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WATCHBLOG: Final piece of state budget will go back to the state House, again

By   /   July 3, 2013  /   No Comments

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – The fiscal code bill has turned into something of a legislative pingpong ball in early July.

The bill, which is one of several companion bills passed along with the state budget each year, directs federal funds and gives direction in how and where dollars are to be spent.  This year, it also included $45 million in additional federal funding for the Philadelphia School District.

But the state House added a nonbinding provision announcing its intention to legalize pay day lending in Pennsylvania, before passing the bill on Monday and sending it over to the state Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Chester, said Wednesday several members of the senate were offended by the maneuver – both because of the pay day lending language and because the state House broke an unwritten rule by stuffing unto the code bill a proposal leaders in both chambers had not previously approved.

“It was an inaccurate statement that was included outside of the normal legislative process,” he said. “Most items in the fiscal code are agreed to by both chambers.”

So, the Senate did the obvious thing: they cut out the pay day lending language in a committee on Wednesday and kicked the bill back to the state House with a unanimous vote Wednesday afternoon.

The House has already headed home for the summer and will have to schedule a new session day later in July to deal with the bill.

Without the fiscal code bill, the state budget is not balanced and therefore not finished.

Budget Secretary Charles Zogby, in a statement Wednesday evening, said the legislature’s failure to pass a fiscal code bill would have “significant implications” for spending.

“If left to languish, it will reduce this year’s available funding by $235 million, potentially forcing cuts to higher education and will impact our ability to further fund Philadelphia schools,” Zogby said.

At the same time, Corbett told the legislature to “resolve their differences and act responsibly.”

And so, the budget process drags on.

Boehm can be reached at [email protected] and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.