The GOP-controlled Senate is poised to open budget negotiations, possibly as early as today, with a spending plan of its own that restores some of the drastic cuts in Gov. Tom Corbett's proposal.
The Republican governor's budget would hold spending at $27.1 billion, while slashing deeply into education and social services funding.
True to his word, Corbett's plan would not raise taxes.
But of course, local school districts would be forced to raise taxes or cut programs -- possibly both -- to make up for the lack of state funding, just as counties would be forced to raise taxes to continue offering services benefiting our most vulnerable.
"You can't just keep giving it back to us and saying, 'I'm the governor and I promised not to raise taxes,' putting (the onus) back on every other elected official ..." York County Commissioner Steve Chronister said in February after Corbett unveiled his proposal.
"I don't understand what this guy is doing," he added.
And that was from a Republican.
Apparently there are more than a few other GOPers, who also control the House, balking as the June 30 budget deadline approaches.
The full Senate is expected this week to pass its own version, which provides an additional $245 million for higher education, $73 million more for K-12 education and $84 million more for social services at the county level.
It also scraps a block grant program that would have lumped K-12 funding together with districts' transportation and other costs -- which some local administrators claim is a ploy to make it seem as if the proposed state education funding is higher than it actually is.
The Senate's $26.65 billion plan would tap better-than-expected tax revenue to increase funding.
Signals from the governor's office indicate senators will have a tough time selling Corbett on their budget, and the House has yet to weigh in with a plan of its own.
But, as Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said this week, "this is the beginning of the process" of negotiating a state budget.
We hope lawmakers in both the House and Senate -- who likely are bearing the brunt of complaints about the governor's plan -- can unite on an alternative to Corbett's pass-the-tax-to-locals approach.
Even the relatively modest increases the Senate is proposing would help counties and school districts get by in these difficult times.
Unfortunately, it will take much more to help the York City School District out of its massive financial hole.
Facing a $19 million deficit, the district is considering laying off teachers, administrators and guidance counselors. It also might eliminate all sports, as well as choir and band -- basically everything that doesn't involve a teacher in front of a class. And the district also could do away with kindergarten, which the state doesn't require it to offer.
On top of all this is a planned 17 percent tax increase.
It's a dismal picture.
Part of the problem: York City is home to five charter schools that are siphoning education funding from the district.
When students move to a charter school, they take their state subsidies with them. But the district's costs don't suddenly decrease by the same amount. The state recognized that and about 10 years ago began reimbursing districts for a portion of their charter school tuition.
But Corbett cut those reimbursements in his current budget -- costing the York City School District about $7 million then -- and is proposing the same for the 2012-13 budget.
If lawmakers want to help districts like York City's, they should also find a way to restore those reimbursements during budget negotiations.