Pennsylvania University Officials See 'Irreparable Harm' from Funding Delay

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HARRISBURG -- Top officials from four state-related universities today told Gov. Ed Rendell and Democratic House leaders in a letter that further delay in approving state appropriations "will do irreparable harm to Pennsylvania students, their families and our universities."

The presidents of Pitt, Penn State, Lincoln and Temple said they received assurances in November that their monetary requests would be considered even if a table games bill -- linked to university funding by the governor and leaders -- was delayed.

"We ask that you meet this commitment by passing our appropriations bills now, regardless of the status of Senate Bill 711 (the table game bill)," the university presidents said.

The House tonight approved a key amendment that authorizes table games at casinos. It was approved by a 97-95 margin.

The amendment offered by Rep. Dante Santoni, D-Berks, chairman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, would allow a third resort casino license. The bill sets license fees of $16.5 million for table games and levies a 16 percent tax on daily gross revenue.

Rep. John Maher, R-Upper St. Clair, told Santoni he should be getting a "thank you note" from the casinos because expanding the number of venues would trigger a $50 million refund to each existing casino, as required under the 2004 slots law.

Combined, the state could owe $600 million, Maher said.

"You're voting for a property tax increase on your constituents. It's terrible," Maher said.

The bill contains a provision that if one casino gets the $50 million, then all are entitled. …