Energy debate leads to unprecedented government shutdown in Pennsylvania

More than 24,000 state workers in Pennsylvania are back on the job today, after a fierce debate over budget issues — including transportation and clean energy — led Gov. Ed Rendell (D) to enact an unprecedented partial government shutdown yesterday. At a late-night press conference, Rendell said an agreement had been reached on a $27.3 billion budget for the fiscal year, which began July 1. The major sticking point had been an $850 million alternative-energy fund proposed by Rendell. Republicans did not dig the proposal, which included a monthly surcharge on electricity (45 cents for households and $3 for most businesses), but have agreed to revisit the issue in September. And that’s what the kids call compromise. Legislators did agree on a “historic” transportation package that will provide $900 million annually over the next decade for road-building and mass transit. “If you ride mass transit,” said a slightly punchy Rendell, “you are going to take this as one heck of a budget.”