The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

July 1, 2013

Governor signs state budget that doesn't include his top priorities

HARRISBURG - A $28.4 billion Pennsylvania budget plan for the fiscal year that does not raise taxes has passed the Legislature on the final day of the fiscal year.

But Gov. Tom Corbett went 0-for-3 on the big policy issues he’d staked out in his budget speech — funding transportation, dismantling the liquor monopoly and reforming the public sector pension system

Lawmakers are due to remain in Harrisburg to wrap up work on some bills connected to the budget, but Corbett said nothing will happen on transportation or liquor privatization until the fall.

Corbett pledged to fight on for the remainder of the 2013-14 legislative session, if needed. Corbett is up for re-election in November 2014.

“This is just the first quarter,” Corbett said after signing the budget.

Among those supporting the budget were state Sens. John Gordner, R-27 of Berwick, and Gene Yaw, R-23 of Williamsport, and Reps. Fred Keller, R-85 of Kreamer, Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-108 of Sunbury, and Kurt Masser, R-107 of Elysburg.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch said that because the Legislature didn’t pass transportation funding, 1,200 bridges will get weight limits placed on them and the train route between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh is in jeopardy. He has said funding must be approved before the Susquehanna Valley Thruway project could move ahead.

Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria County, is the Democratic chairman of the transportation committee.

“We’re disappointed,” Wozniak said. “Of all the issues on the table, transportation was going to be the big job stimulator. And the closer you get to the time to circulate election petitions, the less likely anything will get done. And that’s a lost construction season, maybe two.”

The push for a multi-billion dollar transportation plan unraveled Saturday in the state House. With no movement on transportation in the House, leaders in the Senate have refused to move on legislation that would dismantle the state liquor monopoly. Pension reform, the third policy issue identified by Corbett, hasn’t gotten traction in either the House or the Senate.

Finally, the Senate passed a revision to the Welfare Code that creates a pathway for Medicaid expansion, but Republicans in the House oppose expansion.

The gridlock on those issues overshadowed the success in passing the on-time budget without a tax increase. Lawmakers are due to remain in Harrisburg today to wrap up underlying code bills that support the budget.

The spending plan increases spending by $719 million, or 2.6 percent, over the previous budget. The new spending is largely going toward increases for health care for the poor, social services, public employee pensions, prisons and public schools.

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