Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Budget Update August 18, 2009

Capitolwire: Senate to vote Wednesday on $2.1 billion in budget veto overrides.

By Peter L. DeCoursey
Bureau Chief

HARRISBURG (Aug. 18) – Senate Republican leaders said today they will vote tomorrow to add more than $2.1 billion in state spending to the budget by overriding up to 16 of Gov. Ed Rendell’s line item vetoes in the current state “bridge” budget.

That plan emerged even as both sides said progress had been made in budget talks but the sides are still about $1 billion apart. Senate Republicans still are saying their top spending offer is $27.6 billion. Recent House Democratic and gubernatorial proposals add up to $28.6 billion, in terms of programs contained in last year’s budget.

Both sides said table games and a potential cigarette tax hike were part of the revenue discussions, but that another billion dollars of combined cuts or revenues separated the negotiators and prolonged the budget impasse.

That was the background as the Senate announced it would try to restore state funding for most of the programs Rendell blue-lined earlier this month and highlighted in a series of events the last two weeks.

“The governor vetoed a lot of services that people need now,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Jake Corman, R-Centre. “So we feel let’s get the [bridge budget-contained] numbers out to people now, particularly the ones where the Senate and governor agreed. And then where there are differences, we can negotiate about them later, without closing the doors on vital services.”

House Democrats could not immediately be reached for comment on the Senate GOP plan. As late as Monday, both sides said leaders had continued meeting and that progress was being made.

But the planned veto overrides could shift the pressure to keep open day-care centers, run children's health care programs and provide college loans to House Democrats. They will now either have to override Rendell's vetos as well, or explain why they will not.

Up until today, Rendell has blamed Senate Republicans for not agreeing to his higher budget spending figures. Now the Senate GOP and House GOP will pressure the House Democrats to schedule a line-item veto vote.

Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson said: “The governor wants a crisis atmosphere to give himself leverage in the budget negotiations – he said so directly, when he vetoed those programs. The votes on Wednesday to override his vetos will be the first step in ensuring that vital state programs are not shut down while the overall budget negotiations continue.”

House GOP Spokesman Steve Miskin said the actions of Senate Republicans would shift the blame for the funding delays away from their party.

"If the Senate has the vote to override some of these controversial vetoes, then any Democrat who does not vote to override them becomes the face of those cuts and the target of everyone losing those services," Miskin said. "Right now there's only one person respon for blue-lining budget lines and depriving people of vital services. If the Senate does this, and the House does not follow, the House Democrats will join the governor in that dubious distinction."

The list of overrides is expected to include 11 items where Senate Bill 850 contained the amount of funding the governor originally sought, but blue-lined the programs anyway. [CMC1]

That list includes:

• State assistance to drug and alcohol programs, $41.8 million;

• Homeless assistance, $25.6 million;

• State food purchase, for food banks $18 million;

• Domestic Violence prevention funding, $12.5 million

• Customized job training, $9 million;

• Rape crisis programs, $7.1 million;

• Veteran’s Educational Assistance, $8 million;

• Just under $5 million combined for farmer’s market coupons, veterans outreach services, veteran’s assistance and disabled veterans transportation.

A second list of proposed veto overrides are for programs where the Senate proposed less than the governor and legislative Democrats are willing to accept in state spending.[CMC2]

Senate Republicans expect to vote to override the governor’s vetos of the following line items:

• County child welfare, $1.04 billion;

• Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, $386 million;

• Child care assistance and child care services in the welfare budget, $358 million; [CMC3]

• Children’s Health Insurance Program, $86.9 million;

• Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program, $9.9 million.

Corman noted that adding $2.1 billion to the $12.8 billion "bridge" budget meant the state could afford the additional spending easily, and noted that "the governor still has $12 billion worth of leverage, and we know how important his leverage is to him."

Monday, August 3, 2009

childcare budget update aug 3, 2009

[CEG] Budget update- vote no to Kotick amendment

As you know, the Governor has asked the House to vote yes to SB 850 and send it to him for signature, where he will blueline about 90% of the budget to allow state workers to get paid but continue budget talks.

Rep. Nick Kotick (D-Allegheny) has put forth a $27.5 billion budget amendment for SB850 that mirrors the Civera amendment for early education (fully funds Head Start Supplemental but maintains cuts to PA Pre-K Counts and child care) and adds in a few more items without a PIT increase. Rep. Sam Smith said House Republicans worked with a handful of Blue Dogs, with input from the Senate Republicans, to put together their latest proposal.

The concern (not sure how likely this is) is that this amendment could pass the House and Senate and have the votes to override any Governor veto. Even if there are not enough votes to push this amendment through, it will delay the final negotiations yet again.

Because the amendment was filed late, there would need to be a 2/3 majority vote in the House to suspend the rules to allow the amendment to be voted on.

Please tell your representative to vote no to the Kotick amendment:

• The Kotick amendment is devastating for children and families in Pennsylvania. Approximately 15,000 children would lose early education services, and nearly 2,000 early education jobs would be lost. We're seeing the impact of these cuts right now, with early learning programs starting to shut down and PA Pre-K Counts programs unable to begin preparations for the fall. Parents need these services to work and our children need these services to become our future workforce.

• The Kotick amendment will only delay final budget negotiations. The early education field and other services dependent on state funds are already beginning to shut down, impacting jobs and our economy. It is time for a real negotiation.