Governor Revises Tax Plan
At a press conference, Gov. Rendell said he understands how difficult it is to gather the votes needed to pass a tax package like the House Democrats tried to do this week.
On his own tax plans, the Governor said he is still pushing for a natural gas production severance tax and a tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco products. On his plan to eliminate all Sales Tax exemptions, he said the plan might be too complex to do in an election year.
In response to a question about considering alternatives, including cuts, Gov. Rendell said he would be happy to consider cuts like closing some State Parks to generate additional funding for education.
The Governor also said tax amnesty has netted $64 million so far, only about one-third of the $190 million they anticipated. The program ends June 18, so there's still time to rake in more money.
House Democrat Budget Cuts
In response to Republican calls for more budget cuts, the House Democrats put out a summary of all the budget cuts they have made from FY 08-09 up to and including the proposed FY 2010-11 budget they passed in March in House Bill 2279 (Evans-D-Philadelphia)-- a total of a little more than $1.9 billion in General Fund and nonpreferred appropriations.
Those cuts included over $102 million from environmental agencies, including: $73.8 million from DEP (32.2 percent), $29 million (24.1 percent) and $19.7 million (24 percent).
These cuts do not include $383 million diverted from DCNR's Oil and Gas Fund over the last 3 years, the $135 million diverted from the Environmental Stewardship Fund to pay Growing Greener II debt service and for the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Program, a "one-time" diversion of $52.7 million from the Keystone Recreation, Parks and Conservation Fund, the diversion of $15 million from the Recycling Fund or the $10.5 million reduction in the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) farm conservation tax credit over the last few budgets.
Senate Rs Preparing New Budget Spreadsheet
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) said in a podcast his Caucus is preparing a new state budget spreadsheet based on the most recent deficit estimates of at least $1.3 billion.
Once that new spreadsheet is finished, they will share it with the other Caucuses to begin real budget discussions. Sen. Pileggi said they asked Gov. Rendell to revise his budget request weeks ago based on the new budget realities, especially the $1.1 billion in new spending the Governor proposed.
He said they also asked the Governor for his latest estimates on expected federal revenues since the Governor's budget was based on at least $2.3 billion in federal Medicaid funding and a total of $2.7 billion in federal stimulus funds that were not yet all approved by Congress.
Sen. Pileggi said, in light of the failure of the House to get votes for revenue increases and the lack of votes in the Senate, he felt tax increases "would not be an issue this year."
He said an on-time budget could be passed, if they get cooperation from Gov. Rendell.