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Change in Tone?

Two meetings this week on the state budget left Gov. Tom Wolf and Majority Leader Dave Reed saying that they are still a long way apart on unresolved issues but that they plan to talk again next week. On Wednesday, Speaker Mike Turzai had said Wednesday’s talks were “an important discussion … although some of us share the concern that the governor has not moved off of his tax increases.”  And Senate spokesman Drew Crompton said the meeting showed “how monumentally apart we still are.”

Leaders said this week they worked on two major issues – education spending and public sector pension costs.  I think we have a tentative agreement on the fact that pensions and education funding are going to have to be part of a final budget discussion, final budget agreement,” Reed said. 

Democrats said that the Governor had suggested he would be open to some changes in the state’s public employee pension programs, and that this was the first real movement by either party in moving forward toward an eventual compromise.  Wolf said, “We’re making progress. I think we’re trying to move. “

All said that the tone of discussions has changed, but also noted that there remain a lot of items to be determined, starting with agreement on an overall “spend number.”  Republicans continue to insist on no major tax increases in this year’s budget.

House and Senate leaders told ERG this week that chances of a quick budget resolution were “slim to none,” and reaffirmed their insistence on no severance tax, and no major tax hikes.  

During a news conference earlier in the week, Wolf had again slammed the Republicans’ budget proposal, using terms such as “sham,” “insult” and “disgrace.”  House GOP Spokesman Steve Miskin said, “He’s still not telling the truth,” accusing Wolf of seeking $4 billion in tax increases in his budget proposal.