The state House has passed a $27.3 billion budget, setting the stage for negotiations to begin on a final agreement for next year's spending plan.

The 109-92 voter came after a full day of debate. Democrat after Democrat blasted the bill's spending cuts. Joe Markosek, the minority chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the billion dollars in spending reductions will have real-world consequences. "To think of your five-year-old neighbor unable to start kindergarten," he argued, early in the debate.  "To think of the battered mother, turned away from a domestic violence shelter. To think of a seriously ill child unable to access hospital care, due to cutbacks in service."

Many Democrats criticized the $470 million the House budget eliminates in welfare spending, compared to Governor Corbett's proposal. Republican Appropriations Chair Bill Adolph pointed out the Department of Public Welfare spent 6.5 billion dollars a year, when Governor Rendell took office in 2003. "The fiscal year ending 2010-2011, that budget swelled to $10.6 billion. This is an increase of 64 percent in those eight years. 64 percent." The House GOP plan gives $10.7 billion to DPW, a one percent increase over last year's spending. Republican leaders used Governor Rendell's acknowledged four percent DPW spending error rate as the template for their $470 million relative reduction.

The measure now heads to the Senate, where it will likely languish until legislative leaders and Governor Corbett reach a final budget agreement. Negotiations will likely begin in the coming weeks. Republican leaders in both chambers are committed to passing the budget by June 30th, for the first time since 2002.