A $27.7 billion budget deal hammered out by Gov. Tom Corbett and top Republicans will be carefully considered by the state House over the next few days, according to local lawmakers.
The budget closely resembles the one proposed by the Senate several weeks ago.
"We over here in the House have a slightly different idea of the line items," said state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy. "We are close with the Senate, but there are some details that need to be worked out."
The latest proposal includes no new taxes, raises spending by less than 2 percent and leaves about $267 million in reserves.
Everett said he can understand putting away some money for the future with the state facing such expenditures as rising pension costs and unemployment compensation.
State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, said he has not seen the proposal.
He's been critical in the past about cuts to education and social services.
The latest plan calls for a 10-percent cut to county-run social service agencies, while aid to public schools and the state's state-supported universities would remain flat.
It also eliminates a $150 million cash benefit for temporarily disabled adults who are out of work.
"We anticipate the economy will continue to improve at the rate it is," Everett said. "We feel confident that we at least are not setting ourselves up with a deficit."
State Sen. E. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, said he too had not seen details of the latest proposal.
But it's his understanding that it resembles the Senate plan from several weeks ago, which received bipartisan support among his Senate colleagues.
He speculated a final budget will be passed on time.
Everett noted that the governor's proposal to bring $1.7 billion in tax credits for a planned natural gas refinery in western Pennsylvania will be a hard sell to many lawmakers.
Critics of the plan note that Royal Dutch Shell is a multinational energy profit-making company that hardly needs incentives to locate in the state.
"How much in the way of incentives should be given (to) these companies?" Everett asked.
The lawmaker noted such questions need to be weighed against the promise of some 20,000 jobs that the company predicts will be produced directly or indirectly by the location of the refinery in Beaver County.
Also tied to the budget are questions regarding the return of the state police aviation center to the Williamsport Regional Airport.
Mirabito said he and Everett will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Capitol Rotunda regarding that issue.
Among the speakers will be DuBoistown Borough Council President Michael Caschera, retired state police pilots David Frey and Dennis Hoak, Muncy Police Chief Richard Sutton and Armstrong Township Supervisor Jim Dunn.
Mirabito has filed an amendment to the fiscal code to return it to the airport.
"The state Fiscal Code is essentially the instruction manual for the budget," Mirabito said. "I understand the fiscal restraints we are operating under, but I believe the aviation unit can be returned to Williamsport using existing revenue."
A plane and helicopter located at the airport for many years were used to help state police in various law enforcement activities. However, both aircraft were moved from the airport to other sites in the past year.
The lawmaker said they helped state and local law enforcement agencies by conducting searches, criminal surveillance, homeland security missions, aerial photography and transports. The units were available to assist in vehicle pursuits, marijuana eradication and other services.
"They have been instrumental in providing protective services during the growth of the Marcellus Shale natural-gas drilling operations," Mirabito said. "By moving the Williamsport-based unit to Hazleton, it took the services that much farther away from the people who would utilize it."
Everett and Yaw agreed the issue is far from over.
"We have not given up on it," Yaw said.
Added Everett: "You can say we are working on it. I can guarantee you we have not stopped working this issue since it came up."