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    Pa. House begins debate on $29.1 billion budget

    The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has started debate on a $29.1 billion Republican-penned budget plan that calls for increases for public schools, human services and public pensions.

    The bill, made public barely 24 hours ago, was poised for passage Wednesday, but faces certain changes in the Senate.

    Overall, it would increase spending by about $727 million, or almost 2.6 percent, over the current year’s approved budget. Another $200 million would go on the books of off-budget programs or the current year’s books.

    Perhaps most glaring is its reliance on $380 million from the unlikely sell-off of the state’s wine and liquor operations.

    The funding increase for public schools is inadequate, according to Democrtas who are pressing for higher taxes on natural gas drilling to generate hundreds of millions of dollars.

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