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House GOP pass cuts-heavy budget proposal

David Weissman
505-5431/@DispatchDavid
  • House GOP budget proposal $246 million less than 16-17; $815 million less than Gov. Wolf proposal.
  • Bill does not include any of Wolf's proposed $1 billion in taxes to help close $3 billion deficit.
  • Across-the-board cuts include Senate, House of Representatives and program eliminations.

Facing an estimated $3 billion deficit heading into next year, House Republicans pushed a budget proposal through to the Senate that would decrease state spending for the first time since the 2011-12 fiscal year.

A group of nonbelievers is suing the state House for the right to give an invocation to open a session. The House rules stipulate that the invocation be given by a member of the House or by a member of "a regularly established church or religious organization."

The $31.5 billion proposal represents a decrease of nearly $246 million compared to the enacted 2016-17 budget and more than $815 million less than proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf.

Wolf's proposal had included $1 billion in new taxes — sans sales and income tax increases — but the House GOP proposal doesn't include any of those new taxes.

The Republican-controlled House voted 114-84, with every Democrat joined by two Republicans in opposition.

House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, said the proposal calls for a combination of spending cuts and gains expected from gambling modernization and liquor privatization to close the deficit.

The proposal does not account for many of Wolf's requests, including raising the minimum wage to $12 or charging municipalities that use state police exclusively.

Saylor said the state police fee is still under consideration, but Republicans chose not to include it yet because there are still many unanswered questions regarding details.

Pennsylvania State Rep. Stan Saylor reacts to Gov. Tom Wolf's 2017-18 budget address at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Proposed cuts are across virtually all departments and agencies, including 6.5 percent spending cuts to the Senate and House of Representatives.

Saylor, serving as Appropriations chairman for the first time, said creating a budget is about compromise, and he wouldn't feel right cutting from other departments without cutting his own spending.

New spending in the House GOP plan would include $150 million more for public schools, special education and early childhood education, less than Wolf’s $200 million proposed increase. It also would maintain Wolf’s proposal to add more than $150 million to fund caregiver help and day services for another 2,000 people with intellectual disabilities or autism.

Saylor also pointed to a $3 million inclusion to expand drug treatment courts because many counties still don't have them.

Other programs, including the Local Government Commission and the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, would be completely cut under the House GOP proposal.

Wolf aired concerns about some of the plan’s spending cuts, including for child-care subsidies, and said he believed that corporations should pay their “fair share” while state government tightens its belt, according to The Associated Press.

Wolf's office did not respond to requests from The York Dispatch for comment on the proposal.