Pa. Dems push budget alternative in Harrisburg

    Pennsylvania Senate Democrats are outlining their budget priorities with a proposal that depends on a “liquor modernization” plan; keeping a business tax Gov. Tom Corbett would like to eliminate; and the state opting into the expansion of the Medicaid program.

    The Corbett administration still hasn’t agreed to expand Medicaid and has said the commonwealth wouldn’t be ready for it by 2014, in an apparent move to take it off the table for budget negotiations.

    But Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa says his caucus doesn’t agree.

    “We believe there’s no question that the Department of Public Welfare has the ability to get the program up and running Jan. 1 of 2014 when it’s implemented,” said Costa, D-Allegheny. “What we hear from the administration are nothing but roadblocks and hurdles that they keep throwing out there.”

    The Democratic proposal calls for spending about $56 million more than the governor’s $28.4 billion plan. It increases education funding by roughly $200 million over Corbett’s budget.

    It would also create tax credits intended to spur job creation and boost funding for programs aiding economic development in distressed areas.

    Democratic state Sen. Rob Teplitz of Dauphin County says his caucus’s plan takes a more realistic look at the commonwealth’s assets.

    “The difference between what our caucus is putting out today and what you’ve seen from the Republicans is really the difference between a budget based on maths and a budget based on myths,” Teplitz said.

    But if the plan isn’t based on myths, it’s at least based on some pretty big hypothetical infusions of cash, such as the savings that would be banked if the state opted into the expansion of its Medicaid program.

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