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Legislature to Return Jan. 17; February Budget Address to Follow Spending Freeze

The House and Senate officially kicked off the 2012 Session on Tuesday, but will not meet in voting session until the week of January 17. Senator Joe Scarnati was unanimously re-elected President Pro Tempore of the Senate. All other officers in the House and Senate remain unchanged until leadership elections are held following general election in November.

With the Governor’s annual budget address scheduled for Feb. 7, the Corbett Administration had more bad news on the state’s financial outlook this week, leaving the General Assembly to once again face difficult decisions in 2012.  The administration Wednesday announced a freeze in state spending of about $156.6 million from the overall $24.8 billion executive branch budget in 2011-12, including a freeze of $2.3 million, three percent of the DEP Environmental Protection Operations, and another $323,000 in General Government Operations. 

“Until revenue collections improve, we must take precautions to ensure that the commonwealth budget remains in balance,” Gov. Tom Corbett said in a release on Wednesday. The budgetary freeze comes on the heels of revenue collections that are nearly $486.8 million below estimate, according to Tuesday’s Revenue Department report.

Most executive branch spending is reduced by just over one-half of one percent of the general fund budget, according to figures released by the office.   House Democratic Appropriations Chairman Joe Markosek said that March and April are the two largest revenue months, and because so much tax revenue is collected in these months, “the extent of the shortage will not be fully clear until then.”  Markosek acknowledged that “given continuing economic uncertainty, a revenue shortfall may likely be a factor in the next budget cycle.”