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June 20, 2012 | By | Posted in General News

Next step: Lawmakers must get rank-and-file to sign off on final budget plan

Daily Budget Roundup – June 20, 2012

By PA Independent Staff

Next step: Lawmakers must get rank-and-file to sign off on final budget plan — 7:04 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Now that the governor’s office and leading lawmakers have agreed on a final budget number, Pennsylvania House and Senate leaders must find concurrence from their members in the next 10 days before the budget deadline.

“We need to make sure we lay out what’s been discussed,” said House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny.

The final budget number — $27.656 billion — encompasses around $500 million of restored funding the Senate proposed after Gov. Tom Corbett released a budget proposal at $27.1 billion. Lawmakers wouldn’t give exact figures on what had been restored, saying those figures needed to be discussed with the caucuses before being released.

Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Chester, said the restorations don’t involve any new allocations and will  apply to the areas proposed by the Senate, though the figures may be slightly modified.

Arneson said he expects a full week of legislation next week when both chambers of the General Assembly are back in session. Some budget-centric bills have been introduced, like the general appropriations bill, and will need to be amended to reflect the negotiations, he said.

Arneson said he did not expect any members of the Senate to dissent from the agreed-upon negotiations, and he did not expect legislative leaders to hold meetings over the weekend.

Budget number settled, details still being kept secret (VIDEO) — 6:45 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Republican lawmakers and Gov. Tom Corbett reached an agreement in principle on a $27.656 billion budget for fiscal 2012-13 on Wednesday evening.

They also reached a deal to provide a tax credit program for ethane in an attempt to lure 20,000 jobs and a valuable ethane cracker plant to western Pennsylvania.

Other than that, everything isunder wraps for now.

“We have a framework of an agreement on a budget,” Corbett said. “We’re not going to go into details right now, because the members have to go back and talk to their colleagues.”

Corbett declined to answer questions about the details of the budget agreement including:

  • Potential movement on educational reform plans,
  • Drawing from reserve funds,
  • Specific areas where funding would be added or cut from Corbett’s initial $27.1 billion spending plan, which he presented in February.

The focus now shifts to the state House, which will be in session Thursday, and the state Senate, which will be in session Monday.

 

Lawmakers aim for budget number tonight, Corbett open to increases — 5:15 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Lawmakers, staff members and administration officials gathered yet again on the second floor of the state capitol Wednesday evening to — they hope — settle the total spending figure for the state budget.

Getting a final figure in place is essential to bringing the other parts of the budget and the associated legislation together before the June 30 deadline.

“We’re close, but still putting the final touches on it,” said state Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I think we need to get the final number tonight.”

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Corbett said he was willing to allow that overall spending figure to creep upward from the $27.1 billion level he proposed in February, thanks to higher revenue collections.

“There’s an infinite amount of requests and a finite amount of money, but we’re going to be able to do better than what we projected back on Feb. 7,” he said.

The state Senate passed a $27.6 billion budget last month, which Corbett and House Republicans have said is “a ceiling” for the negotiations.

Commission planned to study charter school funding — 11:20 a.m.

No final spending figure has been set, but Republican lawmakers leaving a morning budget meeting with Gov. Tom Corbett said they are close to agreeing on a series of educational reform steps aimed at charter schools and the special education funding formula.

Chief among those plans is a commission to study the funding of cyber-charter and brick-and-mortar charter schools in the state. The amendment would be added to Senate Bill 1115, which in turn would create a separate commission to establish a funding formula for any new spending on special education.

“The special education component both within the basic education system and charter system is broken, and it has been for a long time,” State Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, said.  “So focusing on that in and of itself is of tremendous value.”

The bill unanimously passed the House Education Committee on Monday and awaits a final vote in the House. The Senate passed the proposal earlier this month.

While lawmakers were meeting, Auditor General Jack Wagner held a news conference to call for changes to the charter school funding formula.

Under the current formula, the amont paid to a charter school is based on the cost of educating a student in his home school district, so students attending the same charter school from different districts could be paying different amounts.

“That is a flawed funding system,” Wagner said. “It must be corrected because it makes no common sense.”

Senate President Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, said Senate and House Republicans are close to agreeing on a spending number for the budget, due in 10 days.

“It’s on our to-do-list to get a spending number today,” Scarnati said. “The spend number gets us to all the other issues.”

Corbett did not say that lawmakers would reach an agreement today, but added that Republicans “are getting closer” to determining the size of the budget.

Lawmakers and the governor will resume meeting at 12:30.

GOP leaders, governor begin talks … again – 10:15 a.m.

HARRISBURG — Republican lawmakers and Gov. Tom Corbett resumed their budget meetings Wednesday morning with the expectation that discussions would focus on setting a final spending figure for next year’s budget.

Meetings on Monday and Tuesday failed to yield a compromise among legislators and the governor on a spending figure.  The sides have agreed that spending will not exceed $27.6 billion — the level of a budget bill passed by the state Senate last month — but the governor wants to keep spending at least $300 million lower than that figure.

Senate President Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, said Tuesday evening that Wednesday would be crucial for getting the final spending figure in place.

Without a spending figure by Wednesday evening, “the prospects of having a budget by June 30 begin to fade,” he said.

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Eric Boehm is a reporter for PA Independent. He can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com or at (717) 350-0963.

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