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Sunday, July 02, 2006
Posted 11:29 PM by

Fumo held up Pa. budget, but for a good cause

State Senator Vince Fumo, D-Philadelphia, held up passage of the 2006-07 in hopes of eliminating part of the state's slots law which lets legislator own up to 1 percent of a casino.Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell signed a 26.1 million budget today only two days late after Democratic senators, led by Philly's Vince Fumo, held up the process to push for reform of the state law legalizing slot machines.

While the Fumo-led faction initially shot down the budget and delayed another vote for two hours early Sunday, I don't think the Vince of Darkness deserves any criticism for it - nor the loss of 20 percent of his salary as blogger PSoTD suggested Saturday.

Fumo, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, was trying to eliminate a provision in the slots law that lets each lawmaker own up to 1 percent in a casino. He also wanted to strip Philly leaders of the power to approve locations for slot parlors.

"Since I got us into this mess, I want to try and figure a way out of it," Fumo told the Inquirer.

Some Republicans held out too, hoping to eliminate a provision that requires slot machine suppliers - politically favored middlemen - and let the state's 14 slots parlors buy their machines directly from manufacturers.

Rendell favors the suppliers, claiming it will help create jobs, and vetoed a previous attempt at reforming the slots law on Nov. 30, 2004.

The budget does not raise taxes, but the 5.8 percent increase, or about $1.4 billion, is one of the largest increases in the past decade, the Associated Press reports.

Thanks to a large surplus, the spending plan expands the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for needy families and increased basic education subsidies for public schools by almost 6 percent to $4.8 billion.

The increase in school funding did not require a corresponding drop in local property taxes, even though Rendell just signed a tax reform law last week.

The biggest increase by percentage went to the Regional Development Initiatives program, an obscure grant system administered by the state Department of Community and Economic Development but controlled by legislative leaders, the Inquirer reported today. It increased from $900,000 last year to $19.4 million this year.

Matthew J. Brouillette, president of the conservative think tank Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives, called the budget "pork-laden, self-serving" as well as "fiscally irresponsible, economically ignorant, and incredibly hypocritical."

"... It also sets the stage for major tax increases in the near future," Brouillette claimed.

"The governor said, 'Send me a 2.9 percent budget. Send it,'" Fumo told the Associated Press. "There was no mood (in the Legislature) to do that."

The Senate passed the budget bill 28-21, following the 130-68 House approval on Saturday.

To see budget highlights, click here. For a more in-depth look at the budget, click here.
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