News roundup: New budget day in PA!

During a news conference last month in Harrisburg, Gov. Rendell previewed today's budget address.

On Monday a pampered marmot named Phil marched out in front of hundreds of cameras and stage lights and announced that there would be six more weeks of winter.  Two days later, a rotund governor stood in front of many of those same cameras and lights announced that Pennsylvania's schools would be getting 265.3 million more dollars of funding and that we would be getting about 20 more weeks of wrangling over the budget.

Here's a quick roundup of some of the coverage of today's state budget address:

Inquirer: Rendell wants to consolidate 400 PA school districts
Includes details like the aforementioned funding increase relative to historical levels of basic education funding.

Inquirer: Rendell to push video poker for tuition aid
Why this may be difficult:

"It is not clear how he intends to win legislative support, especially since bills to legalize video poker have been introduced for at least a quarter-century without becoming law," said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware), adding that his caucus had pushed for other ways to help college students pay tuition bills.

It's Our City: Breaking: Pennsylvania To Expand Legalized Gambling With Video Poker
Quote of the day from Casino Free Philadelphia's Jethro Heiko:

Jethro Heiko, co-founder of Casino-Free Philadelphia, said the fact that a revenue official announced this plan was indicative of the way Governor Ed Rendell thinks. “The Governor doesn’t see both sides of the ledger. All he can see from expanding this type of gambling is the revenue….Where’s the Cost Secretary?”

WHYY News: Governor's schools could feel Governor's cuts (.mp3)
Artistically and academically talented high school students in Pennsylvania may soon be looking for new ways to spend their summer vacation. Reports have indicated that when Governor Rendell announces his budget plans tomorrow, the five-week-long summer residential programs in the state's Governor's Schools of Excellence may be slashed.

It's Our City: PA Gov’s Budget Would Authorize Counties To Raise Sales Taxes
Governor Ed is not saying that he wants to raise taxes but if the counties want to go that route... well...

KYW 1060: Rendell Gives Budget Address (great headline, btw, KYW)
But have no fear, fellow Philadelphians, the extra sales tax wouldn't apply to us or your Allegheny County brethern since we already pay 7 percent.  That sound you just heard?  Tax free shopping Delaware doing a spit take.

Inquirer: Rendell budget address this morning
Fun fact:

Pennsylvania State Police officials estimate there are roughly 17,000 video-poker machines now operating illegally, and stress that they would rather use their time to crack down on drugs and sex offenders than track illegal video-poker machines.

Here's a thought that probably puts me square in the sphere of deviance: think of how much time the state police would have if we legalized the video poker machines and decriminalized and regulated the recreational drugs.  Comment firestorm, commence!