State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Of linking bills, severing ties, and finding blame

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Sep 23, 2013 4:22 PM

The blame, it seems, is falling on the governor's shoulders for a legislative legend turned conventional wisdom in the Capitol halls: that two top priorities of the governor - transportation funding and liquor privatization - are linked, and lawmakers are withholding their votes on one to secure passage of another.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa has for months said the governor should sever the ostensible ties binding the two issues and sinking their chances of getting done. On Monday, he reiterated his message.

"I think the administration needs to stand up and say they're going to decouple the two," Costa told reporters. "I think that's the only way it gets done, and I've had those conversations with administration folks and encouraged that."

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai agreed that it falls to Corbett to separate the two items, and that neither lawmakers in the Senate and House wanted to see such linkage.

"We were not the folks that linked those issues," Turzai said. "The governor's office did. We always advised them of not linking them."

But some are calling baloney. Bill Patton, spokesman for the House Democratic minority, said his caucus always got the impression that any effort to tie the bills' fates began with House Republicans.

"We didn't get a sense that that was a priority of the governor's office," Patton said. "It sounds like an attempt to rewrite some of the recent history."

Actual evidence of calculated linkage is tough to nail down. House Republican Whip Stan Saylor came closest to copping to coupling earlier this year, when he said some GOP members would be loath to vote for a transportation funding bill unless liquor privatization made it over the finish line.

Lynn Lawson, a spokeswoman for the governor says "it's up to the Legislature" to determine what bills are linked, but that the administration's "immediate focus" is on transportation.

"The legislators need to determine how to best advance the priority of transportation funding," Lawson said.

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