Pennsylvania Senate Republicans anticipate passing a new $27.83 billion fiscal 2010 budget today after a prior budget agreement between the legislature and Gov. Edward Rendell fell apart last week.
The Senate’s plan includes a $27.83 billion fiscal 2010 budget, slightly smaller than the $27.9 billion that lawmakers tentatively agreed to two weeks ago.
In addition, the upper chamber plans to amend a tax code bill and remove a tax on smokeless tobacco and cigars and a tax to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale region. The House had added those taxes to the tax code bill Friday evening. Pennsylvania is the only state not to impose taxes on smokeless tobacco and cigars.
Also absent from the Senate bill are prior initiatives to increase the sales tax on arts and culture admissions and taxing small games of chance, such as raffles conducted by different social or charitable organizations.
Rendell said he would meet with legislative leaders this morning and urged lawmakers to approve the Senate plan.
“I think it’s very close to being a deal and it ought to be a deal,” the Democratic governor said. “It’s a good budget. It reduces spending even further. It doesn’t call for any additional taxes and it resolves the differences between the Senate and the House and it protects education, health care, and economic development. So it’s a budget that ought to be signed quickly and I think there’s almost agreement about that. I think the only thing that’s really left to determine is what process we follow to make that budget reality.”
Democrats control the lower chamber while Republicans have the majority in the Senate. Pennsylvania has been without an approved, comprehensive budget since July 1, the start of fiscal 2010.
More than two weeks ago, Rendell, his fellow Democrats in the House, and both Senate caucuses said they had reached an agreement to balance the fiscal 2010 budget. Over the following days lawmakers were briefed on the revenue details, including increasing the sales tax on tickets to live performances and museums, taxing small games of chance, and implementing table games at the state’s slot casinos.
Once it became clear that some of the tax measures would indeed not gain House approval, the Senate moved forward with plans to craft and vote on its own budget strategy. Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said yesterday during a press conference that he expects a budget plan to pass the upper chamber today.
“We have tried repeatedly over a period now of weeks to try to work with the House leadership in both caucuses to try and predict and coordinate with the House and that simply hasn’t worked,” Pileggi said yesterday. “So we need to regroup and reset the process and start to move bills here in the Senate.”