Big decisions, big concerns still loom for Pa. state budget

All eyes will be on Harrisburg this week as Gov. Ed Rendell tries to pass a state spending plan on-time for the first time in eight years. The state constitution requires a balanced budget by June 30, but last year the stalemate lasted 100 days, resulting in state workers not getting paid. State-related colleges and nonprofit organizations also went temporarily without funds.

Cultural and environmental groups and educational institutions are among the most concerned once again this year, with lawmakers often willing to propose slashing funding to those sectors of the economy at first.

“We’re staying very close to the situation in Harrisburg, because arts and culture isn’t just a quality of life thing — it’s a distinct competitive advantage for Pennsylvania,” Tom Kaiden, head of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, said.

To complicate things, about $850 million in federal Medicaid funds that Rendell expected to get from Washington, D.C., remains on very tenuous ground. Not getting that money would be a serious blow to state spending and would require more cuts.

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