Republicans are pressuring Governor Ed Rendell to bridge a gap in federal funds to Pennsylvania by eliminating an increase in the budget line item he cares about the most. Rendell will need to trim about 250 million dollars from the state budget, if a federal funding bill passes the US House without any changes. That measure will provide Pennsylvania about $600 million. The new state budget passed 5 weeks ago was counting on $850 million.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi and other Republicans want that money to come from the basic education subsidy line, which was bumped up by that same amount in this year's spending plan.
"It would seem that the most logical and common-sense approach would be to reduce dramatic increases in funding, rather than to further reduce funding levels for lines that have already been reduced substantially."
Pileggi says the basic education line item has been increased by hundreds of millions of dollars over the last two budget cycles, even though most state departments suffered several rounds of cuts and layoffs.
Basic education money supplements school districts' operating costs.
Rendell says he's "open" to cutting money from the line item, but would rather re-introduce revenue boosters like eliminating the vendor sales discount, and taxes on smokeless tobacco. Rendell pushed for those initiatives earlier this year, but neither was included in the state budget.