Government
8:40 pm
Thu January 26, 2012

Senate Democrats Outline Priorities for 2013 Budget

Senate democrats called for Governor Tom Corbett to keep certain priorities in mind before making his 2013 budget proposal next month.

The budget address will come on the heels of a state spending freeze announced after commonwealth revenue trailed budget projections by nearly $500 million midway through the fiscal year.

Lawmakers expect more cuts will be made in 2013, but Senate democrats maintained the governor should consider transportation, education, and fair taxes when making the budget.

But the top priority, democrats insisted, should be jobs.

"I can tell you that if we are not involved actively in focusing scarce resources to provide the appropriate incentives for job growth, we will lose ground," said State Senator John Blake (D-Lackwanna County).

The state unemployment rate has hovered around 8 percent since 2009, and democratic lawmakers criticized the Corbett administration for not doing enough to create jobs.

State Senator John Yudichak (D-Luzerne County) said a responsible shale drilling plan could help create jobs in and out of the gas industry.

"[We need to] set a Marcellus Shale policy that will create jobs not just at the well pad, not just in the Marcellus Shale play, but on Main Street. We can translate that industry into manufacturing jobs," Yudichak said.

Negotiation over a Marcellus Shale drilling fee has been ongoing in Harrisburg, but Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Forest Hills) said his party would accept a plan that would generate at least $250 million immediately and would reinvest the revenue to encourage community development and environmental work across the state.

Costa also called for a long-term transportation plan to rebuild state infrastructure and address mass transit funding in Allegheny County.

The governor will present his budget address to the General Assembly on February 7.