Budget battle may be state's future
Dec. 10, 2005:
HARRISBURG -- The state Legislature recessed for the holidays yesterday with lawmakers expressing cautious optimism that Pennsylvania's 2003-04 budget might finally be completed in 2006.
"We're making progress," said Senate Majority Leader David "Chip" Brightbill, R-Lebanon County. "We don't exactly have a budget agreement in place, but I would say a possible framework for a potential budget agreement might exist. Well, maybe, anyway."
Caught in a long-standing impasse between Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell and the Republican-controlled General Assembly, Pennsylvania has lacked a final budget since June 30, 2003. Consideration of the fiscal 2005 and 2006 spending plans has been postponed while the battle over fiscal 2004 continues.
"While we could have a 2005 budget approved sometime in 2006, that obviously is dependent on completing the 2004 budget at some point," said Republican Jane Earll of Erie, the Senate finance committee chair. "Regarding fiscal 2006, I think it's unrealistic to expect us to have that budget approved before fiscal 2007."
Many expected the stalemate to conclude when every school district in the state was forced to close in 2004. After borrowing money to continue operating without their state subsidies, the districts found that banks were unwilling to indefinitely extend their credit.
But anticipated public outcry over the closings failed to materialize. Education experts attributed the indifference largely to the sudden upward spike in the test scores of thousands of newly home-schooled students.
State government has ground to a halt, but lawmakers regularly approve emergency appropriations to their various discretionary accounts. This has drawn criticism from watchdog groups accusing lawmakers of focusing only on their lavish taxpayer-financed lifestyles.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," Democratic Rep. Bill DeWeese of Greene County said yesterday from his chartered flight home from Harrisburg. DeWeese cut the brief interview short to call a limo service to arrange to pick him up at the airport.
Rendell and the Legislature recently have appeared closer to consensus on the main sticking point: precisely how much the 2.8 percent state income tax should be raised.
Rendell's latest proposal calls for the tax to jump to 2.950000000005 percent; the Legislature favors a more modest increase to 2.950000000001 percent. The difference between the two plans amounts to about $37.50 annually.
As his re-election campaign prepares to gear up, Rendell might have to compromise further. No Pennsylvania governor has been elected to a second term after failing to finalize a single annual budget during his first.
Avoiding the political implications of the 2 1⁄2-year deadlock yesterday, Rendell would say only, "I have every confidence the 2003-04 budget will be wrapped up long before the end of 2006. Well, maybe, anyway."
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.
- Penn State mens basketball wins fourth in a row, improves to 6-1
- Disney TV Animation going strong after 30 years
- Homework: Gifts and Greens Market is Dec. 4-6
- Homes for the holiday: Christmas house tours abound
- Steelers notebook: Defense has a retro feel
- Gazing at the grass in winter is a vision in grace
- National Portrait Gallery asks public to vote for art
- Ryan says journalism, fiction ways to tell story
- Ray Rice wins appeal, suspension vacated, can return to NFL
- Book details Steelers’ history in black and white
- Icy roads cause accidents, slow traffic across Western Pa.