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Pa. House OKs GOP budget

All Democrats voted against the document, saying wide cuts in programs would be harmful.

HARRISBURG - Majority Republicans in the Pennsylvania House sent their state budget proposal to the Senate on Tuesday over the loud objections of Democrats during a long floor debate.

The chamber voted, 109-92, to approve a $27.3 billion spending plan and move the process closer to negotiations among legislative leaders and Gov. Corbett.

At least 74 members spoke on the bill, which Speaker Sam Smith (R., Jefferson) said might constitute a record. All Democrats, and two Philadelphia Republicans, voted against it.

The vigorous debate divided the chamber along party lines, with majority Republicans pushing their proposal as a responsible approach amid a trying economic climate and Democrats predicting dire consequences from wide cuts in government programs.

"I understand that there's line items out there that mean an awful lot to the individual districts that we represent," said Appropriations Chairman Bill Adolph (R., Delaware). "We listened, and we put together a responsible budget that did not put a tax burden on our families and our businesses."

The budget plan has the same total spending figure that Corbett, a Republican, has proposed. Like the governor's budget, it also would not raise taxes. The House GOP plan, however, dedicates less money to the Department of Public Welfare to restore money for education and makes other changes to specific line items.

Democrats listed cut after cut to education, health care, economic development, environmental projects, human services, and other programs, saying the GOP proposal should be expanded to tap into a $500 million-plus windfall in recent state revenue collections.

Rep. Tim Briggs of Montgomery County was one of many Democrats to warn of harm to Pennsylvania hospitals, schools, and universities.

"We cannot attract businesses without a well-educated workforce, and cutting education hampers the state's ability to grow," Briggs said, predicting higher property taxes, more expensive college tuition, and larger class sizes.

Republicans noted that Democrats did not offer an alternative budget or even amendments to the GOP bill.

Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) said that his party cared about the sick, the disabled, and children, and that the budget still would provide billions for welfare, public schools, and other state needs. "It's easy to throw barbs out and act like other people are somehow mean-hearted," Turzai said.