PA House panel OKs budget bill, locks in spending at $27.6B
GOP leaders aiming for June 13 passage
By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania House Republicans used some fancy parliamentary tricks to lock in spending at $27.6 billion for next year’s budget Monday.
Meanwhile, GOP leaders are aiming for a final vote on the state budget by June 13 — more than two weeks before the constitutional deadline of June 30.
The House Appropriations Committee approved the budget bill with a party line 21-14 vote, setting it up for a floor debate and final passage.
The committee essentially set the 2012-13 budget’s final spending figure, when it ruled that any amendments to the bill must be revenue neutral.
Democrats were angered by the move, which blocked their plans to add about $300 million to basic education, county-level health services and welfare.
"They basically took the microphone away from us and the pen and pencil out of our hands as far as writing in the amendments. They’ve shut us off,” said state Rep. Joe Markosek, D-Allegheny, minority chairman of the committee.
Markosek suggested that the Republicans were trying to avoid divisions in their ranks, since some Democratic proposals had bipartisan support.
State Rep. Bill Adolph, R-Delaware, chairman of the committee, said the only motivation for the move was to get the budget bill to the House floor without spending more than was available.
The Independent Fiscal Office’s report in early May said about $800 million in excess revenue would be available above the baseline in the governor’s budget, which was proposed in February.
The state Senate boosted the governor’s plan by $500 million, leaving about $300 million in reserve.
House Democrats wanted to spend that amount, but Republicans said they were uncertain those funds would materialize because of a slowdown in corporate tax income last month.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said they would not want a final vote until May’s revenue figures are finalized June 1.
Earlier in the day, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, and Senate Appropriations Chairman Jake Corman, R-Centre, pointed to June 13 as their goal for passage of the budget.
Republicans control the General Assembly and the governor’s office, allowing them to hold all the cards in budget dealing.
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