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House Republicans Unveil Budget

Last week House Republicans unveiled HB 1437, the vehicle for the 2013-14 state budget and laid the groundwork for a month-long debate over revenue realities and spending priorities.

The House proposal colors within the lines of the framework proposed by Gov. Tom Corbett in his February budget address, but was based on use of the 2012-13 budget approved last June. The $28.339 billion budget represents a 2.1 increase in spending, $578 million above the current year’s $27.66 billion budget. Overall, HB 1437 proposes about $100 million less than the Corbett budget, primarily due to changes in the state’s overall financial picture since February.

The House and Senate Republican leadership estimate that the state will see a 1.5 percent revenue growth next year. They also project this will lead to a $200 million-plus shortfall by the end of next fiscal year, as compared to the $520 million shortfall forecasted by the Independent Fiscal Office last month.

The Independent Fiscal Office will release another revenue estimate mid-June, followed by the final state revenue estimate issued by the Budget Office when the budget is finalized.

On Monday the House Appropriations Committee reported the bill as committed along a party-line vote. While the bill has passed out of the committee, this does not reflect a final budget, as negotiations in both the House and Senate are still ongoing.

House leaders have said that the bill would begin being amended and debated as early as June 10. The optimistic start on the season does not ensure a smooth or early finish, as other major issues will surely be wrapped into negotiations.