It's the Battle of the Harrisburg Stars
It’s mid-June. What else would you expect? With a June 30 deadline staring them in the face, Republicans and Democrats are digging in for their annual reality show, “Battle of the Harrisburg Stars.”
In some other states they call it passing a budget.
It’s pretty important stuff. If the budget is not in place by June 30, the state technically loses the ability of spend money. Sometimes, they take drastic steps such as furloughing state workers. That tends to wreak havoc on the old family budget.
This year Gov. Ed Rendell is seeking a huge boost in education funding in his $28.3 billion spending plan. That’s not sitting well with many Republicans, who believe he’s spending too much money.
One of the key areas of contention is education funding. It’s an old story, one that has been kicking around the Capitol for years. Rendell, acting on the findings of a recent “costing-out” study ordered by the Legislature that found the state was consistently under-spending on education. He wants to remedy that by increasing education funding by about 6 percent.
Republicans are countering with a plan that would boost education spending by about 3.5 percent.
In general they want to cut about $400 million overall.
But, hey, don’t get too worried. It’s early yet. After all, we’re still about two weeks from the deadline.
If it’s like most years, this thing won’t get done much before midnight on June 30, if not sometime around July 4.
It happens every year.
Of course, if you’re a state worker looking at a possible furlough after the deadline passes, you might be a little more concerned.
Rendell, no doubt racheting up the heat on his Republican colleagues, last week warned he could furlough 25,000 state employees who are not critical to the health and welfare of the state on July 1 if there’s no budget in place.
He’s not just blowing smoke, and not because he recently signed the state’s first smoking ban legislation. If you remember he did just that last year, when workers got a one-day unplanned vacation on July 9 as budget talks dragged on.
Talk about adding insult to injury. First you’re informed your services are not critical to the operation of the state. Then you’re handed a furlough notice.
Yep, must be the middle of June. Keep your eyes on the state Capitol the next two weeks.
The Harrisburg Two-Step is about to kick into full swing.