Pa. Senate reveals budget spending bill, but no revenue plan in sight

     Lawmakers and staff gathered for a Senate Appropriations meeting to pass a bipartisan spending plan. (Photo by Katie Meyer/WITF)

    Lawmakers and staff gathered for a Senate Appropriations meeting to pass a bipartisan spending plan. (Photo by Katie Meyer/WITF)

    Lawmakers and Governor Tom Wolf appear to have come to an agreement on a $32 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that starts at midnight Friday.

    That doesn’t mean the budget is done. A revenue package to balance it still isn’t ready, and there are significant disagreements standing in the way of passing it.

    Still, politicians on both sides of the aisle lauded the spending plan, which passed a late-night Senate appropriations committee meeting with three dissenting votes.

    The House and Senate are expected to concur on it Friday, and send it to the governor’s desk the same day.

    The spend number falls between Wolf’s proposal and the House GOP’s austere plan. Wolf said he looks forward to passing it — a sentiment Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa echoed.

    “We’re pleased at the work that we’ve done to really build upon the draconian cuts that the House had [proposed],” Costa said.

    The compromise plan would increase public education spending by $100 million. It also pays into the commonwealth’s pension obligation, and increases spending for some pro-business programs and services for intellectually disabled people.

    It includes unspecified cuts to Medicaid spending, as well as Wolf’s proposed consolidation of major agencies.

    The Board of Probations and Parole and the Department of Corrections are merging, as are the departments of Health and Human Services. That latter consolidation doesn’t include the departments of Aging and Drugs and Alcohol, which Wolf originally wanted.

    Senate Appropriations Chair, Republican Pat Browne, said it’s going to take time to iron out all those details.

    “It’s a very significant merger. Anything of that size requires substantial review,” he said. “What we’ve done so far is significant, but our members, our committee chairs want to take a really thorough review to make sure it’s done right.”

    The budget can’t be considered balanced without a revenue package, and it appears that won’t be done this week.

    Browne said there isn’t a timeline for finishing it.

    Among other things, lawmakers are considering expanding gaming, and borrowing against a state fund to fill a roughly &2.2 billion funding gap.

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