Post-Gazette: State's $28 billion budget agreement

This a double byline with Tom Barnes, as appearing in the July 1, 2008 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.This is part of a post-graduate internship with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association (PLCA).

HARRISBURG — Even though a handshake agreement was reached early yesterday on a new $28.2 billion state budget that calls for no tax increases, the House and Senate won’t take final action for several days.

Legislators’ goal is to vote by late Thursday, so they can be home on July Fourth for parades, picnics and politicking. Because it will take a couple of days to print and proofread the hundreds of pages of the document, and because the House sometimes waits for 24 hours before a final vote on bills, it’s unknown if the lawmakers will be back home Friday.

Another question is how many of the 100 amendments that House Republicans have prepared will be debated on the floor. Lengthy debate could delay final action by a day or more.

“People are hoping to have the budget all done by Thursday, so everyone can get out by July 4. It’s a heavy lift, but it can be done,” said Gary Tuma, spokesman for Sen. Vincent Fumo, D-Philadelphia, one of the Senate budget negotiators.

The proposed budget for fiscal 2008-09 is 3.8 percent higher than the spending package for the just-ended fiscal year, an increase that is near the rate of inflation. That was important to Senate Republicans, who objected to Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell’s original budget of $28.3 billion, which would have increased state spending about 4.2 percent.

Read the rest on Post-Gazette.com.

Photo of  House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Greene, right, and House Majority Whip Keith McCall, D-Carbon courtesy of Daylife.com from AP photographer Carolyn Kaster.