House Democrats unveil state budget proposal

Pa. House Speaker Keith McCall makes budget pitch

In the House Appropriations Committee, the House Democrats amended Gov. Ed Rendell's budget to set the level of spending for 2009-10 at $27.8 billion. But it carves out funding for higher education and proposes finding a separate revenue source to fill that $1.3 million need.

Among the ideas that Committee Chairman Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia proposed include an increase in the state's 3.07 personal income tax, an increase in the state's 6 percent sales tax, an expansion of the items subject to sales tax, video poker or some other revenue source yet to be determined.

The Higher Education Fund would support the State System of Higher Education, community colleges, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency's grants to colleges and private colleges.

It provides a $300 million increase in funding for schools, which is less than the $418 million that Rendell had proposed. It restores funding for the Scotland School, the Scranton School for the Deaf, hospitals, and libraries. It also requires freezing the state's business assets tax, tapping the Rainy Day Fund, among other revenue sources.

Evans said he is willing to negotiate on pieces of the proposal but saw this step as necessary to try to get a budget done.