2011-07-07 / Local & State

Pa. House Debates Changes To State Welfare Law

By Mark Scolforo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Pennsylvania House Republicans on Thursday prepared to vote on giving the Corbett administration broad new powers in an effort to squeeze about $400 million in savings from the Department of Public Welfare.

The Public Welfare Code, one of the final pieces of the 2011-12 budget, was brought up for consideration hours before the start of the state’s new fiscal year.

Democrats called the bill a desertion of lawmakers’ responsibility to provide oversight on the executive branch, and described the cuts that will result as unduly harsh.

“I do not support balancing our budget on the backs of the most vulnerable in Pennsylvania, as this budget will do,’’ said Rep. Josh Shapiro, D-Montgomery.

Republicans said the bill, which could lead to increases in co-pays, elimination of eligibility and the curtailment of services, will help GOP Gov. Tom Corbett find significant savings in the $10 billion agency.

“I do understand the concerns raised,’’ said Rep. Matt Baker, R-Bradford. “However, this is for one year, and there is a 30-day public comment period for any changes.’’

The bill passed the Senate earlier Thursday, 35-15, with five Democrats voting with all the Republicans to send it to the House.

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