Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Gov. Rendell's Press Conference on the Budget

The governor’s press conference from last night was run several times today on PCN and I was able to type up some rough notes. As usual the governor does not talk in sound bites or repeat himself. He starts in and throws around numbers quickly. I hope I got this okay; my apologies for any errors or misconceptions. The Republican caucuses responded and I have rough notes from that as well. A few personal observations are listed at the end.

Rendell:Let me begin by announcing we are rescinding the furlough for workers beginning 12:01. I also want our state workers to know that over the next several days we will examine options for paying them for the missed day. Shortly after 9 p.m. today we have a budget agreement. Although there has been far too much partisan rhetoric. Everyone buckled down and got things done. Thank senate Republican leadership. This is an agreement that all sides can say they achieved some of their goals. As I have said this budget agreement involves 5 parties, the governor and all four caucuses; there have to be some victories and some goals not achieved. The administration very satisfied. First and foremost the budget itself. Every one of the budget priorities achieved, all funding intact for pre-k and full-day kindergarten, laptops for high schools, reduction of mental health and retardation waiting list, expansion of our successful childcare programs, continue our success in transitioning welfare mothers to work, colas for human service workers. As we went through this process cuts had to be made, choice of legislature and administration.

Want to credit Sen. Fumo and Rep. Evans; reached historic transportation agreement, by far most significant amount of money for transportation in history of commonwealth. Mass transit in virtually all of our 38 transit programs. What we have done here will put our transit programs in good stead for next decade or longer. This will produce over the course of decade 900M, 400M to mass transit. Health care, we took the first and very important steps in prescription for PA, lowering health care costs, 5 bills that will allow nurses and nurse practitioners to do more, expanding pool of health care workers that can practice at a lower rate. Reduce hospital acquired infections. In 2005 cost 3.5B dollars of expenses for infections they got while in hospitals. P’burgh VA hospital has dramatically reduced these infections. If we took that 3.5B it would allow businesses to reduce health care costs by 18%.

In energy, HB 1203 solar energy requirement, real boost to our burgeoning solar industry in PA. Two other major initiatives HB 1201, money to pay for incentivizing alternative and renewable energy. Join 11 other states doing the same. Help fellow Pennsylvanians conserve, rebates for appliances and solar panels. On Sept. 17, special session on energy, pass legislation for 60M part bond funding part operating dollars (16?) produce well over 750M dollars. Penn Security Fuels Initiative same thing as alternative energy portfolio standards for fuel. Create those standards require by a certain time every gallon of fuel if diesel contain a % of bio, if regular contain % of ethanol.

Controversial energy surcharge, will try to find alternative to finance it.

Money for Penguins arena in P’burgh and convention center in Philly.

Jonas Salk Legacy Fund, vote around Nov. 1st in Senate. Passed in House.

A good budget for progress in PA. Did not get everything we wanted when we wanted it.

Thanks staff, [did not record names].

Q: smoking ban will be hashed out between house and senate.

Q: RCAP will wait until Senate has chance to put in RCAP projects bill.

Q: On percentage increase, depends on how you count it. Kept spending low.

Q: Budget voted on Friday or Saturday.

Q: If there is a way to make workers whole they will be made whole. ER donating his day’s pay to United Way.

Q: Heard at the end of this process that there isn’t enough time. Energy bill arrived on everyone’s desk in April. Didn’t stay on schedule, everything compressed into last 2 weeks. We have experienced leadership but need to do some new things in the way we discuss issues. Will try next year.

Q: If you look at NJ they were out for 7 days. It is the nature of partisan politics in the 21st century. I think we resolved this swiftly with as little damage to the citizenry as possible. On balance when you think of what is in this budget, a low spending compared to rest of states, citizens will be pleased. If you ride mass transit or care about environment or pay health care premiums you will think this is a wonderful budget. I told you all along that the budget has to be considered along with programs

Q: Yes, there were cuts in the buget.

Q: The agreement we reached, we developed a number. The legislature had to agree where they would cut and governor agree.


Sam Smith: This budget a little more chaotic than most. Past few days the behavior on the house floor I was proud of House Republican caucus in standing firm in saying we have to get a budget deal together. Our key goal going into this we could do a budget, people didn’t want a tax increase, we were able to hold firm and achieve that goal. The increase of spending in govt over past few years, current lowest increase recently. We would focus on this as a 2 year budget process. [in background Fumo hugs Pileggi] Energy an important issue, education an important issue, but need to hold hearings so this isn’t a big surprise. I’m pleased with the outcome it will be several days before it is a fait accompli.

Mario Civera: We are the minority party but we led the pace. GOP in House Appropriations led the pace. Thank God for the Senate Republicans. The two parties got together on the same end got this done. Thank governor for getting people back to work. We asked them to give us a spending number we can all agree to. The next several days will be hard. We may get out of here on the weekend maybe Monday or Tuesday. The people of Pennsylvania won this.

Perzel: We have accomplished everything we set out to do.

Q: We expected transportation funding, it is about in the final form. Do not expect any technical difficulty.

Scarnati: We said from the beginning we won’t be obstructionist. But [missed this]

Smith: Gov made mention of timeline. A month or two in the legislative process can be the blink of an eye. We’re willing to work towards those goals but need to work through exact mechanisms to reach those goals.

Personal Observations

Sen. Fumo looked very rumpled. Standing with the governor and other Democrats, all in dark suits and white shirts, Fumo's khakis and blue shirt, tie askew, looked like he had been wrestling the budget to the ground personally. The sight of him hugging Sen. Pileggi in the background when the Republicans was especially annoying. If they are such good buddies why couldn't they get this done with less drama and angst?

Overall, none of these people should be congratulatory or proud. Putting together a state budget is a big part of their job and they were not only nine days late with it but nearly 24,000 people were furloughed for a day. The governor said he will look into having them paid for the day but it is by no means a done deal. Come on, we can surely do better.


phillydem said...

Don't forget both the GOP house and senate are both more conservative and more partisan with their influx of new members who are wedded to the idea of no taxes and limited spending. The senate also has all new leadership although Pileggi and Orie have both been around awhile. The leaders had to respect that growing part of their caucus which I think played a big part in the stalemate.

AboveAvgJane said...

PD, we'll have to disagree on this one. I think it was a disgraceful performance and the furloughing of workers just unspeakable.

phillydem said...

It might be disgraceful and unspeakable, but it was inevitable, Jane. Rendell got a huge mandate for his program last November, 61%, and the GOP got way more ideological with the influx of new members leading them, apparently, to feel they got a "mandate" too. These are two powerful forces, Rendell trying to move the state forward and the Rs trying not to let him. Someone was going to get caught in the cross-fire sooner or later.

BTW, I'm going to predict that the Salk legacy fund and energy package will be passed, just as Growing Greener I and II were after the same considerable GOP caterwauling.

AboveAvgJane said...

It was not inevitable that 24,000 workers lose a day's pay while these guys get automatic back pay. They just didn't mind using state workers as pawns. Having been a pawn a time or two myself, it leaves a bad taste.