Pa. Governor, legislators convene to fill budget gap

    Republican leaders are taking issue with the governor’s assumption that Congress will approve increased funding for the state and other states.

    Governor Ed Rendell will sit down with legislative leaders this morning to discuss Pennsylvania’s budget.

    Republican leaders are taking issue with the governor’s assumption that Congress will approve increased funding for the state and other states.

    Rendell’s budget counts on $850 million in increased federal aid.

    The only problem is Congress has yet to pass a bill authorizing the medical assistance payment.

    House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin says the assumption is indicative of the administration’s approach to finances.

    “You should not budget based on hope,” says Miskin, “and that’s what this budget seems to be based on. Hope that the Feds come through. Hope that tax revenues come through this year. Hope that everything falls into the right place. And it’s just not realistic.”

    Rendell’s spokesman, Gary Tuma, says both the House and Senate have approved the FMAP money in different bills, so he argues it’s only a matter of time before Congress sends the funding increase to the president’s desk.

    The governor recently traveled to Washington, DC to lobby for the money.

    Pennsylvania already faces a $1.2 billion deficit this year.

    The governor submitted a $29 billion spending plan in February, but, because of the shortfall, GOP leaders say the state can only afford a $27.5 billion dollar spending plan.

    Still, Senate Appropriations Chairman Jake Corman says he’s hopeful negotiations can wrap up before the June 30th deadline.

    “I think the big difference this year from last year,” says Corman, “is last year the governor was asking for $2 billion in new taxes, and the House Democrats were going along with him. This year no one is asking for an across-the-board tax increase. The most the House Democrats and Appropriations Committee have talked about is around $300 million.”

    The House revenue plan would impose taxes on natural gas drilling and smokeless tobacco, and would increase cigarette taxes.

    Corman says Republican leaders are opposed to those ideas.

    But, he says their differences with Democrats are smaller than last year’s.

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