Governor Rendell and legislative leaders have agreed to a final framework for next year’s budget. Here’s what happens next:
Rendell will hold an afternoon press conference spelling out the terms of the deal. We already know it’s a bit north of 28 billion dollars, accounts for the tentative $850 million in FMAP money, and includes a decent increase in basic education spending. There IS natural gas tax, but there’s no levy on smokeless tobacco or cigars.
Legislative staffers are busy turning the agreement into an actual bill. “If things go well we will have in the Senate a presentment of the general appropriations bill in the form of an amendment to the House [appropriations bill that was passed earlier this year,” explains Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi. That language would go to the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will convene and vote on the bill late tonight.
As that happens, House Democrats will discuss the budget plan in caucus. “This is really not an agreement until our members agree,” cautions House Majority Leader Todd Eachus, who likely still has nightmares about his caucus tanking last year’s tentative budget deal. “The final signoff comes from…members of both bodies, Senate and House.”
If the Senate Appropriations Committee approves the spending bill, we’ll likely see a full Senate vote tomorrow. House leaders aren’t saying whether they’ll move to suspend the rules in order to vote before midnight tomorrow, but considering how hard everyone is pushing to have an on-time budget, you have to assume that will happen.
Of course, it’s important to remember a passed and signed appropriations bill is NOT the full budget. The fiscal code and various other related measures are equally important components of the state’s spending plan.