Area lawmakers weigh in on state budget
Area lawmakers say Gov. Tom Corbett's delay in signing a 2014-15 state budget won't affect their opinion of a $29.1 billion plan passed in both houses of the General Assembly.
Those opinions reflect a Democratic minority in both houses that opposed the budget and GOP majorities who could not deliver pension reform or liquor privatization to fellow Republican Corbett.
“The governor is going 0 for 2 on his legislative priorities,” said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa Jr., D-Forest Hills, who noted the state House voted on Tuesday to send Corbett's pension plan back to committee.
“While I disagree with the governor on this, I respect his decision to take one more look at it before he signs it,” said Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township. “That is his prerogative. I am confident he will sign it as it is a great budget.”
“This is a poorly managed, gimmick-laden, rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul budget that is now on top of all that late,” said House Appropriations Minority Chairman Joseph Markosek, D-Monroeville.
Markosek's caucus on that committee released a chart comparing state funding for public school districts.
There was no change in basic subsidies from 2013-14. More money will come in a change from Accountability Block Grants to Ready to Learn Block Grants, both of which had conditions attached.
While the final budget has $91.9 million more going to public schools, it is $128.8 million less than what Corbett proposed in his February budget address.
Sen. Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon, said the budget includes “gimmicks that will have an immediate impact on the commonwealth's bond rating and impose a structural deficit on future budgets.”
“It's a good budget,” said Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield Township. “That said, the citizens of our commonwealth are being well served by Gov. Corbett performing his due diligence.”
That “due diligence” can take 10 days, a spokesman for Corbett said. The governor's office said state agencies under Corbett's jurisdiction can continue to operate normally during that time, while state employees continue to be paid and necessary services still will be provided.
“The governor's delay in signing the bill does not change my sentiments,” said Sen. James Brewster, D-McKeesport. “The problem is that there was revenue available through a responsible shale tax and Medicaid expansion that could be used for investments in education and human services but the governor didn't want to go in that direction.”
Brewster said the commonwealth is “looking at a more than $2.5 billion structural deficit” in 2014-15.
“It limits the growth of government to less than the rate of inflation, it funds K-12 education at record levels, and, importantly, it contains no tax increases,” Saccone said. “This marks the fourth consecutive, on-time budget without tax hikes since Republicans took control of the House in 2011.”
Democrats hope to flip House control back their way in this fall's elections and believe the Senate can be flipped, a point stressed in a Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee conference call Tuesday targeting races in several states, including Pennsylvania.
“If we win three Senate seats we go to 26-24 in the majority,” said Senate Appropriations Minority Chairman Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia.
Hughes said a Tom Wolf win over Corbett in the fall election would make Wolf's running mate Sen. Mike Stack, D-Philadelphia, lieutenant governor and give him the tie-breaker vote if only two Senate seats go Democratic.
“The plan is misguided and inappropriate and policymakers need to quickly change course and go in a new direction,” Costa said.
The Senate Democratic leader said Pennsylvania school students, teachers and taxpayers are still reeling from $1 billion in education cuts that Corbett authored in previous budgets, following the end of 2009-11 federal stimulus funding.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- South Allegheny High School uses laser tool to enlighten students
- McKeesport’s Lake Emilie ready for trout season
- Business owners see pros, cons to Lincoln Way widening in White Oak
- Accident will not hamper use of Great Allegheny Passage in Waterfront
- Versailles public works crews will no longer maintain vacant lots
- Lawmakers address education issues
- Former Munhall manager’s trial postponed again