HARRISBURG – Gov. Edward G. Rendell Monday announced that a tentative budget agreement was reached with legislative leaders just after at about 9 p.m. that night. The pact, he said, means nearly 25,000 furloughed state employees will return to work at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday and transportation, including Pennsylvania’s network of highways, bridges and mass transit systems, will be well-financed for the next 15 to 20 years.
“I am pleased to announce that as a result of earnest and sometimes difficult negotiations, we have achieved an important agreement that will allow Pennsylvania’s government operations to be restored and all furloughed employees to return to work,” Rendell said. “While I regret that we were not able to reach this accord earlier, I am gratified that we have agreed in principle to a spending plan that will continue to move Pennsylvania forward.”
Rendell thanked legislative leaders and budget negotiators from both chambers of the General Assembly. Members of the legislature are expected to begin considering the budget legislation this week.
He also said efforts will be made to “lessen the impact” of state employees’ lost wages.
While all sides came out with things they were seeking, Rendell said he was able to keep funding for pre-kindergarten, laptop computers for high school classrooms, workforce development, reducing the waiting list for mental health/mental retardation services, expanding childcare programs and providing cost-of-living adjustments for human services workers throughout the state, among other important agenda items.
He called the transportation package “historic.”
“With this agreement, there will about $950 million a year for transportation in Harrisburg, Erie, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Wilkes-Barre, Altoona and everywhere else for the next 10 years,” the governor said. “It’s the most significant amount of funding devoted to transportation needs in the history of the commonwealth and it should put transportation systems in good shape for the next 15 to 20 years.”