Daily Budget Roundup – June 28, 2012
By PA Independent Staff
Senate Democrats make last gasp attempt to reinstate cash assistance payments
HARRISBURG – A late effort by Senate Democrats to restore funding for cash assistance payments in the state budget was voted down in the Senate Rules Committee on Thursday night.
Gov. Tom Corbett proposed the elimination of the program, which provides monthly payments of about $200 to some 70,000 Pennsylvanians and the early iteration of the state budget which was passed by the state Senate and supported by Democratic leaders in the chamber maintained the elimination of the program.
Even so, state Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, said the absence of the program in the budget was a “glaring hole” and highlighted the state’s higher-than-expected-revenues in the final months of the fiscal year.
“This could really be considered the unkindest cut of all,” he said. “We have the enough resources to fully restore the program.”
State Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, said the decision to eliminate cash assistance would help balance the state budget in coming years as costs increased faster than projected revenues.
“We’re doing the best we can under a department that is ever growing,” he said. “The scary part is where this budget is driving towards.”
The amendment – which would have restored $150 million to the program – was defeated with a vote of 10-6 in the Rules Committee. The committee later sent the budget bill to the Senate floor without amendment by a vote of 12-4.
The full state Senate is expected to vote the budget bill on Friday.
This is an update from 8:55 p.m.
House passes $27.656 billion spending bill, Senate vote expected Friday
HARRISBURG – The state House voted to approve a $27.656 billion, no-tax-increase spending plan for fiscal year 2012-13 on Thursday evening, setting up a final vote in the state Senate that could come as early as Friday.
The vote was 120-81, with 11 Democrats voting in support of the bill and one Republican opposed.
The final spending figure is about $370 million higher than the current fiscal year and about $500 million higher than the proposal issued by Gov. Tom Corbett in February.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, praised the spending plan as a responsible budget for the future of Pennsylvania.
While the budget bill will easily cross the finish line before Saturday’s midnight deadline for the passage of a state budget, several accompanying bills in the overall budget package are still waiting to be acted upon by lawmakers.
Democrats were largely shut out of the budget-making process and voiced their opposition on the House floor.
State Rep. Joe Markosek, D-Allegheny, minority chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he believed the budget would be bad for Pennsylvania’s elderly and disabled.
The budget bill contains a 10 percent cut to county-level human services, but funds basic and higher education at the same level as last year.
A number of other hot topics – including legislation to create a new $66 million annual tax credit that is part of an effort to lure a major industrial facility to Beaver County and a series of educational reform bills – are also outstanding at this hour.
This is an update from 7:15 p.m.
Governor backs Adolph plan to have DPW collect info on nonprofits; providers want Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to oversee
HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Corbett gave his support to a proposed amendment to the state’s fiscal code that would require the state Department of Public Welfare collect information about nonprofits that receive state dollars to provide a variety of welfare services.
In the proposal– first reported by PA Independent on Tuesday – the department would be instructed to track executive pay and the pay of top employees, along with association dues, lobbying expenses, administrative costs and the indirect or direct costs of providing services. Nonprofits that receive state dollars to cover intellectual disabilities, child welfare, community-based mental health services and drug and alcohol services would be targeted by the new rules.
“I think that we should take a look. It’s not inappropriate to know where state tax dollars are going and how they are being spent,” Corbett said on Wednesday night after leaving a closed-door budget meeting with legislative Republicans.
In an email on Wednesday, DPW spokesman Anne Bale said the department did not request the inclusion of the language in the fiscal code, but was prepared to comply if it was passed into law.
But there is significant push-back coming from the provider community, which is concerned that the reporting is a first step towards the state placing control on salary payments to top staffers as New Jersey and New York recently approved.
“The bottom line is we’re concerned about what is going to happen after the information is compiled,” said Bernadette Bianchi, executive director of the Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth and Family Services, which represents more than 100 nonprofit service providers at the local level.
If the language is included in this year’s budget, Bianchi said the council was advocating to have the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee – a joint committee that reviews and audits state government activities – be the agency that collects the information rather than the department.
This is an update from 11:15 a.m.