Competing budget bills could emerge Sunday

Competing budget bills could emerge Sunday

The House Republican caucus seemed to emerge from a several hours-long internal meeting Saturday afternoon with bad news for fans of the five-party budget framework agreed to just before Thanksgiving.

Following what appeared to be a complicated discussion, rank-and-file members told reporters that the caucus has agreed to run a pared-down $30.2 billion budget bill that no longer includes the governor’s increases in public education and also no longer includes GOP priorities of pension and liquor reform.

That bill is slated for a Sunday vote in the House Appropriations Committee.

“It’s far pared-down,” said Rep. Seth Grove (R-York). “No sales tax, sales tax expansion, PIT, that kind of stuff.”

He said the decision to drop pension and liquor reform was made after the realization the governor would not support the concepts without his desired increases in revenue, but he did not say whether or not the proposal would fly with Senate Republicans or the governor.

Saturday, December 5, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
Budget impasse spending transparency called into question by GOP lawmakers

Budget impasse spending transparency called into question by GOP lawmakers

A group of Republican lawmakers from the House and the Senate sounded the alarm Thursday on what they believe is a lack of transparency in how money is being spent by the Wolf administration during the protracted state budget impasse.

Including federal dollars, Rep. Seth Grove (R-York) said the Wolf administration has spent $30.4 billion in the period between July 1 and October 31.

A report authored by Rep. Grove and Representatives Chris Dush (R-Jefferson) and Jim Christiana (R-Beaver) was released with recommendations about how to bring more transparency to the way dollars are spent and calling on the auditor general to take a look at the issue.

“What we discovered in this report is the administration used prior year funds without any oversight from the legislature or transparency to the public to fund Harrisburg first,” Rep. Grove said.

Thursday, December 3, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views

Some Republicans say use of new basic education funding formula should be reconsidered

While its use for additional school funds has unanimously been given the green light twice by Republicans in the House and the Senate, some in the GOP are seeing the twice-vetoed Education Code bills passed by the legislature as the perfect opportunity to revisit the use of the new basic education funding formula.

The new formula was developed after the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission held a number of hearings across the state before delivering their report with new funding recommendations in June.

While the Wolf administration was skeptical of the new formula’s usage for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, stating they wished to bring school districts back to pre-Corbett funding levels before using the formula to drive out new dollars, Republicans insisted on using the funding formula for funds that went above-and-beyond last year’s amounts.

A similar use of the new funding formula was seen in the Education Code bill passed along with the vetoed stop-gap funding measures in September.

While initially sources within the House Republican Caucus told The PLS Reporter that members were using the time during the budget impasse to learn more about how the use of the new formula would affect their particular districts, some members have gone so far as to call for a review of certain elements of the new formula and hold off on its usage until such time as the formula can be reconsidered.

Monday, October 19, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
PlanCON reform urged by public school officials

PlanCON reform urged by public school officials

Groups and officials representing Pennsylvania public school interests called on lawmakers and the governor to support legislation that would significantly reform PlanCON, the process by which school districts are reimbursed for construction projects.

“[PlanCON] consists of eleven laborious, paperwork intensive, bureaucratic, archaic, and out-of-date paperwork submissions,” said Jay Himes of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials. “Taken altogether, it is simply a train wreck when it comes to the state budget and its ability to fund the commitment the Commonwealth should have made for schools to get reimbursed.”

He said the current PlanCON process and the lack of funding resulting in less-than-expected reimbursements for construction projects has led to cuts in programs and personnel as well as increases to property taxes.

Speakers noted many of PlanCON’s provisions—which have their origin in the 1970s—still remain in effect today.

Monday, June 15, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
Municipal pension reform bill Floor vote will likely be held off

Municipal pension reform bill Floor vote will likely be held off

While House Bill 316—a bill to substantially reform Pennsylvania’s more than 1,400 municipal pension plans—was moved out of the House State Government Committee Tuesday morning, its consideration on the House Floor will likely be held off until state public pension reform legislation is dealt with by the legislature.

House Bill 316 would require all municipalities to move newly-hired police and firefighters into a cash balance pension system.

“There are no immediate plans [to run the bill] at this particular moment,” said Steve Miskin spokesperson for the House Speaker and Majority Leader. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
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