Senate leaders push Corbett on budget

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HARRISBURG — State Senate leaders of both parties called Tuesday for Gov. Tom Corbett to sign the state budget as Republicans sent him a companion bill needed to enact the spending.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, and Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson and Senate president pro tem, noted the budget does not raise taxes, while Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, said the government is supposed to provide a state budget.

“I strongly encourage the governor to sign the budget as presented to him, to ensure that there is no delay of providing vital government programs and services for Pennsylvania residents,” Mr. Scarnati said in a statement.

The Republicans controlling the General Assembly approved a $29.1 billion spending bill in the final hours of June 30, before the start of Pennsylvania’s new fiscal year July 1. Mr. Corbett has said he is still considering his options — signing, vetoing or vetoing individual spending lines — ahead of the 10-day deadline, Friday night, at which the legislation would become law without his name.

“I think he should,” said Mr. Pileggi, when asked if the governor should sign the bill. “It’s a no-tax-increase budget that was delivered on time, the general appropriations bill, and has increases in funding for education, for people who are dependent on government because of intellectual disabilities or other forms of disabilities. That’s what the governor has asked for.”

And even though Senate Democrats opposed the budget bill and the fiscal code, Mr. Costa also said Mr. Corbett should sign the bill.

“Now that he’s got a balanced budget on the table, we think it’s appropriate for him to sign it,” Mr. Costa said. “While we didn’t support it, the product of the General Assembly is what’s important here, and we’ve concluded that process.”

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Marshall, last week called the budget “outstanding” and said: “The budget ought to be signed.”

The governor’s communications director, Lynn Lawson, said in an email Tuesday that Mr. Corbett is continuing his review.

“The governor appreciates the input of the House and Senate leadership,” Ms. Lawson said. “Ultimately what guides the governor’s decision is what is in the best interest of Pennsylvania taxpayers.”

The Senate on Tuesday agreed 26-22 to House changes to the fiscal code, a 112-page bill covering a wide range of topics. It provides revenue, counted on in the budget, by reducing the time unclaimed property is held and transferring money from tobacco settlement accounts. It also includes proposals such as allowing the Liquor Control Board to reduce the cost of a tavern games license and providing for the establishment of a rural community college proposed by Mr. Scarnati for an 11-county region in the northwestern part of the state.

Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, attacked the fiscal code bill as one that had veered far from its original purpose of providing aid to small rural hospitals, to one that now encompassed myriad changes in the state’s tax code, school code and welfare code. While he conceded some of the issues addressed in the bill were related to fiscal issues and the budget, many others had “run far afield.”

Drew Crompton, chief of staff and legal counsel to Mr. Scarnati, said each provision of the fiscal code works to enact the state budget.

“We believe all the provisions comply with the Commonwealth Court and the Supreme Court decisions that say that one theme is required, and our belief is the overarching purpose of the fiscal code is implementation of the budget,” he said.

After Tuesday’s vote, Senators voted to adjourn until Sept. 15. The House as well is not scheduled to return to Harrisburg until Sept. 15, though it is not clear if they will return sooner to deal with changes the Senate made Tuesday regarding a cigarette tax in Philadelphia to aid that city’s schools.

Karen Langley: klangley@post-gazette.com or 717-787-2141 or on Twitter @karen_langley. Kate Giammarise: kgiammarise@post-gazette.com or 717-787-4254 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.


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