Sen. Vince Hughes presses for welfare program's renewal

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HARRISBURG -- Pennsylvania closed its fiscal year by taking in $170 million more than expected in June, prompting a Senate Democratic leader to reprise claims that the new state budget need not have ended a welfare program.

And Gov. Tom Corbett was expected Monday to sign two final pieces of the legislation needed to enact the budget. Although the fiscal code and tax code cleared both chambers on Saturday, a spokesman said the governor had not received them when he signed the budget that night.

The state collected $2.8 billion in general fund revenue last month, 6.5 percent more than anticipated, revenue Secretary Dan Meuser announced on Monday. General fund collections for the year came in $162.8 million, or 0.6 percent, below estimate.

The June report was boosted by corporate tax collections $180 million above estimate and personal income tax collections $25.7 million above estimate. Sales tax receipts, by contrast, lagged $45.5 million below expectation.

Sen. Vince Hughes, D-Philadelphia, and the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said the report shows the state had money available to appropriate for the general assistance program, which provides about $200 a month to 61,000 disabled adults who do not qualify for federal welfare benefits. The program was eliminated in the new state budget, although Democrats successfully lobbied for a one-month extension that will allow recipients to receive a final check.

"There were dollars available that should have been utilized to deal with probably the most pressing hole that exists -- and the glaring hole that exists -- in the state budget, which is in the cuts to general assistance," Mr. Hughes said.

He said his colleagues will continue pressing the administration to find services for recipients.

The governor's office responded that the budget followed a course of fiscal responsibility.

"Governor Corbett signed a budget that received bipartisan support from the Legislature and follows a course of reform, restraint and responsibility," Eric Shirk, spokesperson for Gov. Corbett, said in an email. "The governor remains committed to changing the culture of state government from 'tax and spend' to 'build and save.' "

The main spending bill passed the House 120-81, with 11 Democrats in support, and the Senate 32-17, with three supporting Democrats, including Mr. Hughes and Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills.

electionspa - state

Karen Langley: klangley@post-gazette.com or 717-787-2141. First Published July 3, 2012 12:00 AM


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