House panel passes budget bill, but don't get your hopes up 22-Jul-2015
Don't be fooled by the House Appropriations Committee's approval of a budget bill on Wednesday. It doesn't mean an end to the 22-day-old budget stalemate is in sight.
The committee's 21-11 party-line vote was merely a procedural move to speed up the process in passing an eventual budget agreement – or possibly a stopgap budget – when the time comes.
The state has been operating since July 1 without an enacted budget. Republican leaders of the GOP-controlled House and Senate and Gov. Tom Wolf met on Tuesday and reported some progress in narrowing their differences or at least gaining an understanding of the justifications behind their positions but there's no deal yet.
The $30.2 billion spending plan contained in the bill is identical to the one that passed the House and Senate late last month and subsequently vetoed in its entirety by Gov. Tom Wolf.
But House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Adolph, R-Delaware, told committee members that it takes about two weeks to move a bill into position for a final vote in the chamber so getting House Bill 1460 through the committee will shave off a few days when an agreement is reached.
"I'm not saying when that's going to be done but whenever it is done, this vehicle that we're using today will be amended with the agreed-to" spending plan, he said.
Despite their opposing votes, Democratic lawmakers agreed with the strategy of advancing the bill. In fact, House Democratic Appropriations Committee Chairman Joe Markosek of Allegheny County said he applauded it as a way to streamline the process.
"It actually gives me some optimism in that the chairman, just like myself and I think hopefully all of us on the committee, know we have to come up with an agreed-to budget," Markosek said.
But he said Democrats, who voted as a block against the Republican-crafted spending plan when it was considered last month, would be voting against this bill that laid out an identical spending plan to avoid the appearance of switching their positions and saving themselves from having to explain it to their constituents back home.