INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU

HARRISBURG - Although Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled state Senate met for several hours yesterday to consider a budget proposal backed by House Democrats and Gov. Rendell, the two sides appear no closer to a compromise on enacting a spending plan for the new fiscal year.

Senators yesterday released from committee a Democratic-backed $29.1 billion budget proposal, although they made it clear they would not support it when it comes up for a floor debate as early as tomorrow.

Instead, Republicans in the upper chamber are expected to push a $27.4 billion bill that calls for spending cuts and raising revenue from a variety of state reserves, but would not increase any taxes.

Senate GOP leaders have criticized the Democratic-backed plan, which the House passed Friday, for temporarily stripping $1.3 billion in funding for student loans and state-owned universities and colleges. Under the plan, lawmakers would return in the fall to determine how to pay for higher education.

Rendell said yesterday that he would wait to see the full Republican plan before passing any judgment. And although he said he was willing to negotiate, no talks with legislative leaders are scheduled.

"The ball is in their court," Rendell said of Senate GOP leaders, "and I want to see what they are going to do."

In the interim, the impasse has consequences.

On Friday, about 33,000 state workers took home a partial paycheck, likely their last unless a budget deal is struck soon. Next Friday, 44,000 more employees will receive what could be their last check as well.

The "payless paydays," as they're being called in the Capitol, will continue until Rendell and the legislature strike a compromise and enact a fiscal blueprint for the fiscal year, which began July 1.

Contact staff writer Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934 or acouloumbis@phillynews.com.