Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Legislature and Constituents Scramble as Monday's Budget Deadline Looms

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Legislature and Constituents Scramble as Monday's Budget Deadline Looms

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG - Monday's state budget deadline ticked closer on Friday without a clear resolution in sight as leaders of the Republican legislative majorities met privately to discuss ways to close a looming shortfall.

"There's still a lot of work to do over the weekend," said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, although he said the leaders had made progress in finding a common approach. The House and Senate had been scheduled to meet each day through Monday, but leaders told rank-and-file members to return late Sunday for possible votes.

Across the Pennsylvania Capitol, past a rotunda teeming with lobbyists, Philadelphia-area parents and children stood outside other closed doors, those of Gov. Tom Corbett, to repeat chants urging increases in funding for public schools.

"Who are we? The education voters. Who are we gonna get rid of? Corbett."

Legislative leaders and Mr. Corbett have admitted they might not deliver the annual state spending plan by the time the next fiscal year begins Tuesday. Pennsylvania faces a budget shortfall of more than $1 billion, and Mr. Corbett and the top Republican senators and House members have not agreed on a mix of spending cuts and revenue hikes to bridge the gap.

The House on Wednesday approved a $29.1 billion budget that relies on $380 million from disbanding the state system of wine and liquor stores, a proposal that is not expected to clear the Senate in the near future. Top Senate Republicans and aides to Mr. Corbett have discussed plugging the hole with revenue from a new tax on the extraction of natural gas, though House Speaker Sam Smith, R- Jefferson, exiting the Friday afternoon session, said the severance tax was no longer under consideration.

"It's conceivable but not likely," he said. "Frankly, we don't know where the votes are in both the House and the Senate."

That is in part because House Republicans believe their Democratic counterparts will not support any measure that would allow the governor to "get a win," Mr. …

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