Rendell, legislators reach deal to end impasse, furloughs

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Legislators and the governor brokered a deal to end the state budget impasse Monday night, allowing state workers to return to their jobs one day after nearly 24,000 people were sent home without pay.

Scores of state parks, state-run museums and driver-license offices around the state that were shuttered Monday on orders of Gov. Ed Rendell — after a partisan deadlock held up the budget nine days into the new fiscal year — will reopen.

“This is an agreement where all sides can say that they achieved some of their goals, and that’s probably a good budget agreement,” Rendell said, declaring himself “very satisfied with where we came out.”

The deal addresses some of Rendell’s health care and energy initiatives but will not impose the surcharge on electricity use the governor had sought, said Sen. Vince Fumo, ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee.

“I rate it good,” he said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Budget Secretary Michael Masch said the budget total was about $27.37 billion, close to what Democrats had proposed.

Republicans won an increase in the Educational Improvement Tax Credit that fosters school choice and the rolling of $300 million of the surplus into next year’s spending, Fumo said.

“The governor proposed seven tax hikes,” said Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware. “This agreement has zero.”

Among other things, Rendell got a film industry tax credit capped at $75 million.

Assuming the massive transportation bill passes, spending for mass transit will not count against the budget. Rendell said new spending on highways and transit will average a total of $946 million a year over the next decade.

The governor called it “by far the most significant amount of money devoted to transportation needs in the commonwealth in the history of the commonwealth” and that it would shore up roads and transit for the next 10 or 15 years.

Rendell said the Legislature would convene a special session on Sept. 17 to address the energy topic, and that a Senate vote on the $500 million Jonas Salk Legacy Fund for biotech investment would occur by Nov. 1.

The state will help fund a new arena for the Pittsburgh Penguins and expand the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. There was not an agreement on a House-passed bill to add $500 million to the borrowing limit for redevelopment projects, but Rendell said the Senate would consider it at some point.

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