Pennsylvania Governor Rendell is calling on the General Assembly to pass a budget for the coming fiscal year that deals with the economic slowdown, health care, infrastructure and other issues. The governor's spending plan totals $28.3 billion, 4.2 percent more than this year's budget.
Rendell led off his address to the legislature with the economy, repeatedly urging lawmakers to take action now on an economic stimulus package...
"Doing nothing is not an option if we want to protect the gains we've made together since 2003. But by acting now, we can stimulate Pennsylvania's economy, protect our citizens from the impact of the national downturn and continue to make the Commonwealth more competitive in the battle for jobs and opportunities."
The governor is proposing one-time $400 payments to 475 thousand low-income Pennsylvanians families; increasing the state's debt limit and funding infrastructure improvements that would provide work for the construction industry.
Among failed initiatives that Rendell is reintroducing are his "energy independence strategy" and the half-billion-dollar Jonas Salk Legacy Fund for medical research.
On health care, the governor says the expansions of PACE and PACEnet made for a good start -- but he notes too many people lack much-needed health coverage...
"There really is only one answer. We must tell our sickest Pennsylvanians that we're going to help them by ensuring access to health care for every citizen, and we're going to do it this year."
To pay for the health insurance, Rendell is proposing a 10 cents a pack increase in the cigarette tax and extending the tax to cigars and smokeless tobacco.
Rendell wants the state to borrow 600-million dollars over three years to fix structurally deficient bridges, spend 100-million dollars on flood control and boost basic education subsidies by 291-million dollars.