House members sent Governor Corbett a state spending plan on Wednesday for the fiscal year that begins Friday, July 1. The Governor is expected to sign the bill into law. The budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year spends three percent less than what was appropriated over the current fiscal year. Also notable is the plan will not include a fee on natural gas drillers to help local governments cover the impact on infrastructure due to the drilling. The impact fee legislation is now off until the Fall, Republican leaders say.
The budget is largely a Republican spending plan, and both House and Senate votes were down party lines. Republican leaders said that both the sluggish economy and the loss of federal money dictated the $27.15 billion final figure, and the cuts that went along with it.
“Over the past three years, Pennsylvania has received nearly seven billion – that’s billion with a ‘b’ – dollars in budget assistance from the federal government,” said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware. “Those days are over.”
Democratic leaders called the cuts unnecessary and “draconian”, particularly since the state will end the year with a $500 million surplus.
“Not everyone will embrace this budget, I understand that,” Pileggi said.
Among other line items facing the axe are the 14 state owned universities. They will have 18 percent less than they received over the current fiscal year. Yet, the 18 percent is far better than the 50 percent cut Governor Corbett proposed in his March budget address.
Finally, the governor renewed his vow to act on “impact fee” legislation relating to natural gas operations only after a the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission files its report in July. Hearing that message, lawmakers backed off legislative language that would place fees on natural gas wells.