Pennsylvania's House of Representatives passed a preliminary budget proposal with no tax increases for the 2007-08 fiscal year.Mostly along party lines, the body voted 102-97 to send the $27.3 billion blueprint to the Senate for consideration.

Dwight Evans, the Democrat in charge of the House Appropriations Committee, called the vote a responsible first step.

A $500 million surplus in the state's general fund allowed legislators to approve the bill, which increases spending on education and health insurance by 3.7 percent, without a tax hike.

In February, Gov. Ed Rendell proposed a 1-percent sales tax increase on consumer goods to help cover federal health care funding gaps, reduce Philadelphia's wage tax and expand property tax reductions.

"The House has made a statement that we want to avoid a general tax increase," said state Rep. David Kessler (D-130th Dist.)

The budget precluded several spending programs favored by legislators in both parties.

Speaker of the House Dennis O'Brien was the only Republican to vote for the proposal.

O'Brien took his position in January after a compromise with the Democrats, who hold a one-seat advantage in the House.

Other Republicans opposed the bill, citing changes in budgetary methods that stake the spending increase at 7.4 percent.

Rendell hasn't ruled out a tax increase.

"Declaring that we can pass a budget that achieves all of our goals without any additional revenue is premature," Rendell said during a rally at the State Capitol on May 23.

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