Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
Revenue updates continue to leave state lawmakers cold, but partisan tensions may be starting to thaw as leaders sense tough decisions ahead.
The news is bad and not getting better for anyone interested in finishing a state budget by the end of June. April tax collections were down by hundreds of millions of dollars, followed by a May haul that came in roughly $100 million below estimate. Today, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) said low June revenues are expected to contribute to the growing deficit.
"These are changes that we were not expecting," said Adolph. "We're negotiating and trying to fill this gap to the best of our ability."
His committee voted Wednesday to send a placeholder budget bill to the full House. It isn't the blueprint for state spending for next fiscal year - merely a "legislative vehicle." Whatever's negotiated by legislative leaders can be dumped into that cab later without slowing down the legislative procedural moves that are necessary to get legislation to the governor by the end of the month.
Both Adolph and the ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny), said this is the latest the House has advanced a placeholder bill in the past several years.
"The reason why it is this late in June is because I've never been involved in this type of revenue shortfall, month in and month out," said Adolph, ticking off the list of monthly revenue collections that came in below expectations. Lawmakers are looking at a revenue shortfall of at least a billion dollars.
Adolph hinted that his party, which controls both the House and Senate, will need help from the Democratic minority in the coming weeks to pass a budget.
"I'm looking forward to bipartisan cooperation on this," said Adolph, "because there's going to be some very, very major decisions made in order to get this done."
What those major decisions might entail remains under wraps. House leaders in both parties insist no one's talking yet about revenue generators, like new or increased taxes.
But Markosek said he has been more "way more involved" in talks with Republicans during this year's budget negotiations so far, as compared to past years.
"I think there's been a little bit of a change in attitude, at least," said Markosek. "I think they've seen the mistake of their previous ways, quite frankly, and I think now they've warmed up to at least being social and communicative."
Published in State House Sound Bites
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