A deal has been reached on the budget. The details are still being put to paper, but the parameters are in place. We were sent home a day earlier than expected so that all of the printing could be accomplished. We’re scheduled to go back on Sunday instead of Monday and get the bills through the process before the June 30th deadline. There is an interesting snag that developed today. Last session, the hospitals agreed to tax themselves. That’s correct. The money was to be put into a restricted fund and used as a match for federal dollars. Although the hospitals agreed to this willingly and, in fact, profited by it. This hospital “assessment”, mandated in law by the state, is a tax. Therefore, I, as a no-new-tax pledge official, did not vote for it. In this budget, some of the funding was taken out of this restricted account and used for other purposes. Now the hospitals are being asked to pay more into this fund, or, in other words, are having their taxes raised. Governor Corbett says that the term in this assessment law is “fee” and that he doesn’t view increasing this fee as a violation of his no-new-tax pledge. The founder of the pledge weighed in today and said that it would be a pledge violation to increase the assessment. The press is on top of this and already writing stories. As this stands, I won’t be voting for this part of the budget due to my pledge (which is the same one the Governor signed). I’ll give the Governor a chance to look into this further before he makes his final decision, but a tax under any other name is still a tax.