Here's this week's State Capitol ROUNDUP, a summary of events in Harrisburg, courtesy of state Rep. Bob Mensch, R-147th District:
Turnpike Bid Released
Gov. Ed Rendell has announced the winning $12.8 billion bid for a 75-year lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The offer, which comes from an investment group led by Citi Infrastructure Investors and the Barcelona, Spain-based Abertis Infraestucturas would presumably generate about $1.1 billion a year for the next decade. Many House Republicans are interested in the plan, but remain cautious because they have not yet seen all the details and question the viability of Rendell's numbers. While the governor has said the offer is on the table until June 20, legislative leaders believe more time will be needed to fully vet the proposal. In the meantime, the Turnpike Commission has not yet responded to a request from the federal government to provide more information on the state's application to toll Interstate 80.
Negotiations Continue to be Delayed on State Budget
Another week has passed, leaving legislators with only 38 days to enact a state budget before the June 30 deadline. House Republicans continue to press for a vote as Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia), the Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, is seeking closed-door budget negotiations. The budget proposal, House Bill 2380, has now been sitting in the House Appropriations Committee for more than two months and has seen no action. As the majority chairman of the committee, Evans has the power to move the budget bill forward but is instead holding the process hostage. In light of the delay, lawmakers took the opportunity to gather input from business and industry leaders at a House Republican Policy Committee hearing this week. Testimony reinforced the need to address the slowing economy through tax cuts that would put more money in taxpayers' pockets and make the state more competitive in an ever-changing employment market. For the latest news on the state budget, visit PAHouseGOP.com
House Republicans Investigate Access to Maternity Wards and Neonatal Care
In a meeting of the House Republican Policy Committee, lawmakers turned their attention to a serious lack of accessibility to hospitals offering maternity care. Since 1995, 36 Pennsylvania hospitals have stopped offering maternity care. The number of obstetricians has fallen in recent years, a trend expected to continue for at least the next five years. House Republicans view this as another sign that Pennsylvania's health care system is in drastic need of attention. Maintaining access to care, lowering the cost of care and protecting the doctor-patient relationship are all key components to a Republican health care plan. For details, visit healthcareforpafamilies.com