HARRISBURG - Republican lawmakers are begining their examination of the feasibility and fiscal responsibility of Gov. Ed Rendell’s proposed 2006-07 General Fund Budget, following his annual address to a joint session of the state Legislature earlier this month. On Feb. 8, Rendell unveiled a $25.4 billion budget plan for Pennsylvania, which includes increased spending of nearly $1 billion, or 4.77 percent over this year’s enacted budget. In a statement, Representative Jerry Birmelin says that House and Senate Republicans are concerned about the spending increase, as it is greater than the anticipated 3.4 percent increase in revenues and could place the state in a difficult financial situation in the near future. Lawmakers were pleased with some parts of the proposed plan, particularly the additional funding dedicated to public education and long-term care services for seniors citizens. However, a number of important programs were also cut from the budget proposal, including transportation services for disabled veterans, rural health care initiatives, and math and science education outreach. In an effort to ensure a more open and straightforward process, as well as to ensure priority initiatives are funded while keeping growth to a minimum, lawmakers plan to use the current year’s budget as a base for negotiation instead of the governor’s proposal. The budget process will begin in earnest next week as the House Appropriations Committee begins budget hearings and gathers testimony from lawmakers and representatives from various state agencies. According to the state constitution, the final budget must be enacted by June 30.