State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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July, July! ...A timely budget rolls down the drain

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Jun 16, 2014 7:45 PM
Thumbnail image for capitolsketch0718.jpg

Photo by G.R. Wilson

Put down those sparklers. Recall your July 4th cookout invitations. And, by all means, don't start prepping the grill yet. House and Senate Republican leaders aren't expecting to meet the state constitution's end-of-June budget deadline.

"It's unlikely that we will finish our work by June 30," Republican Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said he told his caucus's members. "Certainly, be prepared for at least the first week in July."

When pressed for more details, Pileggi was reticent.

"There's a still a chance we could finish our work by June 30th," he said. "But I think we need to be prepared for the possibility -- and at this point, likelihood -- that we will not be finished by June 30th."

House lawmakers got the same line from the chamber's Republican Majority Leader Mike Turzai Monday.

"Our goal is still a June 30 budget," said spokesman Steve Miskin.

But no one's wildly optimistic. "Definitely be prepared," he said.

The trick this year is not that lawmakers face one tough vote, but several, and Governor Corbett is trying to push them on all fronts. The Independent Fiscal Office has pegged the revenue shortfall at $1.4 billion for the current and next fiscal years. The gap imperils education spending increases proposed by Corbett and supported by many lawmakers.

But filling the gap will require new revenues - raised taxes or completely new levies. The governor said last week that before he'll consider any new revenues, he'll insist that lawmakers pass a public pension overhaul and vote for changes to how alcohol is sold in Pennsylvania.

The votes aren't there yet for either proposal.

All budget negotiations continue to be behind closed doors. Rank-and-file members still haven't seen a draft of a spending plan since talks first kicked off with a "bare-bones" scenario that included no new revenues. In the Senate GOP, there are no firm dates for circulating a proposed budget that reflects the discussions of legislative leaders and the governor's office.

"I think by the beginning of next week we should be looking at a line-by-line spending plan," said Pileggi.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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