Appropriations Committee Approves Senate Bill 1

Measure Increasing Accountability to Budget Process Headed to Full Senate

The Senate Appropriations Committee today approved of Senate Bill 1, legislation intended to fundamentally reform Pennsylvania’s budgeting process while increasing transparency and accountability in state government, according to Senator Jake Corman (R-34), committee chairman and co-sponsor of the measure.

The committee approval sets the stage for consideration by the full Senate of the legislation to establish a Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO), a non-partisan bi-cameral agency with expertise in financial matters.

The LFO would have access to the same agency and department financial information as the Governor’s Budget Office. Senate Bill 1 requires state agencies and departments to submit their budget requests to the LFO at the same time they submit them to the Office of the Budget. Pennsylvania is currently one of only eight states where the Legislature does not receive the agency budget requests.

“We have stressed for years that we need to prioritize state spending,” Senator Corman said. “By receiving the funding requests directly from the agencies, the Legislature can better assess the need and importance of each line item in the budget.”

While the Governor and Legislature must agree on spending during budget negotiations, the Administration currently has sole discretion over setting the revenue projection for the upcoming fiscal year. Under Senate Bill 1, the LFO would submit a preliminary revenue estimate during the second week of February, a week after the Governor traditionally presents his budget request for the upcoming fiscal Year. The LFO would then submit a binding revenue estimate for the upcoming fiscal year by June 15.

“One obvious benefit from this would be that we would have a revenue estimate (for Fiscal year 2009-10) in place,” Senator Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-9) told the committee. “Here we are halfway through July and we do not have a revenue estimate from the Governor. If this (LFO) were in place, everyone in Pennsylvania would know the fiscal estimates for the year.”

Senator Pat Browne, (R-16) prime sponsor of the bill, said the independent revenue estimate by the LFO would provide essential parity to the budget process.

“If you never have control over the revenue estimate, you don’t truly have the ability to pass a balanced budget,” Senator Browne said. (“Senate Bill 1) will provide parity among the co-equal branches of government and accountability on the part of programs and departments.”

The LFO would also develop performance measures for state programs and departments and evaluate the performance reviews of those programs and departments as reported by the Administration.

“The independent, non-partisan evaluations of the effectiveness of these programs will increase accountability in state spending,” said Senator Corman.

Other bills approved by the Appropriations Committee Tuesday include:

Senate Bill 107, sponsored by Senator Pileggi, creates the Governmental Salary Information Act. The bill requires the State Treasurer to post all salary information for officers and employees of the Commonwealth. Local agencies are also required to post salary information for their officers and employees.

Senate Bill 282, sponsored by Senator Jane Orie (R-40), amends the Municipal Code to permit one or more local governments, upon passage of an ordinance and one or more municipal authorities, upon passage of a resolution to jointly enter into an agreement to cooperate in the exercise of their respective functions, powers or responsibilities.

Senate Bill 284, sponsored by Senator Orie, amends the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code to permit participating municipalities in cooperative implementation agreements to extend the time to enact the required conforming ordinances by a period specified in the amendment.

Senate Bill 441, sponsored by Senator Pat Vance (R-31), allows a teacher’s certificate to be signed by a certified registered nurse practitioner or physician assistant. Currently, an applicant for a teaching certificate must submit a form to the Department of Education signed by a physician certifying that the applicant is neither mentally nor physically disqualified from performing the duties of a teacher.

Senate Bill 607, sponsored by Senator John Wozniak (D-35) amends the Rural Pennsylvania Revitalization Act to add the regional campuses of the University of Pittsburgh to the list of eligible grant recipients and to increase the maximum amount of a grant from $50,000 to $60,000.

Senate Bill 693, sponsored by Senator John Rafferty (R-44),authorizes a transportation entity to enter into agreements with private enterprises for any portion of their operations or facilities with additional requirements for lease or sale agreements where state funded properties are involved.

Senate Bill 896, sponsored by Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25), requires lobbyist disclosure computerized filings to be posted on the Department of State website within seven days of receipt.

Senate Bill 954, sponsored by Senator Jeffrey Piccola (R-15), allows approved private schools for the deaf and blind to apply for emergency permits for teachers to fill vacancies.

House Bill 372, sponsored by Representative Edward Staback (D-115), amends the Health Care Facilities Act to prioritize complaint investigations at long-term care nursing facilities.

House Bill 602, sponsored by Representative Eddie Day Pashinski (D-121), amends the definition of “expanded function dental assistant” to authorize them to perform additional procedures under direct supervision of a dentist who personally diagnoses the condition, authorizes the procedure and remains in the office or facility while the procedure is performed.

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Anna Fitzsimmons
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