Wolf, GOP discuss proposed Pennsylvania budget; no agreement yet
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican leaders on Tuesday broke bread together.
In the longest budget negotiation during a 21-day stalemate, Wolf, a Democrat, and legislative GOP leaders shared pizza while claiming they made progress. But they reported no breakthroughs and acknowledged they focused only on expenditures. The lawmakers and governor also didn’t agree on how much the state should spend.
The differences dividing them have been revenue-raising proposals such as Wolf’s plan to increase the state income and sales taxes and levy a severance tax on Marcellus shale gas wells. A Republican-drafted budget, which the governor vetoed June 30, did not raise taxes.
“We have a better understanding of where our differences are (on spending),” House Majority Leader David Reed, R-Indiana County, said after the closed-door 3½-hour meeting.
House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Marshall, called them “productive discussions.”
There was also a more positive atmosphere.
“It was a great chance to sit down and go through where we are right now,” Wolf said.
“Part of this is we trust each other,” he said. It’s also reflective that “we share the same goal of what’s good for Pennsylvania.”
Asked if a stop-gap budget of partial spending is possible in the better-defined areas, Wolf told reporters, “We didn’t even talk about it.”
The budget by law was due on June 30. The $30.1 billion GOP-crafted budget sent to Wolf includes 274 line-item expenditures equal to or greater than Wolf’s proposed spending plan, said House Appropriations Chairman Bill Adolph, R-Delaware County.
But Wolf, marking the first time a governor in modern history has done so, vetoed the entire budget – 401 line items.
The focus of the meeting was on the 127 spending categories where there’s no agreement, Adolph said.
Wolf has proposed a $30 billion-plus budget.
Earlier Tuesday, the tone was different. Wolf warned that bad state budgeting is costing taxpayers about $170 million a year. He told KDKA-AM radio in Pittsburgh that state government is paying a premium of about 1 percent interest on $17 billion in debt.
Wolf and Republican supporters have blasted each other for weeks in home mailers, radio and TV ads, as they spar over the competing budget proposals.
The Associated Press contributed. Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media’s state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or [email protected].