Pennsylvania governors have 10 days to review bills that pass the legislature before deciding whether to sign or veto them, and Gov. Tom Corbett is taking his time with the budget.
The state Senate passed the budget on June 30 by a vote of 26-24. All Democrats voted against it, and they were joined by Bucks County Republican Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, who objected to additional fracking on state forest lands.
Later that day, the House of Representatives passed the budget by a vote of 108-95. All Democrats opposed the budget, and they were joined by three Republicans, including Rep. John Taylor.
Corbett has kept quiet about the $29.1 billion spending plan since issuing a statement upon its passage. The governor supports what he calls the “significant” investments in education, jobs and human services.
However, the issue of state government pensions was not addressed in the budget. Corbett wants to reform the system for new hires to save money for the state and school districts.
“Pension costs are consuming more than 60 cents of every new dollar of general fund revenues,” he said. “For the single parent who struggles to pay the bills every day, for the child going to school who deserves a quality education, for the elderly couple living on a fixed income, I will continue to fight for pension reform and real relief for Pennsylvania’s taxpayers.
“Every dollar saved through pension reform is a dollar we have to invest in Pennsylvania’s children, to reduce waiting lists for much-needed services for our most vulnerable, and to make improvements to our public safety system.”
While Corbett’s review of the budget is underway, services provided by state government are continuing uninterrupted. In addition, state employees are being paid.
The budget is expected to include a $2-a-pack tax on cigarettes sold in Philadelphia. That amendment passed with bipartisan support.
The money would go to the School District of Philadelphia to help with its seemingly endless budget woes.
The tobacco tax would raise about $90 million for the school district in the first year. The money is much needed, as the district’s budget shortfall could result in reductions in teachers, counselors, nurses and textbooks.
City Council President Darrell Clarke issued a statement thanking state Sen. Anthony Williams, who proposed the cigarette tax. He also credited the Philadelphia delegation, led by Rep. Cherelle Parker. And he singled out Taylor, a Republican, for fighting for Philadelphia students. Clarke did not mention that Williams, Parker, Taylor and all Philadelphia Democrats voted against the budget.
“I sincerely hope Governor Corbett keeps his word and signs this legislation into law. I will continue to work with my colleagues in City Council and in the General Assembly toward truly adequate funding for all public schools in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Let us endeavor to not just keep our schools afloat, but to enhance learning environments for our students. We should not settle for merely stopping a decline in our schools,” Clarke said.
Local lawmakers blasted the budget.
Sen. Tina Tartaglione opposed the plan because it does not include an expansion of Medicaid and, in her view, does not adequately fund job creation and redevelopment programs.
Rep. John Sabatina Jr. opposed the budget because he believes it does not fully fund loan programs for small businesses and shortchanges community-based services for disabled individuals.
“I cannot in good conscience vote for a budget which balances itself on the backs of small-business owners and disabled individuals,” he said.
Corbett received the budget on July 1. He has until Friday to sign the budget, veto it entirely or veto specific spending measures. If he does not act, the budget becomes law. ••