July 9, 2014

Budget Briefing: Gov. Corbett Now Has All The Pieces

By a vote of 26 to 22, the Senate Tuesday concurred in House changes to the Fiscal Code Bill-- House Bill 278 (Baker-R-Tioga)-- designed to implement parts of the state budget, and sent the bill to Gov. Corbett for his action.
A detailed summary and House Fiscal Note are available.
The Senate debate on House Bill 278 was peppered with charges by Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny) and other Democrats that the legislative process used to put together 112-pages of program, tax, fee and other significant changes was not transparent and violated the single subject rule of the state’s constitution.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) said the process has been transparent because the bill was considered in several Senate and House committee meetings and on the floor and members had the opportunity to offer amendments to improve the bill.  [Technically, efforts to suspend the rules to amend the bill on the House Floor were voted down.]
Gov. Corbett now has all the pieces to the FY 2014-15, but a spokesperson from the Governor’s Office last night did not say when he would complete his line-by-line review of the General Fund budget and other budget matters.
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) issued this statement after the Senate action Tuesday: “Last month Gov. Corbett clearly stated that he would not consider new revenue options to balance the 2014-15 state budget unless the issues of liquor and pensions were both completed.  
“Significant progress has been made towards modernizing Pennsylvania’s liquor system and a first step was taken by the full Senate to move legislators and state elected officials out of the state pension plan.  However, at this time, these two issues have not been finalized.  In light of his conditions, the budget presented to Gov. Corbett by the General Assembly contains no new revenues.
“House Bill 2328 is a reasonable budget which comprises the Governor’s other priorities he set forth in his February budget announcement, including support for numerous important programs such as Intellectual Disabilities, Ready to Learn, Ready to Succeed Scholarships, Pre-K Education and four new State Trooper Cadet classes.
“With today’s Senate concurrence of the Fiscal Code bill, Gov. Corbett now has the necessary companion bills to complete our Commonwealth’s annual 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.”
The Governor has until July 11 to sign, veto or blue-line (take out individual budget line items) the main budget bill.
Philly School Tax
The Senate also amended House Bill 1177 (Lucas-R-Crawford), which would authorize Philadelphia to adopt a $2/pack tax on cigarettes to help fund its schools, to include language the House dropped from the Fiscal Code bill relating to the City Revitalization and Improvement Zone Program and sent it back to the House for its concurrence.
The action leaves finances in the Philadelphia school district on shaky ground.
          Other Action
       The Senate also concurred in House amendments to Senate Bill 145 (Ward-R-Westmoreland) amending the Mechanics’ Lien law related to subcontractors and sent the bill to the Governor.
      All remaining bills on the Senate Calendar were Tabled, as is the Senate’s normal practice going into the summer break.
      The Senate then adjourned, again, to September 15.  The House returns to non-voting session today (July 9) to sign the bills coming back from the Senate and going to the Governor and to receive bills from the Senate.
Click Here for more background on the status of budget issues. Click Here for more background on earlier consideration of the Fiscal Code bill.
Session Closes, Stranded Bills Pile Up At Capitol