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PA's Budget Impasse Comes to a Close - For Now...

(October 12, 2009) - After months of painful debate, Governor Ed Rendell signed two bills into law late Friday night - one on taxes, and one on spending - that would finally bring Pennsylvania its long-awaited FY10 state budget of $27.8 billion.

The budget plan, which reduces overall state spending by 1 percent from 2008-09 levels of $28.3 billion, includes a host of one-time cash infusions and $2.6 billion in federal stimulus money.  The budget also avoids hikes on the sales and personal income taxes, relying for funding instead on increased business and cigarette taxes, a new levy on "little cigars," and the legalization of table games at casinos.

A few pieces of legislation that impact the spending plan still need to be approved by the General Assembly, including ones that establish state funding for universities such as Penn State and Temple, as well as a bill to authorize the table games.  Action on these bills, however, will not further delay payments.  State agencies could see money flowing again by Tuesday. 

The cultural sector gets a "mixed bag" in the state budget, but advocacy efforts proved critical in changing much of the conversation in Harrisburg.  A proposal to apply the state sales tax on arts and cultural admissions was scrapped after considerable backlash from arts administrators, patrons, and families in Greater Philadelphia and all across the state.  Funding for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts had also been at serious risk when a budget proposal out of the Senate would have zeroed out the agency completely.  To read more of the good and bad on funding levels for state cultural agencies and programs, click here.

Many questions remain after Harrisburg's drawn-out budget battle.  Relations between both sides of the aisle appeared tenuous at best this year, and many expect next year's numbers to be worse.  The Governor will present the FY11 budget plan in February 2010 - and the Cultural Alliance will, as always, continue to keep you up to date on how the cultural sector fares - and ways to take action.