State Lawmakers Inch Closer To Budget Deal In Final Week

HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) — Under a hot sun, social service advocates showed up at Freedom Corner in Pittsburgh to urge legislators to do their job — and pass a budget by midnight Thursday.

“A little hot today but we also need to put the heat on our state legislature,” Rev. Sally Jo Snyder of the Consumer Health Coalition told the crowd.

After the longest budget stalemate in state history, Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican legislators — who control the legislature — are under pressure to pass a budget acceptable to both in the next few days.

Wolf proposed a $31.9 billion budget last March, while House Republican leaders have their own $31.4 billion budget — a difference of $400 million.

“When they told me we got a shortfall of $400 million, then they said we will probably be all right at $200 million, my stomach dropped because that $200 million pretty much said to me, social services are going to take a hit,” said Milton Henderson of the Three Rivers Center for Independent Living.

“We continue to fall behind other states.  We continue to fall behind other cities,” said Sarah Byrne-Houser of the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children.

Sources tell KDKA political editor Jon Delano that House Republicans will move their budget — which increases education spending — through the Appropriations Committee and to the House Floor for a vote on Tuesday.

To pay for additional spending, House Republicans propose raising the cigarette tax by a dollar a pack and expanding the tax to all tobacco products and e-cigarettes except cigars.  Additional revenue would also come from legalizing and taxing on-line gambling and the expansion of wine sales in grocery stores.

But there will be no increase in the state sales tax, income tax, or a tax on Marcellus shale drilling.

Senate Democratic leader Jay Costa says the GOP budget has not been agreed to by the governor but is a step in the right direction.

“There are also some things that are missing,” said Costa.

“We think there are some things missing in human service restoration.  We think there are things missing with respect to what the governor has asked us to do in addressing the opioid and heroin issue in Pennsylvania.”

Negotiations are continuing.

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