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2012-2013 Budget: Staying in the Game

When Governor Tom Corbett presents his budget proposal on Tuesday, February 7, in an address to a joint session of the General Assembly, it will mark the beginning, not the end, of the public annual appropriations process for the fiscal year 2012-2013. This year the budget proposal is set against a backdrop of an economy trying to recover, lower-than-projected revenues and an estimated $500 million deficit. In anticipation of the shortfall, the Governor's Budget Office in December froze over $155 million in appropriations for agencies under the governor's jurisdiction and asked that agencies not under the governor's jurisdiction do likewise. Competition for limited public dollars for fiscal year 2012-2013 will be fierce.

Senate Democrats Set Their Budget Stage

Senate Democrats began to set the stage for upcoming budget talks by calling on the governor to make job creation, tax fairness, education funding, shale and the restoration of funds for safety net programs budget priorities. Senate Democrats have identified nearly $1 billion in new revenues from policy changes, efficiencies and a shale tax that can be used to pay for their agenda.

Next Step: Budget Hearings

After Governor Corbett presents his budget proposal to the General Assembly on February 7, members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will hold a series of hearings to ask questions and receive input from the various government agencies seeking appropriations. This next step in the budget process is a critical one as the legislature prepares their response to the governor’s proposals.

Revenue Department Offers One-Time Extension on Internet Sales Tax Collections

The Department of Revenue extended the deadline by which remote sellers with physical presence in Pennsylvania must become licensed and begin collecting sales tax. These steps now must be completed by September 1.

Proposal to Close the Delaware Loophole

State Representatives Dave Reed (R-Indiana) and Eugene DePasquale (D-York) unveiled a plan to close the “Delaware loophole” and implement business tax reforms in Pennsylvania. According to Reed and DePasquale, their proposal is geared toward helping create a more competitive and fair business climate in the state.

Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Begins to Take Shape Governor Tom Corbett nominated Gary Tennis of Philadelphia to serve as secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, which is being created as a result of a 2010 state law. Tennis has been charged with taking a common-sense approach to streamlining and eliminating duplication of state drug and alcohol treatment and prevention efforts in Pennsylvania.

Unemployment Compensation Bill Goes to the House

The state Senate voted 47-3 to pass S.B. 1375 which would allow for the continuation of federal unemployment compensation extended benefits. It will be the second extension in the last seven months. In June, S.B. 1030 was signed by the governor to allow for those federally-funded extended benefits to continue through the end of 2011

Governor Corbett Signs Bills into Law

Act 1 H.B. 1458 (Tallman, R-Adams/York) makes various changes to Title 75 (Vehicles), including amendments to bring Pennsylvania into compliance with federal commercial drivers license (CDL) requirements.

Wagner Resigns

Representative Chelsa Wagner (D-Allegheny) resigned from her seat representing the 22nd District. Wagner was elected Allegheny County Controller in November and took the oath of office on January 2. She continued to also serve as a member of the House until her resignation on January 17. In the House, Wagner had served on the Democratic Policy Committee. The 22nd District had been moved to the Allentown area under the reapportionment plan that was struck down by the state Supreme Court.

Retirement List Grows

The list of members who have announced they will not seek re-election in 2012 continues to grow.

Political Grapevine

The 2012 election cycle was thrown into disarray when the state Supreme Court struck down the reapportionment plan. The Supreme Court has remanded to the Legislative Reapportionment Commission to revise its plan and resubmit the plan to the Supreme Court. A Supreme Court opinion with specifics of their constitutional concerns was issued February 3. In the meantime, candidates are currently permitted to circulate petitions to get on the April 24 ballot, but the Supreme Court’s decision has presented several questions for candidates and volunteers regarding the logistics and legalities of moving forward.

Committee Meeting Calendar

For the most up-to-date listing of the standing committee meeting schedule, log on to the PA General Assembly's website here.