.5 billion would eliminate the threat of state employee layoffs.
The proposal is to be funded, based on what we know now, by a $480 million increase in tobacco taxes, including new taxes on chewing, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products (the cigar exemption remains); $317 million in expanded gaming, including $267 million from iGaming, slots at airports and off-track betting parlors, $50 million from the second casino in Philadelphia; about $150 million from liquor reforms already signed into law; and $129 million from a new tax amnesty program
A natural gas gross receipts tax is not included in the proposed budget.
Click Here for a copy of the line-item budget spreadsheet for the FY 2016-17 budget amendment.
Advocates Concerned About Lawmaker’s Budget Priorities

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