Rendell: basic ed increase a likely FMAP victim

Governor Rendell is angry about FMAP. You can hear it in his voice when he defends his June insistence that the General Assembly include the $850 million of extended federal aid in the state budget.

It’s nearly August now, and Congress still hasn’t voted on the bill. Rendell says he’ll begin the process of slashing the money from the spending plan on Monday, when he sits down with legislative leaders in his Harrisburg residence. In Rendell’s mind, the money should have arrived long ago. “Both houses of Congress passed it in separate bills and the president’s for it. Why wouldn’t you assume it was going to get done? And my guess is it’ll still get done, but I can’t wait.”

What killed – or delayed – FMAP? In Rendell’s mind, the culprit is emboldened Republicans who have seized on the ballooning federal deficit as a campaign issue.  “It became such a talking point for the Republicans,” he said during an interview in his Capitol office today. “Because they passed it once, and they didn’t insist it had to be paid for. And now, all of the sudden, it has to be paid for. They just passed an increase in war funding, and strangely that didn’t have to be paid for.”

Rendell says the impending cuts – in the past, he’s warned up to 20,000 workers may lose their job – “make [him] sick.” “It should have been avoided,” he laments. “For them not to be able to get it done shows the partisan gridlock that’s gripping Washington DC.”

Earlier this week, state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said he wanted Rendell to eliminate the budget’s $250 million basic education increase, if the $850 million was being cut out. Rendell concedes the boost he fought so hard for will likely have to go.

Rendell says he recently spoke to  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who told him a vote is still possible in September. “If they do, the people that were laid off will be called back to work,” Rendell says.

More from my interview with Governor Rendell — including his take on the Onorato-Corbett race — tomorrow.


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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