PA-BGT: To Be or Not to Be?
Budget negotiations are still behind closed doors and rank-and-file members of both chambers have been left in the dark with just four days until the 2016-17 fiscal year begins, Marc Levy of the Associated Press reports.
Leaders in the House of Representatives and Senate are again racing against the clock to put a finalized spending plan on Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk by the June 30th deadline. Going into the final week, negotiations are over a deal between $31.5 and $31.9 billion, a five to six percent increase over the $30 billion total for the 2015-16 fiscal year.
Talks are hitting a snag over raising new revenue to cover the increase in spending, with Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman telling Jan Murphy of PennLive that new revenue had not been discussed in several weekend meetings with the Governor and legislative leaders.
Though there is no complete budget on the table as of Monday morning, there has been movement of several budget-related fronts.
“Historic” liquor reform was enacted three weeks ago, while Gov. Wolf has backed off on increased sales and income tax proposals. Wolf is again calling for a “responsible” tax on cigarettes of around $1.00 per pack to raise long-term, sustainable revenue, his spokesman said Thursday.
Wolf has also reduced his demands for new education funding for the next fiscal year. Wolf now wants an additional $250 million for basic education funding, $30 million for special education and $30 million for early childhood education programs.
In an effort to ramp up his administration’s fight against the opioid epidemic in PA, the second-year Governor has requested $34 million to construct 50 heroin and opioid abuse treatments centers.
The House of Representatives is considering a bill to allow casino-style gambling online, creating between $200 and $270 million in additional revenue.
Pension reform is not thought to be part of any final deal, though Senate Republicans could hold up the budgeting process to urge movement on two pending pieces of legislation.
The Senate has rejected a “stacked-hybrid” plan approved by the House two weeks ago in favor of a “side-by-side hybrid pension plan” that they approved in December, according to the Associated Press. Gov. Wolf has said he would sign either proposal.
The clock is winding down for lawmakers to lay out a framework and then iron out the details to avoid a second straight summer budget impasse.