Efforts to pass a state budget for this fiscal year may seem in limbo, but at least one former state official senses progress now that three of the four legislative caucuses have agreed on a new spending plan.
Robert Jubelirer, former state Senate president pro tem and lieutenant governor, said Monday he was optimistic now that both Republicans and Democrats have joined together to present a budget proposal to Gov. Ed Rendell.
Rendell met with legislative leaders Sunday night and remains skeptical that the proposals by the House majority Democrats, Senate majority Republicans and Senate minority Democrats provide enough funds for several programs he favors. He is also concerned that projected revenue is enough to fund the budget through this fiscal year and the next, according to his spokesman, Gary Tuma.
Jubelirer, who for 32 years weathered Harrisburg's budget battles, said the toughest were in 1977 under Gov. Milton Shapp and in 1991 under Gov. Bob Casey.
The fact there is a bipartisan effort or agreement on a possible budget "may well be a harbinger of good things to come," the veteran legislator said.
Jubelirer, a Republican, lost his bid for one more term to then-Blair County Commissioner John H. Eichelberger Jr. in 2006. He now works for the law firm of Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell and Hippel LLP from offices in Altoona and Harrisburg.
While the bipartisan effort brings about a spark of optimism, there are still some very real differences between legislative leaders and Rendell, who addressed the budget impasse over the weekend and Monday afternoon.
Tuma said Rendell does not believe the bipartisan budget does enough for education or economic development.
He also said Rendell does not believe the proposed tax revenue under the budget plan is realistic. Tuma said the projected revenue must be realistic to cover state expenditures this year and next or else there would be another problem in June when the 2010-11 budget is up for passage.
"They do not have a balanced budget. ... They have grossly overestimated tax revenues. He [Rendell] wants the problem solved and solved right," Tuma said.
He said there is regular communication between the staffs of the governor's office and the legislature and Rendell is willing to listen to those leaders who want to more fully explain their figures to him.
Rendell, Tuma said, wanted an increase in the personal income tax, which is now off the table.
Now he's saying to the legislature, "Give me a plan," Tuma said.
The House-Senate Conference Committee working to resolve budget differences is scheduled to meet today.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.