State House Sound Bites

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

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

House issues ultimatum, Wolf shrugs

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Dec 16, 2015 9:17 PM

Photo by Lindsay Lazarski/Keystone Crossroads

State House Republican leaders, fresh off a caucus mutiny and scathing criticism from Democrats, are issuing an ultimatum to the governor: Find the votes to pass a tax plan by Thursday evening or the House will pass a stopgap budget.

"The governor wants an opportunity to run this budget," said House Speaker Mike Turzai in a brief press conference. "He needs to find 102 votes. If he has 102 votes, it will go up for a vote."

The announcement came a week-and-a-half after House Republicans walked away from a $30.8 billion budget agreement their majority leader, Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana), helped negotiate with Governor Tom Wolf, House Democrats, and Senate leaders.

It wasn't clear Wednesday evening if Reed would support the budget and its attendant tax plan. Reed would not say if he would encourage his colleagues to vote for the package.

"We have 24 hours to choose a direction," said Reed, who declined to answer reporters' questions while standing next to Turzai. "One direction is 102 votes for a tax package that gets the budget done, gets pension reform done, gets some liquor reform done... I am open to hearing anyone's discussions."

Democrats have branded Turzai as the lone budget holdout. On Monday, Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Marcel Groen accused the House speaker of acting "like a toddler."

Turzai attempted to beat back such statements with his latest challenge, the second ultimatum Republicans have delivered to Governor Tom Wolf since the budget impasse began in July.

"We are not the obstructionists," said Turzai. "The opportunity is for the governor to get the votes and to get this into law. He's got to go work it."

The Wolf administration called the House GOP's challenge an abdication of leadership.

"Nothing has changed," said the governor's spokesman Jeff Sheridan. The administration will continue to gather support for the negotiated budget, he added.

It's unclear what's in the tax plan being shopped around to lawmakers. In closed-door caucus meetings over the past few weeks, House and Senate lawmakers have discussed various options, such as raising the sales tax or applying it to new items and hiking the taxes on cigarettes and tobacco.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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