Much Up In The Air As Budget Deadline Looms

By Tony Romeo

HARRISBURG (News Radio 1020 KDKA) – As is often the case, the last Monday of June begins with a new state budget due in a few days. Currently, lawmakers and the governor are facing a big deficit with no clear answers about how to close it.

One anticipated source of new revenue is from an expansion of gambling, including internet gaming.

But the biggest bone of contention with that issue is the state House’s desire for a provision that would allow for up to 40,000 slot machine-like video gaming terminals, or VGTs, in establishments with liquor licenses.

A gaming bill with that provision made it through the House and Speaker Mike Turzai says support came from different factions.

“You know, it’s an interesting issue. The gaming expansion – it’s a coalition in the House. It’s a coalition,” said Turzai.

Turzai adds part of that coalition supports VGTs. But, that proposal faces an uncertain fate in the Senate.

Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf said he was reserving judgment, though he raised concerns about cannibalizing casino revenue.

“I want real revenue, and I want net revenue. I don’t want anything that we do in gaming or gambling to interfere with the revenues that are already in place,” Wolf said.

Meanwhile, another idea floated for possible new revenue involves a liquor-by-the-drink tax.

Lawmakers are also looking at borrowing against future payments Pennsylvania will receive in tobacco settlement funds.

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