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House Republicans propose $28.3 billion budget, trimming governor's plan

| Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 1:30 p.m.

HARRISBURG — In the opening salvo of budget season, House Republicans on Wednesday proposed a $28.3 billion spending plan, a trimmer version of Gov. Tom Corbett's no-tax-increase budget.

The House plan is about $110 million less than one that Corbett proposed in February, said the Appropriations chairman, Rep. Bill Adolph, R-Delaware County. It supports Corbett's priorities of adding 300 state troopers, for example, but adds $10 million to the $900 million he suggested for basic education.

The budget would restore money for programs dealing with diabetes, ALS and epilepsy and increase funding for the Office of Open Records, Adolph said. It proposes cuts for Community and Economic Development, General Services, Labor and Industry, Military and Veterans Affairs and the Revenue Department.

Overall, the plan would increase state spending by 2.1 percent.

Rep. Joe Markosek of Monroeville, ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said the “meager amount of funding the House Republicans add to the governor's proposed basic education funding does not come close to restoring the $1 billion in cuts made to public education since Gov. Corbett took office.” Corbett's office says that facing a $4.2 billion deficit, he chose not to replace federal stimulus money for education that ended in 2011.

The House plan is “a starting point for the negotiation process,” said Jay Pagni, a spokesman for Corbett's Budget Office. “We're going over it line by line.”

The House would keep “some of the modest increases we proposed,” such as money for programs to help those with intellectual disabilities, Pagni said.

The budget does not include Corbett's pension reform proposals, aimed at reducing retirement benefits for current and new employees. House Speaker Sam Smith, R-Jefferson County, did not rule out pension reform for a final package.

Through June, Corbett, a Shaler Republican, and leaders of the GOP-controlled House and Senate will attempt to agree on a spending plan.

Smith said his priority is passing a budget by June 30, as state law requires.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, said the Appropriations panel will consider a budget on Monday and the full House will vote on June 10.

The biggest items the General Assembly must consider are not part of the budget but could become tangled with it:

• A transportation bill to raise money to rebuild roads, bridges and provide funding for mass transit;

• Corbett's plan to sell the state liquor store system;

• And whether to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, which Senate Democrats claim would provide $180 million for the current budget.

Adolph said the House proposal does not anticipate expanding Medicaid. Asked about the Senate estimate, Adolph said his committee has not addressed it because the governor is unwilling to commit to the expansion.

Corbett has said that over the long term an expansion is not “sustainable” for Pennsylvania.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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