All York County House Republicans voted Wednesday to pass a $29.1 billion state budget that doesn't increase taxes, but does face an uncertain future in the Senate.
The county's lone Democrat in the House, Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, voted against the proposal, saying he did so partly because the budget will likely be altered in the Senate and kicked back to the House.
"I think the general consensus is ... it's a shell of a bill to get the budget passed on time," Schreiber said. "It's hard to vote 'yes' for something you know is going to change drastically."
The budget is predicated on raising $380 million from the unlikely sell-off of the state's liquor stores - a plan that's unpopular with Democrats in both chambers and hasn't managed to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.
The bill, made public barely two days ago, passed, 110-93, with one Republican joining every Democrat to oppose it.
Liquor debate: Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, said he's expecting "rough times" in getting the bill past the Senate and predicts the budget will come back to the House. But the House is setting a precedent to hold the line on spending while not raising taxes.
While Democrats and some Republicans have proposed a severance tax on the state's natural gas drillers, Grove and some GOP colleagues have eschewed creating new taxes when liquor privatization remains a potential means of generating income.
"Obviously we'll continue to work with the Senate (on privatization)," he said. "It's something they need to do before even considering tax increases."
If the Senate had the Republican votes needed to pass privatization, it would have passed the bill that already passed the House and has been sitting in the Senate for months, said Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin/York.
Teplitz has opposed selling off the liquor stores because, while it would generate one-time revenue, the state would lose the money it generates from operations year after year, he said.
"I don't think it's impossible," Grove said of the Senate passing a privatization bill. "I think the Senate needs to roll up its sleeves and get it done."
Budget details: Overall, the House plan would increase spending by about $727 million, or almost 2.6 percent, over the current year's approved budget.
Democrats said it would not be adequate for public schools, and instead want a tax increase on the booming natural gas industry and increased taxes on tobacco sales. They also have sought the expansion of Medicaid eligibility under the 2010 federal health care law and touted it as a way to save hundreds of millions of dollars.
Schreiber said Medicaid expansion could save the state $400 million annually while providing insurance to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians.
The biggest task for lawmakers was to paper over a massive and unexpected revenue shortfall that helped tear a projected $1.7 billion hole in the $29.4 billion plan that Gov. Tom Corbett had proposed.
To fill the gap, Corbett's plan was pared back by about $300 million.
Some of Corbett's priorities are included in the budget. For instance, it makes the first increase for special education funding in seven years and adds tens of millions more to help the intellectually and physically disabled. Public schools would see an extra $100 million, including $70 million for instruction and operations, $20 million for special education and $10 million for school construction projects.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.