Corbett signs Pa. budget ahead of deadline
HARRISBURG --Â Twelve minutes before the midnight deadline, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett signed a $27.15 billion state budget, breaking an eight-year string of late budgets and fulfilling a pledge to close a $4.2 billion deficit without raising taxes.
Corbett also signed legislation that he insisted was critical to the budget deal: a provision -- that was nearly a deal breaker -- giving voters more control over school property tax increases.
Signing the budget by the deadline set in state law was "a very important first step in putting our fiscal house in order," Corbett told jubilant Republican House and Senate members gathered on the Capitol Rotunda steps.
"This reality-based budget marks a return to the constitutional principles that must guide Pennsylvania's fiscal policy," Corbett said.
"It spends no more than we have, and it doesn't pretend we have more than what we have budgeted," the governor said.
The voter referendum law "puts taxing and funding decisions where they belong -- in the hands of the voters who are footing the bill," Corbett said. "Who knows better how to spend money in our communities than the citizens who live there?
Democrats have criticized the budget as a plan that will mean higher property taxes because of sizeable reductions to school districts -- largely a result of the loss of federal stimulus money.
Earlier in the evening, the Legislature approved a bill giving the Corbett administration wider latitude to reduce costs at the Department of Public Welfare to meet projected savings in the state budget.
Welfare advocates said the change allows the Welfare Department to make unilateral changes without legislative input or public comment. But a department spokesman said the state's fiscal condition requires the ability to "swiftly curb spending."
"The conventional processes simply would be too cumbersome and time-consuming," said Mike Race, the agency's press secretary. "This truly is a case where time is money." Changes will be made in "open fashion" with input from "lawmakers and stakeholders," Race said.
House Appropriations Chairman Joe Markosek, D-Monroeville, said the legislation gives Welfare Secretary Gary Alexander "unfettered power" to cut $250 million in spending, including changing eligibility and co-pays. He called it "unprecedented authority" for the department.
"It is not an unprecedented action as some may falsely claim," Race said, noting former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell's department was granted similar authority in 2005 on Medicaid.
The welfare bill was approved 35-15 in the Senate.
Corbett signed into law one of his reform priorities: a centralized website to enable taxpayers to track how their billions are being spent. The bill by Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver County, will list payments to contractors and employees' compensation on a searchable website starting in 2012.
Christiana says it "will change behavior and common practices" at the Capitol. "When there's greater scrutiny, people will make sure they spend taxpayers' dollars as wisely as possible."
It's the first time in nine years the state budget has been completed before the start of July.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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.
- State police investigating Lawrence County murder-suicide
- Wait likely to continue for LCB privatization
- Penn State seeks to seal Paterno discovery papers
- San Jose State University to review IUP dean’s spending
- 14,000 draft notices sent to Pennsylvania men born in 1800s