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Budget proposal set for lawmakers' vote

| Thursday, June 28, 2012, 12:46 a.m.

HARRISBURG — The state House of Representatives today is poised to pass a $27.6 billion budget that's more than the governor called for but doesn't increase taxes.

The budget includes funds for distressed schools, flat funding for basic and higher education, and 10 percent cuts to county human services. The Legislature included $100 million in funding for educational block grants for schools that Gov. Tom Corbett's proposal left out.

The proposed budget would cut $10 million from the Department of Environmental Protection, as Corbett called for in announcing his plan in February.

The latest budget adds about $500 million Corbett proposed chopping. Corbett recommended a $27.1 billion budget that would have cut 30 percent of state-related universities' funding, 20 percent from county human services funding and kept basic education funding essentially flat.

When the Appropriations Committee approved the bill Wednesday, Chairman William Adolph, R-Delaware, said it was a “realistic, sustainable budget that meets the needs of Pennsylvanians.”

Distressed school districts, possibly including the Duquesne City School District, would split about $50 million in funding.

Democrats criticized cuts in the budget and voted against it in committee. Rep. Joseph Markosek of Monroeville, ranking Democrat on appropriations, said the reductions would put more pressure on local school districts, care providers and families.

Markosek also objected to Democrats' exclusion from budget negotiations and those for a proposed petrochemical plant tax credit.

Adolph said while Democrats criticized Republican proposals they did not offer a budget of their own.

Rep. Steve Samuelson, D-Lehigh County, said the funding for education “locked in” reductions from the previous budget, in which state and federal education money dropped by nearly $1 billion.

“Yes, the proposal is to maintain funding at current levels after devastating cuts just one year ago,” he said.

Steve Miskin, spokesman for Majority Leader Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, said the House will vote on other priorities this week. Those include expanding teacher evaluations to include student performance, a pilot program for human services block grants and the petrochemical plant tax credit.

Erik Arneson, spokesman for Marjoity Leader Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, said the budget reflects an agreement with legislative leaders and the administration. Once the House passes the budget, he said the Senate will take it up before sending it along to the governor. The deadline for timely passage is midnight Saturday.

Michael Macagnone is an intern for the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association. He can be reached m.a.macagnone@gmail.com

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