HARRISBURG -- The state House Appropriations Committee voted today, along party lines, to reject a $27.3 billion state budget proposal adopted by Senate Republicans.
"Senate Bill 850 stinks and needs to be thrown out with the garbage, and then we can start over," said an emotional Rep. John Myers, D-Philadelphia.
Democrats criticized the bare-bones Senate-passed bill for making too many cuts in economic development, child care, libraries, aid to the disabled, nursing homes, hospitals and other areas. Democrats said Republican reductions in funds for local governments would just force counties and school boards to raise their residents' property taxes because the localities wouldn't get sufficient state funding.
Twenty Democrats on the panel voted against Senate Bill 850 and 14 Republicans voted for it, putting the state budget process basically back at square one, with just three weeks to go before the July 1 deadline.
Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, said a bill proposed by Gov. Ed Rendell, outlining a fiscal 2009-10 budget of about $29 billion, will now become "the vehicle" for framing a new state budget for fiscal 2009-10. Mr. Evans noted the governor will soon propose about $500 million in spending reductions to his proposal, but Republicans have said that isn't enough in cuts.
Mr. Rendell also has proposed higher tobacco taxes, a new tax on natural gas and using part of the state's $750 million Rainy Day Fund fund for emergencies.
Mr. Evans was asked if the Legislature can adopt a new budget by the deadline, and said, "Anything is possible, but we have to work hard. We have to work collectively. We have to negotiate with the other legislative caucuses."