House GOP Unveil $28.3 Billion Spending Plan
If the governor's budget address is the overture to budget negotiations, a proposal from the House Majority leadership is Act One.
State House Republicans are putting a bill in place for legislative action as spending negotiations get underway. The $28.3 billion dollar outline comes in at about $110 million less than the governor's budget.
But the proposal is missing some key items, including the governor's plan to overhaul the state pension systems, which the administration was counting on for $175 million in savings. That money isn't included in the budget offered by the House GOP.
House Speaker Sam Smith said the proposal isn't a signal that pension overhaul is dead.
"This is the cards we have to deal with, so we're playing this hand," he said. "And certainly if an agreement is struck between pension reforms, they can be enacted and literally could have zero impact on this current budget."
Also absent from the Republican proposal is any accounting for a transportation funding package and liquor privatization plan. Both are priorities for the governor but have yet to win approval from the Legislature.
Under the plan, basic education would receive $10 million more than the governor's office proposed, but higher education would remain flat-funded.
House Democrats are calling the budget an improvement over Corbett's plan, but House Majority Leader Frank Dermody said he has problems with the continuation of past years' cuts to human services and special education.
The ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee chided Republicans for making only a modest increase in funding for basic education.
The proposed additional $10 million "does not come close to restoring the $1 billion in cuts made to public education since Governor Corbett took office," said Rep. Joe Markosek (Allegheny) in a statement. He also took issue with the absence of any money from a potential Medicaid expansion. Republicans said that decision is based on the fact that the governor has made no final decision on expanding Medicaid eligibility.
The proposed budget represents a $578 million increase over the current fiscal year, or a roughly 2 percent bump. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Adolph stressed it is just a first step.
"By no means am I presenting this budget to you today as if this is a final budget," said Adolph. "But because (of) the facts that we have today, we have identified the priorities that we would like to see in the final budget."