Confusing fiscal code steers Pa. tax dollars - abc27 WHTM

Confusing fiscal code steers Pa. tax dollars

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The state Senate returned to Harrisburg Tuesday hoping to finalize loose ends on the budget.

It is called the Fiscal Code and government insiders describe it as an owner's manual for the budget.

But others describe the Fiscal Code as a place where lawmakers fund pet projects while doing an end-run around transparency and the budget process.

"There may be some in there, certain projects," concedes Senator Jake Corman (R-Centre/Perry), the Appropriations Committee chairman, "but I would think they all stand up to scrutiny. You can't hide it. No one's trying to hide anything."

Not hidden exactly, but not easily found either. Some bureaucrat, somewhere, knows exactly what doctor's office is getting $1.5 million in tax money, but it's described like this in the fiscal code: "A physician practice plan serving a health system located in a city of the first class and a contiguous county of the second class A which did receive funding during fiscal year 2013-14."

Critics insist these are hidden WAMS. Lawmakers counter it's not as bad as it used to be.

"I didn't see any real shenanigans, shenanigans," said Senator Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon). "We've got some things in there that maybe shouldn't have been in, but you know it's a matter of interpretation."

Still unknown is how Governor Tom Corbett is interpreting this budget, which he has yet to sign. Senate leaders of both parties encourage him to sign off.

"Holding folks hostage, educators and human service programs, in particular, is simply not appropriate now that he's got a balanced budget on the table," minority leader Jay Costa said, even though his entire caucus voted against the budget. "We think it's appropriate for him to sign it."

"It was something that was put together over a long period of time," Corman said. "I don't think it's gonna get any better, so I think it's time to sign it and put a budget in place for the people of Pennsylvania."

But newest senator Scott Wagner (R-York) has an entirely different take.

"If the governor got up today and said, 'gentlemen, I'm gonna veto the budget and I'm sending it back and I want pension reform,' I would be the first person to stand up and applaud the governor for getting some backbone," Wagner said. "He needs to do that."

Wagner, living up to his campaign pledge to not make friends and try to make a difference, also took at a shot at the General Assembly.

"I don't know how any House and Senate members can go back to their districts this summer and say or defend what they've done," he said. "They've done nothing. We have really done nothing. In the three months I've been here, I haven't seen anything accomplished."

If the governor does nothing with the budget, it will become law on Friday.

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