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Pennsylvania

Senate plans vote to override Rendell vetoes

| Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009

HARRISBURG — The state Senate on Wednesday will attempt to override Gov. Ed Rendell's vetoes for programs ranging from child care to drug and alcohol services and grants for college students.

The votes potentially could restore $2.1 billion in spending, of $12.8 billion Rendell vetoed earlier this month. But if approved by the Republican-controlled Senate — it would take a two-thirds vote, rather than a simple majority — the bills would present a dilemma for the Democrat-controlled House.

"I am not concerned" about the override attempt, said Rendell. Asked whether he would lobby the House not to override the cuts, he said: "I think they know not to do it."

Rendell is counting on pressure from day care centers, pre-kindergarten programs, and parents of students with grants from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency to force lawmakers to raise new tax revenue and expand spending.

A partial budget in place, $11 billion, is covering core services such as state police, the Department of Corrections and the salaries of 77,000 state employees. Rendell signed that portion of the bill into law, but vetoed a larger share of spending.

"The governor keeps trying to sell his snake oil, but the people of Pennsylvania still aren't buying," said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County. "The governor wants a crisis atmosphere to give himself leverage in the budget negotiations — he said so directly, when he vetoed these programs."

Scarnati said Wednesday votes would be "the first step in ensuring that vital state programs are not shut down while the overall budget negotiations continue."

The move by Senate Republicans is an effort to put Democrats in a tough spot of having to approve the override votes or explain why they wouldn't restore money for services that include veterans' assistance, domestic violence and help for the homeless.

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