By Chris Bowman, Staff Writer
Late Tuesday afternoon the State Senate passed the $27.15 billion budget with a 30-20 vote. The budget, after a party-line vote, now heads to the House. The new budget proposes no tax increases and softens some of Governor Corbett’s earlier cuts.
“This bill represents a fiscally responsible, sustainable budget with no tax increases,” Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) said on the Senate floor. “This is a remarkable break from past budgeting decisions. In prior decades the first instinct was to raise taxes, not to make the difficult decisions necessary for government to live within its means.”
This may be the first budget completed on time in the past nine years. The new budget is 3% less than the Commonwealth’s budget for this current fiscal year, which ends Thursday. It also marks the first decrease in the budget since 2001.
The Republican majority passed the budget despite Democratic concerns that it protects tax breaks for corporations while cutting school aid and programs for the poor, environment, and children.
Governor Corbett seemed pleased, announcing after the budget passed that the Republicans managed to “hold the line on taxes, [and] hold the line on spending.” Senator Pileggi echoed this stance, describing the budget as “fiscally responsible” and “sustainable.”
Not all legislators were pleased, as Democratic Appropriations chair Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) explains, “We’re sitting on an extra, what will probably be by June 30th, an extra $700-million dollars in budget surplus,” and “The fact is there are dollars to be spent and invested in issues people care most about.”
Corbett disagreed, claiming it was a “so-called” surplus and that “more revenue has come in, but we still have a deficit… We have spending that has to be done in the future, we don’t think that next year is going to be much rosier – if at all – than this year.”
Though 14 publicly-funded state universities across the Commonwealth face 18% budget decreases, Senator Pileggi was quick to highlight state funding for public education. The senate allotted an extra $268 million for basic education and an additional $368 million for higher education over budget cuts proposed by Gov. Corbett earlier this year.
Integral in Senate passing the budget was the delay of a vote on the divisive natural-gas-drilling impact fee.
The budget is expected to pass the House and will then make its way to Corbett’s desk.