Partial Budget Gets Pa. Workers Their Money

Finally Pennsylvania workers are going to get paid but some may soon be out of work as the budget squabbling continues.

The good news: About 77,000 Pa. workers will be paid and billions of dollars will become available for welfare checks under a partial budget bill Gov. Ed Rendell signed into law Wednesday.

Back-pay checks for state workers are expected to go out by Monday.

The bade news: Hundreds of state workers may soon be laid off, the governor also said. Between 300 and 800 people will lose their jobs, Rendell said. The precise figure was expected to be announced Thursday or Friday.

Rendell called the measure he signed "a budget that will send negotiators back to the table to communicate, to compromise and to get real about getting a true budget agreement for Pennsylvania."

Pennsylvania has gone without a comprehensive 2009-10 spending plan since its new fiscal year began July 1. State workers, including the governor, have received partial paychecks and endured payless paydays since then.

Rendell and his Democratic allies are fighting to protect state programs, most notably education spending, while Republicans are adamantly opposed to balancing the budget by raising the personal income tax or sales tax rate.

The gov used his line-item veto Wednesday to eliminate nearly $13 billion from an already bare-bones spending plan that passed the state Senate nearly three months ago. In a veto message he sent to the Senate, Rendell called the bill "a deeply flawed piece of legislation" that "robs the Commonwealth and its citizens of future opportunities."

The $11 billion in spending that survived the governor's veto pen included $5.7 billion for the Department of Public Welfare, $1.6 billion for prisons and nearly $7 million to operate the governor's office.

With the five-week-old state budget impasse expected to continue, Rendell urged legislative negotiators to renew their efforts to come to an agreement. He warned that school districts and local governments are on the verge of running out of money.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, in the Capitol to lobby for a citywide sales tax increase and a law to ease pension costs, said that without legislative action he will have to lay off about 3,000 workers and shut down a third of city government this fall.

"What's at stake is literally the future of Philadelphia and, I would say, southeastern Pennsylvania," Nutter said. "It's brutal."

In a statement Nutter said the following:
"It has taken a gargantuan effort to get us this to this point, but the hard work is far from over.

In order for the City of Philadelphia to receive the tools that we need to fix our own budget crisis we need approval by the House, the Senate and the Governor.  We now need the Senate to consider and vote on our two measures -- the temporary increase of the sales tax and the changes to our pension payments."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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