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Budget “Update”

Senate Republicans last week attempted another override of Governor Wolf’s veto of the Emergency Funding Budget, but fell three votes short on a 30-19 vote.

The needs of schools which are borrowing funds, and social organizations, let alone state vendors and those leasing facilities to state government are increasing daily.  “This is completely unnecessary – the money is there and the state hasn’t stopped collecting taxes,” said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre).  “Gov. Wolf is holding schools, food banks, rape crisis centers and other social service agencies hostage to his plan for huge tax increases that simply have no support.  We are all frustrated. The reality is that budget issues are going to take additional time to resolve. This is about getting money to the schools and those in our communities who need it.”

On a Pittsburgh radio program Thursday, Gov. Wolf said, “It’s not time for partisanship.  We really need to recognize the things we have in common– which is a good Pennsylvania– and come to some agreement on what we need to do to move Pennsylvania forward.”

Wolf said he was waiting for the General Assembly to come forward with another budget plan. He may get his wish, as Corman said Wednesday that he and other Republicans are working on a two-year budget plan.  Republicans said they are putting together another FY 2015-16 budget they could vote on when both the Senate and House return to session during the week of November 16.

The package is likely to include a budget with some limited “revenue enhancements,” along with another pension and liquor privatization proposal.  The intent is to put the package again on the Governor’s desk to see what he will do.

House and Senate Republican leaders, and Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa have reported some progress as the legislative caucuses work through the issues.  The talks are still focusing on the framework of a budget deal that tries to establish the spending needs for this year as well as next, he said.

House and Senate Republican leaders have continued their work on another compromise proposal that will hopefully lead to a bipartisan budget which would get Governor [Tom] Wolf’s signature,” wrote House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, in a memo sent Thursday to members of his caucus.

Reed said the new proposal would “include reforming the state store system, reforming the public pension benefit package for future state and school employees, additional money for schools, property tax relief, and rectifying the structural deficit once and for all” with the plan to be “a framework for this budget year as well as FY 2016-17 – including revenues and expenditures.”

Corman said nothing is locked in place except that there is agreement among the Republicans that there will be no increase in the state’s 3.07 percent personal income tax rate or the state’s 6 percent sales tax to generate money for the general fund.  Sales tax changes for property relief, however, could be part of a “deal.”

Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan however, continued to question the seriousness of the Republicans’ interest in negotiating in good faith with the governor.  But Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said the emphasis of the new effort is to craft a “bipartisan budget” that includes wins for Wolf as well as Republican and Democratic caucuses. He said the reason for a recent sense of optimism from House Republicans has to do with finding some House Democrats who are willing to work in partnership with them.