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Corbett hitting road to sell his budget

HARRISBURG — Republican Gov. Tom Corbett continues to try to build public support for his budget and ideas to bridge the $4.2 billion deficit, planning appearances in Pittsburgh, Erie and Chester County.

House Republicans intend to introduce a variation of Corbett's budget proposal in a week or so. That budget would be near Corbett's proposed budget cap of $27.3 billion in state spending, GOP leaders said.

"The House is determined to do an on-time, no-tax-increase budget," said Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods. "We're going to move in a thorough and deliberate manner. We certainly are going to work within the parameters of the governor's $27.3 billion spending limit."

House Majority Whip Stan Saylor, R-York County, said lawmakers would attempt to reduce the proposed 50 percent cuts to higher education that Corbett outlined. They will attempt to replace that revenue by cutting the Department of Public Welfare, he said.

Corbett has said he supports various anti-fraud measures GOP lawmakers are pushing, but said the money those measures would save the welfare department must be real and apply to the 2011-12 budget.

Corbett is traveling to promote his budget proposal and "explain to people this is about jobs and reducing the size and cost of state government," said his spokesman, Kevin Harley. "It's about creating an economic environment that allows business to grow and prosper."

Corbett is scheduled to visit Google's office in Larimer on Tuesday, Harley said. He'll be in Erie on Wednesday and in Chester County the next day.

University students across the state have rallied to oppose proposed cuts for state-related and state-owned universities. Corbett's critics question why the governor refuses to consider an extraction tax on natural gas from the Marcellus shale formation.

Corbett told a meeting of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors last week that Pennsylvania competes with other states and Canada to attract drilling operations, and he thinks it's unfair to levy a tax on one industry.

Senate Democrats last week said they identified $1.1 billion in savings that could be used to pay for their priorities, such as restoring adultBasic or state-subsidized health insurance for the working poor and erasing the higher-education cuts. They want a gas extraction tax.

Harley said Corbett uses a football analogy to explain the budget:

The first quarter was his preparation and presentation of the budget, which would cut state spending by 3.1 percent. The second quarter, marked by Senate and House appropriation hearings on every major agency, is over. The third quarter will involve "budget negotiations with the four caucuses" — Democrats and Republicans in both legislative chambers. In the fourth quarter, lawmakers will vote to enact a budget.

For the past eight years under former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, lawmakers debated budgetary matters beyond the June 30 deadline. In 2009, they apologized when their debate extended 101 days beyond deadline. They met the deadline last year, but Rendell didn't sign the budget into law until July 6.

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