Two parties, two state budget plans

Gov. Corbett, joined by Speaker of the House Sam Smith (left) and Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, draws applause at a joint session of the Pennsylvania House and Senate. Corbett offered a plan without spending cuts this time.
Gov. Corbett, joined by Speaker of the House Sam Smith (left) and Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, draws applause at a joint session of the Pennsylvania House and Senate. Corbett offered a plan without spending cuts this time. (MATT ROURKE / Associated Press)
Posted: June 05, 2013

HARRISBURG - The state budget is on the move.

The House Appropriations Committee kicked out a $28.3 billion spending blueprint Monday, positioning it for a floor vote as early as next week - while Senate Democrats were unveiling a competing plan.

Those dueling actions were yet another indication that negotiations in the Capitol will be grueling as Gov. Corbett and the legislature race to meet the July 1 deadline for a new state budget.

Both sides have said they expect an on-time budget, but political reality may dictate otherwise. Along with the budget deal, the governor has said he wants the legislature to tackle initiatives that have come to be known as the "Big Three": pension reform, transportation funding, and liquor privatization. All are considered important to Corbett's reelection chances.

The Appropriations Committee vote was on a plan that the House GOP is championing. It closely resembles Corbett's proposal, though it would send more money to public schools and restore funding for certain health-related items, such as diabetes and epilepsy support programs and poison-control centers. Democrats on the committee voted against it.

Their counterparts in the Senate, meanwhile, unveiled a $28.5 billion proposal that would spend about $220 million more on public schools - or more than twice what Republicans are considering - while leaving more money in reserve.

However, the Senate Democratic plan relies on two uncertainties: the expansion of Medicaid, which Democrats contend would save the state money and to which Corbett has not committed, and improvements to Pennsylvania's state-run wine and liquor stores, which would allow them to increase sales revenue. The Senate Democrats' proposal also would eliminate the $360 million in business-tax cuts that Republicans favor.


Contact Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934 or acouloumbis@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @AngelasInk.

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