Key Pa. bills stall as budget is passed - abc27 WHTM

Key Pa. bills stall as budget is passed

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Gov. Tom Corbett is now 3-for-3 when it comes to signing state spending plans before the deadline, but some lawmakers question the haste.

With less than two hours to spare, Corbett signed the 2013-2014 spending bill into law Sunday night. After a long weekend, some lawmakers spent Monday second-guessing certain line items.

State Representative Glen Grell (R-Cumberland) touted overall success.

"Anytime you pass an on-time budget without a tax increase, that's a success," Grell said.

State Senator Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin) voted "no" on the budget. He said he felt there was not enough funding for public schools, specifically the ailing Harrisburg School District.

"Overall, I'm just not happy about how public education was treated," Teplitz said.

The $28.4 billion budget gave basic education an increase of $122 million, including $2 million for school safety programs and upgrades. With an exception to Penn Tech College's $2 million in state funding, higher education remained flat for the 14 state-run universities and the four state-related universities.

State prisons, state parks, and state police all received an increase in funding. Businesses will receive special tax breaks and incentives.

Teplitz said a timely budget doesn't necessary mean victory because lawmakers failed to pass transportation spending, liquor, and pension reform bills.

He also said Medicaid expansion should be a "done deal." A House committee on Monday stripped from a budget-related bill a Senate provision that would have required Corbett to seek federal approval for an expansion of Medicaid eligibility to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians.

"I don't understand what the argument is," Teplitz said. "I think it's an ideological argument more than a mathematical argument."

"I don't know much about that," Grell responded. "I don't rely upon the federal government to make good on promises to pay us money they don't have either."

Despite an on-time budget, the clock is still ticking on several key issues before the summer break.

"It's not just the big three or the big four that we're talking about," Grell said. "There's other significant legislation that hopefully we can move forward with."

"It's been an interesting few days," Teplitz said, "and I think it's going to be an interesting few days ahead."

In honor of the sesquicentennial commemoration of the Battle of Gettysburg, it was interesting to give the budget talk some historical context. According to the U.S. Census Bureau statistics, lawmakers passed a $7.6 million budget in 1863.

Information from several historical texts indicate the state legislature did so while packing up the Capitol in fear the Confederate army was closing in on Harrisburg.

At the time, Governor Andrew Curtin helped increase funding for hospitals, orphans of soldiers, and increased defense by offering 60,000 Pennsylvania soldiers to fight against the invading army.


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