With dozens of school children at his feet, Gov. Rendell signed Pennsylvania's $28 billion state budget - the last in his eight-year tenure as the state's chief executive.

At a ceremony Tuesday at a school outside Harrisburg, Rendell touted the $250 million (or 4.5 percent) increase in education funding that he fought to preserve in a recession-driven, near flatline spending plan approved by the legislature June 30.

Rendell bemoaned spending cuts he was forced to make elsewhere in the budget and said if the legislature had approved his tax package it would have "alleviated some of the pain."

As many as 1,000 state workers are expected to be laid off as a result of the cuts.

Reporters after the event asked Rendell to justify spending cuts at a time when hundreds of millions in bond funds will be used to support pet projects of the governor and the legislature, among them the Arlen Specter library at Philadelphia University - which is located in East Falls where both Rendell and Specter live - and a public policy center in Johnstown to honor the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha.

Rendell defended the spending, saying the borrowed funds for capital projects (also known as bricks and mortar construction)  cannot be used for government operating expenses.

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