State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

No "illusions" of progress in PA budget talks

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 7, 2015 3:40 PM

One week after Democratic Governor Tom Wolf vetoed a GOP budget curtailing the state's authority to spend money, negotiations over a new plan are at a standstill.

A Tuesday meeting between Republicans and the governor appeared to yield no progress toward the middle on a mix of tax proposals offered by Wolf and opposed by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

"I don't want to give any sort of illusions that we're getting closer or we're having productive meetings," said GOP Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman as he exited the governor's office.

Wolf is seeking a number of new and increased taxes in order to spend more on schools and cut people a break on their property taxes. He also wants to find enough annual revenue to fill a structural budget deficit that in recent years has contributed to multiple credit rating downgrades, making it more expensive for the state to borrow money.

Republicans who control the Legislature say they can't support broad-based tax increases.

So, for now, the dynamic of budget talks appears no different than it was in March, when the governor first proposed a state spending plan: the pro-tax versus the no-tax.

"Until that issue can be resolved, then we're going to be here a while," Corman said.

The governor has proposed higher sales and personal income taxes, as well as a new tax on natural gas drillers, who currently pay a fee for each well they drill. Spokesman Jeff Sheridan said Wolf would be open to other revenue ideas that could eliminate the state's deficit as well as increase education spending.

"Right now, there have not been any better ideas presented to us," said Sheridan. "We have to find new recurring revenues somehow."

He added that the governor wants meetings to continue with top lawmakers and staff every day until a budget deal is reached.

The Senate is expected to be back in session next week. Lawmakers could tee up funding bills that typically accompany a state budget, just in case leaders strike a deal with the governor.

"There's no timeline," said Corman.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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