Archive: June, 2011
With the legislature set to send Gov. Corbett a $27.15 billion spending plan for his signature, a last-minute disagreement over a school taxes bill could scuttle sealing the budget deal.
The bill would make changes to Act 1, the Rendell-era law that requires school districts to get voter approval if they want to raise taxes above a state-set inflation rate, with many exceptions. Corbett has said he wants the legislation to reach his desk together with the budget, but as of Thursday afternoon, the administration and the legislature were at loggerheads over it. The administration wants to amend Act 1 to eliminate almost all of those exceptions.
Amid the budget chaos, will the log jam on a gas tax/impact fee be broken?
State House officials say a proposal to tax natural gas extraction will be considered today.
Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said Tuesday the debate was expected this afternoon on several proposals filed as amendments to a hazardous materials bill that’s already passed the state Senate.
The tentative contract agreement reached between the Corbett Administration and two of the state's largest public employee unions fits the spending parameters set by the governor and Republican legislators and will not hold up the state budget, an administration leader said today.
Administration negotiators struck a deal with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Pennsylvania Social Services Union at the end of last week, said Secretary of Administration Kelly Powell Logan.
The 4-year deal includes 18 months of wage freezes and increasing health care contributions by state employees -- two of the demands made by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in his starting offer to the unions.
State Education Secretary Ron Tomalis said Monday he is pushing to enact school tuition voucher legislation before state lawmakers breaks for their summer recess, joining the governor and special interest groups calling for immediate education reforms.
Tomalis aired his position in an address to the Pennsylvania Press Club, warning that improvements in Pennsylvania students' test scores have slowed over the past decade despite rapid spending increases on education.
"My hope is that we can get some type of school choice passed in the next week," Tomalis said to a crowd of about 100 reporters, educators and administrators. "I think it can happen. It's the most important issue in education right now for Pennsylvanians."
In his March budget address, Gov. Corbett proposed slashing funding for state-related universities by 50 percent, sparking alarmed talk of tuition increases and program cuts.
Now the GOP-led legislature has taken the first step toward putting most of the money back.
A state House panel agreed to restore most of the funding for Penn State, Temple, Lincoln and University of Pittburgh. The House Appropriations Committee is cutting only 19 percent of the funding for the four schools in the fiscal year that begins July 1. That brings the Temple allocation down from $172 million last year to $140 million this year and Lincoln from $13.7 million last year to $11. million this year.
Perhaps the House Democrats ought to consider a DUI caucus - or at least providing members with alcohol awareness training.
For the third time in two months a House Democratic lawmaker has been charged with DUI.
This time it was Lehigh County Rep. Joseph Brennan who was arrested at his district office Wednesday afternoon.
The ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee today predicted the state's surplus could top $700 million by the June 30 budget deadline and called on Republicans to spend the money to restore pending cuts to education and welfare.
Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.) said state revenues for the first six months of 2011 have come in about $675 million over the Corbett Administration's estimates.
The legislature's Republican majority is expected to put roughly half of the surplus into the budget, but party leaders have provided few concrete details about where that money will be directed after reaching a tentative deal Thursday.