Wolf gets budget bill, but not the one he wanted

Written by The Associated Press | Dec 23, 2015 4:37 PM

Photo by AP Photo/Matt Rourke

(Harrisburg) -- Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf isn't saying whether he'll sign a budget bill sent to him by the Senate in a last-ditch bid to break a 6-month stalemate before Christmas and get money flowing to schools and social service agencies.

The Republican-controlled Senate on Wednesday passed the main appropriations bill in a $30.3 billion package.

It passed on a near party-line vote, 33-17. The House passed it two weeks ago, after the House GOP majority turned against a broader budget agreement backed by Wolf and Senate leaders.

That deal called for $30.8 billion in spending, a 6 percent increase, and $1 billion-plus tax increase Wolf wanted to deliver a record boost in public school aid and to close a deficit.

Senate Republicans pulled support for the tax increase since pension legislation stalled in the House.

Numerous questions remain, including the fate of legislation to authorize hundreds of millions of dollars for universities and colleges.

The Pennsylvania state Senate is advancing budget legislation that it previously opposed. Republicans say is the only way to give Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf a bill that can end a 6-month-old stalemate before Christmas and speed money to school districts and social service agencies.

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said Wednesday that the bill's passage doesn't mean talks have ended on a wider bipartisan budget deal that is stalled. The bill passed on a near party-line vote, 33-17.

It's already passed the House, but it isn't clear whether Wolf will sign it.

Pension legislation favored by Senate Republicans lacks support in the House. Without its passage, a majority of senators won't support a $1 billion-plus tax increase that's part of the bipartisan budget deal backed by Wolf.

The budget bill calls for a $30.3 billion in spending, a 4.5 percent increase. It's about $500 million less than what the Senate and Wolf had sought, and it carries $200 million less for public schools.

An earlier story is below:

Strong opposition to proposed changes to Pennsylvania's public-sector pension plans means the state's 6-month-old budget impasse may last awhile longer.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati told reporters after a meeting with House Republican leaders Wednesday there doesn't seem to be sufficient support for the pension bill, and without it the Senate won't agree to tax increases.

He says Republican senators will meet to consider their next move.

Democrats and moderate Republicans narrowly sent a $30.8 billion spending bill supported by Gov. Tom Wolf over a key procedural hurdle in the House Tuesday, raising hopes of a deal by Christmas.

The pension bill that was soundly defeated Saturday in the House would alter the retirement benefits for newly hired teachers and state workers, and make other changes affecting current employees.

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