Pennsylvania's Governor-elect Tom Ridge has appointed Robert Bittenbender, a top legislative staff member, as the state's budget director.

Bittenbender serves as executive director of Pennsylvania's Senate Appropriations Committee, which is headed by state Republican Sen. Richard Tilghman.

Ridge, a Republican, succeeds Democratic Gov. Bob Casey, who was limited to two terms under state law. Bittenbender will start his new job when Ridge takes office in January.

In an interview last week with The Bond Buyer, Bittenbender said one of his first tasks will be to implement tax cuts passed this year by the legislature and approved by Casey. The state's fiscal year begins July 1.

Bittenbender said that, despite the tax cuts, the state should end fiscal 1995 with a surplus.

He said that although Medicaid and prison costs would continue to strain the state, as the growth of those costs continues to exceed inflation, he doubted that the 1996 budget would face "any major surprises," such as large budget gaps.

Last week, Philadelphia Mayor Edward Rendell said the state is expecting a "substantial" budget shortfall in fiscal 1996. Rendell made his remarks during a reception sponsored by the Municipal Bond Investors Assurance Corp., and a spokesman did not return telephone calls to clarify the mayor's remarks.

"There will be challenges in allocating resources," Bittenbender said. "But I am very confident [the budget] is manageable."

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee's staff, Bittenbender participated in the committee's investigation of a controversial 1993 sale of $750 million in certificates of participation. Tilghman was an outspoken critic of the transaction, which was approved by Ridge's Democratic opponent in the governor's race, Lieut. Gov. Mark Singel.

Both the Internal Revenue Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission are examining the deal.

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