Republican-backed budget nears approval in Pa. House

By Mark Scolforo

Published by the Associated Press

5/24/11


HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania House Republicans steamrollered over Democratic objections Monday to get their $27.3 billion budget bill a vote away from being sent to the Senate.

The House voted, 110-89, to position the GOP spending plan for a final vote, suggesting it would advance easily. A final House vote could occur as early as Tuesday evening.

Democrats opted not to offer amendments, instead making unsuccessful efforts to send the bill back to committee or table it.

They warned the budget proposal would devastate education and human services and argued the spending level was too low, given that strong revenue collections in recent months have yielded a windfall for the state treasury.

"All members realize that spending needs to be cut, and most of the people in this chamber have taken the position that we can't raise taxes," said Rep. Bryan Barbin (D., Cambria). "But the problem with this budget, as it's been proposed, is it will hurt real people. It will hurt real people needlessly because the budget projection isn't accurate."

Republicans said their plan was achieved without a tax increase and still maintained adequate funding for education to cope with the end of federal stimulus money.

"It is prioritized spending, it is responsible spending, and it does not increase taxes, it does not borrow, and it will be done on time," said Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny).

Turzai said state spending increased 40 percent over eight years under Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, while total inflation was up less than 21 percent.

The Republicans' budget is similar to the austerity proposal advanced by Gov. Corbett, but it trims hundreds of millions from the Department of Public Welfare to restore some education funding the governor had cut.

Democrats predicted the bill would harm veterans' programs, human services, and job development. They also argued for more funding of colleges, universities, and public schools.

"These budget cuts would cause tuition hikes for Pennsylvania students who are already struggling to pay their bills," said Minority Whip Mike Hanna (D., Clinton).



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