Budget bills passed

The House and Senate have approved a fiscal code and other budget-related bills, setting the stage for Governor Rendell to sign Pennsylvania’s spending plan into law on Tuesday.

The measures cleared both chambers Saturday afternoon. Allegheny County Senator Jay Costa, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, says the fact the votes took place over the holiday weekend doesn’t take away from the General Assembly’s on-time budget vote.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi says a dispute over a legislative fiscal office delayed the vote by “24 to 48 hours,” but points out the fiscal code still wouldn’t have been finished until July, anyway.

He says top Democrats and Republicans have agreed to vote on the creation of the office by October 1 – the same deadline that’s been set for a severance tax vote. Pileggi says the office was worth stalling talks over, arguing it will make future budget negotiations easier.

The House and Senate also voted on two economic development measures, which authorize borrowing for specific initiatives. House Minority Whip Mike Turzai was among the Republicans rankled by the pet projects Governor Rendell worked into the bill, including money for an “Arlen Specter Library” at Philadelphia University, and a “John Murtha Public Policy Center” in Johnstown. “It is the big pot for Walking Around Money,” he said on the House floor.  “I would urge everybody here to vote no. we need to act responsibly. We need to know where money of tax dollars is going to today, and vote accordingly. Not borrow money for projects the governor gets to pick.”

That’s likely the last major legislative action we’ll see for awhile. The Senate is adjourned until September 20th, and the House is gone until September 13th. Rendell wants lawmakers to work on transportation funding over the summer, but it’s unclear whether that will happen.

About pubradiopolitics
Scott covers state government and politics for Pennsylvania's public radio stations, including WITF in Harrisburg, WHYY in Philadelphia and WDUQ in Pittsburgh.

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