Saturday, September 19, 2009
Two and a half months into the fiscal year, Pennsylvania Governor Rendell and legislative leaders have reached a budget compromise.
The budget deal’s framework is similar to the plan announced by legislative leaders a week ago. It spends just under 28 billion dollars, and fills Pennsylvania’s revenue gap through a mix of new taxes including levies on cigarettes, legalized table games at casinos, and a freeze in the Capitol Stock and Franchise Tax.
Appearing with top Senate Republicans and House Democrats Friday night, Governor Rendell noted that including 1.5 billion federal stimulus dollars, the plan is still 400 million dollars below last year’s budget.
"What that means is that the state spend—the spend that the taxpayers of Pennsylvania are required to finance—is almost two billion dollars lower than the budget we enacted in July of 2008"
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, a Chester County Republican, says the extended impasse made inclusion of taxes from table games possible, since lawmakers had the time to hold hearings on the matter.
"If, in fact, we had had a budget done in June or early July, there frankly would not have been enough time to implement table games as part of this budget. The fact that we’ve had this additional time as allowed that to develop alongside."
Leaders wouldn’t disclose the details of the agreement, saying they want to discuss them with rank and file lawmakers first, but one legislative staffer close to budget negotiations confirms it would remove the sales tax exemption for live theatrical and musical performances.
Bills will begin moving through both chambers in the next few days, with a final budget vote expected within two weeks.