Friday, May 29, 2015

Countdown Begins To June 30 Deadline For New State Budget

With the June 30 deadline to have a new state budget, the House next week will begin the process of considering amendments to House Bill 1192 (Adolph-R-Delaware), the House GOP version of a very basic General Fund budget.
The bill, as it is now written, includes $2.75 million for Heritage Parks, for example.
So far, only 12 amendments have been posted for consideration, but that list is expected to grow.
There are at least three other priority bills Senate and House Republicans want considered in June, although there is no agree-to language between them on any of the proposals--
-- Pension Reform: Senate Bill 1 (Corman-R-Centre), the Senate Republican version of pension reform, is now in the House State Government Committee which has scheduled a June 2 hearing on the bill.  With no agreement with House Republicans and significant opposition from House Democrats and Gov. Wolf, it will be heavily debated and probably amended by the House.  A summary and Senate Fiscal Note are available.
-- School Property Tax Relief: House Bill 504 (Gabler-R-Clearfield), the House GOP version of school district property tax relief, passed the House May 13 with some bipartisan support, but its future in the Senate is uncertain.  The bill is now in the Senate Finance Committee which has scheduled a June 10 hearing on proposals to increase the Sales and Personal Income taxes like House Bill 504.  A summary and House Fiscal Note are available.
-- Liquor Privatization: House Bill 466 (Turzai-R-Allegheny), the House Republican liquor privatization proposal, passed the House with a party-line vote February 26. It was referred to the Senate Law and Justice Committee the next day, but has not seen any action there since.  Gov. Wolf and Senate Democrats have already expressed their opposition to the bill and Senate Republicans cannot agree among themselves on a Senate GOP version of liquor privatization.
High on Gov. Wolf’s list of priorities is a new severance tax on natural gas production which he has proposed to use to fund a dramatic increase in funding for basic education.
The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy and Finance Committees have scheduled a June 1 hearing on a variety of severance tax proposals now pending in the Senate, including Senate Bill 116 (Brewster (D-Allegheny), which is billed as the Governor’s proposal.
However, last week comments by Kathleen McGinty, the Governor’s Chief of Staff, at the Pennsylvania Press Club, revealed several differences between the Governor’s proposal and Senate Bill 116.  
The major difference was the Senate bill ends the existing Act 13 drilling impact fee, and McGinty said the Governor’s proposal would continue it, the difference being hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
Both Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) and House Majority Leader Rep. David Reed (R-Indiana) have said time and again they are working to have an on-time budget and express the hope of some sort of agreement with Gov. Wolf.
Given the differences between the two Republican Caucuses and opposition by Gov. Wolf to key Republican initiatives on pension reform and liquor privatization, it is difficult to anticipate an early agreement without major compromises by the parties involved.
So far, the shots being fired back and forth between the Republicans over nominations, pension reform and other issues do not herald an agreement by June 30.
The most likely scenario seems to be a repeat of Gov. Rendell’s first budget-- the Republicans will pass something they agree to and let Gov. Wolf sign or veto the parts he doesn’t like.
And then the real negotiations begin.
Budget Briefing Articles:
Analysis: Bring Constructive Emotion, Passion Back To Environmental Movement

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