Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Senate Returns General Fund Budget Bill To House With 2.5% Higher Ed Increase

The Senate Republicans and Democrats Wednesday amended and passed the House FY 2016-17 General Fund budget bill-- Senate Bill 1073 (Browne-R-Lehigh) by a vote of 47 to 3.  The bill now returns to the House for a concurrence vote.
The Senate increased higher education line items by 2.5 percent generally and funding for Community Colleges to $232,111,000 from the $226,450,000 the House had in its version of the budget.
It appears the budget numbers for DEP and DCNR are about the same as the House.  The Senate did increase the Heritage Parks Program line-item to $2.8 million from the $2.25 million the House approved.
Overall, the Senate decreased the overall spending in the bill slightly.  It now totals $31.52 billion, rather than $31.55 billion.
Click Here for a spreadsheet from Senate Republicans showing differences between FY 2015-16 and FY 2016-17 Senate-passed budget.
It is not clear whether the changes are agreed-to by the House or Gov. Wof.
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson): "Today, the Senate has passed a bi-partisan budget, which takes the next step in completing an on-time and balanced 2016-17 budget by the June 30th deadline. Senate Bill 1073 makes substantial investments in education and vital state services – helping to strengthen our Commonwealth." Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre): "Day after day, I heard from people in my communities that they could not endure another budget impasse but at the same time could not withstand a massive tax increase. Today, we showed that we were listening by approving a spending plan that funds the priorities of state government, including continuing to provide significant money toward all levels of education, without asking for a broad-based tax increase." Senate Appropriations Majority Chair Pat Browne (R-Lehigh): "In recognizing the financial struggles the Commonwealth continues to face, this budget provides a fiscally responsible and modest increase in spending for vital state programs and services, while protecting hard working families and job creators from onerous tax increases and burdens. This budget also recognizes the need to invest in our children and their futures by increasing funding for basic education, early intervention programs, special education and higher education."
Gov. Wolf issued this statement on the Senate action, “I would like to thank Senators Scarnati, Corman and Costa, as well as their colleagues for their leadership in passing a budget that invests more money in early childhood, K through 12 and higher education, and also provides vital resources in combatting the heroin crisis. As the budget moves through the process, I look forward to continuing to engage with the legislature to discuss a sustainable revenue package.”
There is not yet agreement on any revenue package to support this budget.
House Sources Of New Revenues
The House proposed four sources of revenue to fund its budget proposal: 1) $267 million for expanded gaming in House Bill 2150 (Dunbar-R-Westmoreland) authorizing 6 new types of gaming, including iGaming, slots at airports and off-track betting parlors, now in the Senate Community, Economic and Recreation Development Committee [there are potentially several other legislative vehicles in the Senate]; 2) $129 million for tax amnesty in House Bill 1888 (Quinn-R- Montgomery), now on the Senate Calendar for action; 3) $480 million increase in tobacco taxes, including new taxes on chewing, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products (the cigar exemption remains), which the House has not acted on yet; and 4) $150 million in revenue from the liquor reforms already signed into law.
A copy of the Senate Bill 1073 amendment is available online.

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