Senate Republican leaders say they will try to override some of Gov. Rendell's line-item budget vetoes today in an attempt to secure funding for child care, college grants, and an array of social services.
In order to be successful, 33 votes would be needed in the Senate, where Republicans hold 29 of 50 seats. A two-thirds majority of the Democratic-controlled House also is required.
Rendell last month vetoed nearly $13 billion in spending, while approving $4 billion to pay state workers and keep a few government services running during the budget impasse. The governor wants Senate Republicans to restore funding for health care and education.
Republican leaders say they are attempting the rare override to help cash-strapped nonprofit groups that without state funding are on the verge of shutting their doors.
"The governor's decision to veto funding for line items such as food banks shows a lack of compassion for Pennsylvanians who are struggling with record-high unemployment rates," said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware).
Rendell spokesman Gary Tuma said: "His compassion extends for a full 12 months, not just for two or three weeks. That is why he is fighting for adequate funding for the entire year, rather than approving a budget that does not provide enough money for essential services to children and our most vulnerable citizens."
The last veto override was in 1994, on a bill relating to auto-emissions centers.
Rendell said the Republican move would cause confusion by restoring funding for some programs while leaving others out and extending the already lengthy budget negotiations.
"Then you have a hodgepodge budget that doesn't make sense," Rendell said at a news conference.
House and Senate Democratic leaders said the Republicans were playing politics at a time when legislative leaders from both parties should be negotiating on a final 2009-10 spending plan.
"We are now seven weeks past the budget deadline, yet Republicans still insist on playing games," Senate Minority Leader Robert Mellow (D., Lackawanna) said in a statement. ". . . It is going to waste yet another day that should be spent trying to solve the real-life problems that continue to grow every day we do not have a complete and balanced budget."
Brett Marcy, a spokesman for House Democratic Leader Todd Eachus (D., Luzerne), said Democrats were seeking adequate funding for social-service programs the Republicans wanted to cut. "The Senate Republicans claim to be acting in the best interest of those who benefit from these programs, but the sad reality is that they want to slash funding to the vast majority of these programs, leaving thousands of vulnerable Pennsylvanians without the services they desperately need," he said.
House Minority Leader Sam Smith (R., Jefferson) said he supported the Senate Republicans, but acknowledged an override would have a higher hurdle to cross in the House, where Republicans would need 39 Democratic votes. "I am hoping that Democratic members of the House would see past the political gamesmanship that the governor has employed," Smith said. "It's political gamesmanship that is causing hardship on the people of Pennsylvania, unduly and unnecessarily."