DEMOCRATS OPPOSE BUDGET BILL IN COMMITTEE VOTE
HARRISBURG, May 10, 2005 –Citing unacceptable cuts to important departments of state government, as well as the overall insincerity of the plan, State Senate Democrats voted unanimously today not to report the 2005-06 budget bill out of the Appropriations Committee.
On a party-line vote, the committee approved House Bill 815 and sent it to the Senate floor. The House of Representatives passed the legislation on April 13 after adopting a series of amendments. The House added money for a variety of programs, but then, in an attempt to make the budget appear to be still in balance, deeply cut other governmental programs beyond acceptable limits.
Today’s Appropriations Committee vote came without the Senate having any input into the content of the bill.
"The budget as it was passed by the House was not realistic," said Sen. Vince Fumo (D-Philadelphia,) the Democratic Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. "Perhaps if it were close, we would not have had as much trouble voting it out of committee, just to move the process along, but this was not even close to what it should have been."
Two of the House’s most severe cuts reduced the Revenue Department’s appropriations by $125 million and the Corrections Department’s by $83 million.
"Those cuts would basically prevent those departments from functioning. What are we going to do, let all the criminals out of jail?" Fumo said.
Among the other unsuitable cuts were: General Services by $58 million; debt service by $33 million; and important Agriculture Department programs by 7 ˝ million.
Fumo said the final budget will probably result from negotiations among Democrats and Republicans in both legislative chambers and Governor Rendell. That process, which must be completed next month to have a budget in place by June 30, has barely begun.
"If House Bill 815 had formed a legitimate basic for negotiation, then we might have voted to report it from committee with the understanding that some changes were still under discussion. But we could not put ourselves on record favoring a budget that makes such unreasonable cuts and which is so far distant from the realistic needs of the citizens of Pennsylvania," Fumo said.
"Just because the House wants to go through the exercise of voting to support some programs while making fantasy cuts to other programs, doesn’t mean we have to play along," he added.
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