HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Gov. Tom Wolf told top Pennsylvania Democratic lawmakers he will veto a Republican budget plan that falls short of his priorities, two senior Democrats said Thursday.
House Minority Whip Mike Hanna and Sen. Vincent Hughes, the ranking Appropriations Committee Democrat, said Wolf was clear during a Thursday meeting about a veto if Republicans advance budget legislation that he does not support.
“Let’s be clear, I’m looking for a comprehensive reset in where things are,” Wolf told the group, according to Hughes, of Philadelphia.
Democrats have not seen a GOP budget plan – Republicans have made nothing public, but say one is forthcoming – and the Democrats’ discussion with Wolf did not center on a specific proposal.
Administration officials maintained that Wolf also has not seen a specific Republicans plan and they said those details will factor into what Wolf ultimately decides to do, should one arrive at his desk. The new fiscal year begins Wednesday, when the administration will lose some spending authority unless a budget package is enacted.
Wolf’s top priorities include delivering a record boost in aid to public schools, cutting corporate and property taxes and eliminating a massive structural deficit that has damaged Pennsylvania’s credit rating without resorting to stopgaps.
To fulfill those goals, Wolf wants billions of dollars in higher state taxes on income, retail sales, Marcellus Shale natural gas production, tobacco products and bank shares.
The huge Republican majorities in the Pennsylvania House and Senate were working Thursday to assemble budget legislation that they say would hold the line on taxes. A draft could emerge as early as Friday as they try to get legislation to Wolf’s desk before the fiscal year ends Tuesday night.
Republicans maintain that a tax increase is unnecessary to wipe out a deficit. Meanwhile, property-tax legislation has stalled in the Senate and Republicans say their forthcoming budget plan will contain less education money than Wolf’s proposal.
“I don’t know that he has any choice but to veto,” said Hanna, of Clinton County.
One option available to governors is to selectively approve money for certain programs and use a line-item veto to cut spending for other items. But Hanna said a Republican budget plan would not leave Wolf many choices.
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