Commission eyes spending plans

Members of the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission [NCPRPDC] are keeping a sharp eye on federal and state spending plans as lawmakers continue to make budget adjustments."Not much has changed when we're looking at the federal budget updates," said Eric Bridges, the commission's executive director. "We're pretty much where we were a week ago when conversations started. Appropriation bills on the federal side are moving through each respective chamber."The appropriations process is reportedly more complex this year because of major differences between House and Senate discretionary funding levels. The Senate determined allocations for the 12 fiscal year 2013 spending bills based on an overall discretionary spending level of $1.047 trillion set in the 2011 debt limit law."House appropriators, however, approved lesser allocations based on the lower $1.028 trillion discretionary spending level contained in the House budget resolution, almost $19 billion less than the Senate spending level," Bridges said. "Because the House CJS [Commerce, Justice, Science] measure is funded below the level set by the 2011 debt limit law, it faces a veto threat from the White House."The Senate passed a CJS appropriations measure through committee, but the measure reportedly has not been scheduled for floor consideration.The search for a surface transportation reauthorization proposal continues.According to Bridges, a nearly three-hour meeting May 8 saw staff members from both the House and Senate begin formal negotiations toward a proposal. The 14 senators and 33 representatives appointed to the conference committee will now work to settle the differences between the House and Senate proposals."Since the House Republican leadership was not able to secure the floor votes needed to pass the five-year, $260 billion package (H.R. 7) assembled by the Transportation and Infrastructure, Ways and Means, and other related committees, the House is technically using its three-month extension bill (H.R. 4348) as the conference vehicle with the Senate's two-year, $109 billion measure (S. 1813)," Bridges said. "We have a staunch transportation advocate on the conference committee in Congressman Bill Shuster and we've been circling with this aggressively in his downtime. My sense is that we'll get a transportation bill, I think it will happen but it remains to be seen."Pick up a copy of the Thursday, May 24, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.Next meetingNorth CentralWhen: Wednesday, June 27Where: North Central office, 651 Montmorenci Rd., RidgwayTime: 9:30 a.m.