PA-BGT: Who Wants What?
The reform bill, rejected by a 149-52 vote on Saturday, was a key part of the budget framework package negotiated by Gov. Tom Wolf and GOP legislative leaders. After the vote, the General Assembly called off scheduled voting sessions in the the State House and Senate to give legislators a day for “cooling off,” Charles Thompson of PennLive reports.
GOP leaders met in the Capitol on Sunday as they planned their way forward, Marc Levy of the Associated Press reports.
With the budget agreement clearly not coming to fruition by Christmas as Wolf said at the beginning of the month, we look at what pieces each side sees in their ideal budgets.
Gov. Tom Wolf
The first-year Democratic Governor is still trying his best to keep everyone on board with the budget framework, though it’s obvious there are some serious issues after the House’s vote on Saturday.
Wolf will not sign any budget that does not include “historic” reinvestment for basic education in the Keystone State. He is also looking to get at least a $30.8 billion spending plan – a 6% increase from 2014-15.
“We cannot slide back on that commitment to our schools,” Wolf told reporters Saturday. “We cannot slide back on that commitment to a fully-balanced budget. We cannot slide back on our commitment to a full-year budget.”
Wolf has enjoyed solid support from Democrats in the House and Senate, although no House Democrats voted in favor of the Wolf-negotiated pension reform bill.
The former York businessman is also looking for some tax increases to offset the additional education funding and increases in human and social services. Wolf has also called for new taxes to narrow the state’s burgeoning deficit.
A hike on the state’s tobacco tax is likely to be included in any final deal, while there has been talk from the Governor’s office of increases in the state’s personal income and sales taxes.
Last week, GOP Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne said it would take around $650 to $700 million to balance the budget for the fiscal year that started on July 1.
Ideal Budget: $30.8 billion
Wish List: Education funding ($350 million), New Taxes (at least $1 billion)
House Majority Leader Dave Reed
In the hours after the PA House condemned the budget framework agreement to a certain defeat, Reed said he would work to put a stopgap budget back on the House floor.
The House Majority Leader also wants to scrap any talk over new taxes until Harrisburg can sort out the state’s “number one cost driver,” its pension systems for state and public school employees.
“Obviously a full-year budget was priority number one,” Reed said Saturday. “Obviously, that’s not possible given the vote today. So we’ve got to go to option B.”
House GOP leaders announced a Tuesday vote on an emergency spending plan, though details were unclear, as lawmakers work to find available revenue and votes, AP reports.
Ideal Budget: Medium to long-term temporary plan
Wish List: Pension reform, no new taxes
The GOP-controlled State Senate has come out against the short-term plan, hoping instead to hash out a comprehensive long-term solution with the Governor and the House.
Last week, the State Senate pushed through the pension reform bill rejected by the House, as well as a bill allowing grocery stores and restaurants to sell wine.
The upper chamber, controlled by Majority Leader Jake Corman, has been Wolf’s biggest ally recently, supporting the $30.8 billion spending plan and $1 billion in new taxes Wolf has called for.
Ideal Budget: $30.8 billion
Wish List: Liquor privatization, Pension reform