HARRISBURG -- The state's spending plan for next year is headed to the governor's desk, after senators voted this afternoon to approve the $27.66 billion budget.
That main budget bill, which passed the House on Thursday evening, was approved on a vote of 32-17. Under the plan, public schools and state-supported colleges would see their funding remain at this year's levels, while certain county welfare dollars would shrink by 10 percent and a cash assistance for poor and disabled Pennsylvanians would disappear.
Republican senators said during today's floor debate that the budget, which would increase state spending over the current year by less than 2 percent, is a "responsible and sustainable" proposal.
They pointed to the flat-funding for schools and the preservation of an account that pays for conservation projects as two victories amid a still-rocky economic climate.
"There are some areas that I think we would have liked to do better," said Senate Appropriations Chairman Jake Corman, R-Centre. "You can only spend the money that you have, not the money that you wish you had."
While Democrats described it as an improvement over the governor's plan, which proposed deeper cuts to education and human services, they objected to the reductions that were not reversed.
"It's simplistic and superficial to say, 'This is what we have [to spend],'" said Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park. "No it's not what we have. What we have is based on what we think our needs, what our capabilities are, what our priorities are. Apparently the governor was adamant that this is what we have, and it was $517 million less."
The Senate vote leaves the main budget bill awaiting only Gov. Tom Corbett's signature. Several related bills advanced through a Senate panel this afternoon as well, and await final votes in each chamber.
Mr. Corbett reaffirmed to reporters this morning that he would not sign the spending bill without its accompanying legislation. Asked how confident he was the whole package would reach his desk by Saturday's midnight deadline, the governor hesitated.
"Well ... yeah, I'm fairly confident," he said. "But I also thought we were going to be done on the 13th of June. It seems like they have to have deadlines. So now we have a deadline, don't we? It is a pretty hard deadline."
He warned reporters they would likely be spending time at the Capitol on Saturday as the final measures were voted.
Harrisburg Bureau Chief Laura Olson: email@example.com or 717-787-4254. Karen Langley contributed. First Published June 29, 2012 7:30 PM