Rendell previews budget plan

The Altoona Mirror has a good summary of things to expect when Governor Rendell unveils the budget next week.

The problems of a poor economy are compounded by the fact that the present budget is expected to come up $2.3 billion short, he said.

In response, he proposes cutting expenditures to a level 1 percent below the 2002-03 budget. [This is obviously a misquote, as it would represent an $8 billion cut]

He plans to freeze wages of nonunion workers and ask for a similar response from union workers.

He also will ask legislators to chip in their $200 million reserve.

He is proposing to eliminate 100 budget line items, such as the Governor’s Schools of Excellence, which train young people in the arts or agriculture, and Drug Abuse Resistance Education, a program in which police officers go into classrooms to persuade young people to avoid drugs.

He said they are good programs but can’t be maintained in these bad times.
Rendell hopes to raise $100 million by taxing smokeless tobacco and cigars. He also wants to increase the tax on cigarettes by a dime.

He is counting on the federal economic stimulus package for $7.6 billion to help pay for Medicaid and education expenses and infrastructure improvements.