State House approves budget

Spending plan moves to Senate for action

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HARRISBURG -- Against cries from Democrats to further increase funding, the state House of Representatives voted this evening to approve a $27.66 billion spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.

The measure, which awaits a final vote in the Senate tomorrow, maintains current funding for public schools and colleges while reducing certain county welfare dollars by 10 percent and eliminating cash assistance for poor and disabled Pennsylvanians.

The House passed the spending bill on a vote of 120-81 after more than three hours of floor debate.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans were receiving details on a tax credit for ethane-processing plants and new charter-school regulations that could be added into budget-related measures as soon as this evening.

As he left a meeting with House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati declined to give details of the ethane tax credit until his caucus members were briefed, but said the final proposal will be similar to earlier versions.

"There will be some tweaks in the language, tightening it up and making it more accountable," Mr. Scarnati said of the tax-credit deal, which would offer incentives to Shell Oil Co. and other companies that locate ethane-processing facilities in Pennsylvania.

Back on the House floor, Democrats decried the Republican-drafted spending plan as doing too little for the state's neediest residents. Rep. Joe Markosek, D-Monroeville and the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations panel, said it would "lock in" the education cuts from last year instead of expanding money for schools.

"Don't get old. Don't get sick. Don't try to educate kids, and don't be unlucky enough to be disabled," Mr. Markosek said.

Republicans praised the plan as a balanced, no-tax-increase budget that restored funding from the governor's proposal for higher education and social services.

Rep. Bill Adolph, R-Delaware, and chairman of the Appropriations Committee, pointed to dollars for state-supported universities, noting that Temple University has frozen its tuition cost for next year due to that assistance. He also said the budget as a whole would bring more jobs to the state.

"We have incentives in this budget that will bring job creators to Pennsylvania, so they can hire our friends and neighbors, so they can have good, high-paying jobs," Mr. Adolph said. "Do the job that you were sent to Harrisburg to do. Be responsible."

education - breaking - state

Harrisburg Bureau Chief Laura Olson: lolson@post-gazette.com or 717-787-4254. Karen Langley: klangley@post-gazette.com or 717-787-2141. First Published June 28, 2012 6:00 PM


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