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Rendell vetoes called tactic to force new taxes

HARRISBURG -- When Gov. Ed Rendell signed a partial budget, he said he would let stand line items that pay for "critical public health and safety" services.

Expenditures that survived his veto pen Wednesday include $5.7 billion for public welfare, $50.6 million for state parks, $40 million for inmate education and training, $19.6 million for the Historical and Museum Commission, $2.2 million for the Human Relations Commission and $6.5 million for the governor's office.

Yet funding he vetoed included $855,000 for cancer control programs, $1.6 million for breast and cervical cancer screening, $718,000 for expanded cervical cancer screening, $7.1 million for rape crisis programs, $1 million for poison control centers, $916,000 for tuberculosis screening and $12.5 million for domestic violence programs.

"He (Rendell) likes to create chaos," House Minority Leader Sam Smith, R-Punxsutawney, said Thursday.

It's all about trying to create pressure on the Legislature to approve a tax hike, other GOP lawmakers said.

"Throughout this process, it seems clear the governor has prolonged the crisis in an effort to get a tax increase," said Rep. Tim Krieger, R-Greensburg.

Ken Snyder, the governor's spokesman, said the goal of signing a pared-down Senate Bill 850 was to pay 77,000 state employees.

"If a line item had a complement of workers attached to it we decided to keep it," Snyder said. It wouldn't have been fair to pay 60,000 workers and not the others, he said.

"The governor was prohibited by the state constitution from signing S.B. 850 (as presented) because it was more than $1.7 billion out of balance," Snyder said. "The Republicans know this, of course. They also know that the governor has urged them to get back to work as soon as possible to send him their plan."

Rendell's decision to sign appropriations for his office and veto $288 million to operate the Legislature shows "he's trying to starve us out," Krieger said. The Legislature has a $200 million surplus it is using to operate.

"It's all about getting what he wants, a personal income tax increase or some recurring revenue. This is nothing more than a tactic," said Rep. Mike Reese, R-Mt. Pleasant.

By vetoing expenditures for school districts, counties and hospitals, Rendell has "now taken a new group of hostages," Reese said, noting that state employees were the first group. "There's a lot more hostages in this round."

But, said Brett Marcy, a spokesman for House Democrats: "The governor's line-item vetoes were within his discretion, and they did what this bill was supposed to do: pay state workers and ensure general government operations are able to function.

"We've said all along that this bridge budget was not a legitimate, realistic or practical budget. It was nothing more than a vehicle to get state workers paid, and to move their families out of harm's way during this budget crisis."

Today is the 38th day of the budget impasse as lawmakers debate how to close a $3.2 billion deficit.

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