Rendell Says Get Ready For 1,000 More State Worker Layoffs, Supports Natural Gas Tax
Gov. Ed Rendell said this week he has no confidence a revenue-raising table games bill will arrive on his desk for his signature by his January 8 deadline. So he has ordered his Cabinet secretaries to identify 1,000 to 1,200 positions in their departments to furlough.
“We were able to do this last year without closing any State Parks,” he said. If the table games bill does not pass by his deadline, leading to 1,000 to 1,200 layoffs, Gov. Rendell said: “We are going to have to close a lot more State Parks, … perhaps the State Museum.”
Gov. Rendell is ordering the cuts even though he said last week the fiscal year would end with a$124 million surplus. Although no figures were released on what 1,000 to 1,200 furloughs would save the state, even a back of the envelope calculation shows it would be much less than $30 million and even less than that when unemployment benefits are included.
News reports Wednesday said there may have been progress some progress on an agreement between Senate Republicans and House Democrats on a table games bill, although no details were released.
A letter from Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) told Senators that January 5 will be a voting day, rather than a non-voting session day, as a result of apparent progress on the bill.
At the same time, there is more work to do Sen. Pileggi said. He also said the deadline set by Gov. Rendell to have the bill done by January 8 and threatening layoffs was helpful to the process.
House Democrats said they could not guarantee a positive vote on the supposed compromise, but thought it had a good chance of passing.
Year In Review
During an end-of-year interview this week, Gov. Rendell said he will push for even more school funding next year, along with a first-ever natural gas severance tax when he presents his last proposed budget in February. He also said he would push for electric rate cap relief.
The Governor originally proposed the severance tax as part of his 2009-10 budget, but backed away from the proposal as the 101 day budget impasse continued saying the time was not yet right.
He also said the next Governor will have to raise $4.5 to $5 billion in new revenues to replace federal stimulus funding in this year's budget and to help pay for the coming spike in state worker and school employee pension costs. That would equal about 15 percent of today's budget.
While calling the 101 day budget impasse "regrettable," he said his major achievements in 2009 included an increase in spending for education, cutting state administrative spending and having the Wall Street Journal say Pennsylvania was one of only 10 states to be declared fiscally stable.
Gov. Rendell also cited quickly spending federal stimulus funding, adding 78,000 children to the CHIP health insurance program and 311,000 seniors to the PACE and PACENET as other accomplishments.
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