Pa. House to return to finalize budget

Gov. Corbett, after signing the 2013-14 state budget Saturday in Harrisburg. The legislature failed to enact any of Corbett's three big policy initiatives: mass transit funding, privatizing the sale of wine and hard liquor and changes to reduce the escalating cost of teachers' and state employees' pensions.
Gov. Corbett, after signing the 2013-14 state budget Saturday in Harrisburg. The legislature failed to enact any of Corbett's three big policy initiatives: mass transit funding, privatizing the sale of wine and hard liquor and changes to reduce the escalating cost of teachers' and state employees' pensions. (AP Photo/ Dan Gleiter)
Posted: July 12, 2013

HARRISBURG - The state House will make a rare return from its summer break Monday to complete a small but important bit of budget business.

The Republican-controlled chamber is scheduled to convene at 1 p.m. to vote on the fiscal code, a must-have piece of the budget that has been in limbo since last week.

That is when both chambers wrapped up weeks of grueling negotiations on the nearly $28.4 billion budget - albeit an incomplete one, without the fiscal code - while failing to reach consensus on three key policy initiatives pushed by Gov. Corbett.

When they return, House members have one order: to vote on the code, which got caught in an impasse at the eleventh hour as legislators raced to meet the July 1 deadline for approving the annual budget.

Asked why a final vote on the fiscal code could not be scheduled until Monday, House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin blamed the logistics of getting all 203 members, some of whom had planned vacations, back to the Capitol.

The problem with the bill arose July 1 when the House, at the last minute, slipped a controversial provision into the code that could allow payday lenders - who provide short-term, high-interest loans, typically to low-income borrowers - to resume operations in the state. After voting on that and several other bills, House members broke for the summer.

The GOP-controlled Senate, however, was not having it. Senators came in the next day and stripped out the payday lending language, sending the bill back to the House. Then, the Senate, too, began its summer break.

So the fiscal code was left hanging, despite admonitions from Corbett and his budget secretary, Charles Zogby, who asked that the chambers resolve their differences and send them a fiscal code, without which a budget is not truly complete.

They noted that the bill is important for another reason: It contains a $45 million piece of the financial rescue plan that city, state, and federal officials have devised for Philadelphia schools.

Miskin would not say Wednesday whether the House would insist on its payday lending language, saying only that the chamber has several options. But few outside the chamber expect members to insist on that issue.


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

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