Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Talks on How to Fund State Budget Take a Turn for Worse Dems Say Gop Abruptly Altered Stance on Revenue

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Talks on How to Fund State Budget Take a Turn for Worse Dems Say Gop Abruptly Altered Stance on Revenue

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG - As the state's budget impasse drags on, House Republican leaders appear to be emerging as the holdouts in talks.

Top legislative Democrats said Tuesday that House GOP leaders presented a counter-proposal Tuesday that does not contain many of the items that had been under consideration just days ago.

Specifically, they said Republicans have retreated from talks over finding reliable sources of revenue as part of a package to pay for the nearly $32 billion spending plan the Legislature passed hours before the July 1 start of the new fiscal year. Instead, they are back to insisting on raising new dollars solely through a mix of borrowing, gambling expansion, liquor privatization and one-time revenue sources.

"Now there are no recurring revenues," Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, said of the House Republican proposal, calling it a drastic drop from the roughly $300 million in recurring revenue discussed in talks as recently as last week.

"I view that as a retreat from where they were previously," he said.

Mr. Costa and House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D- Oakmont, said four out of the five parties involved in budget negotiations had been close to an agreement on the revenue package, but that House Republicans had refused to sign off on it.

Tuesday's setback, Mr. Costa said, could soon leave Gov. Tom Wolf with little choice but to start cutting spending to bring the budget into balance.

Pennsylvania's Constitution requires a balanced budget. Without a revenue package, the budget remains out of balance, raising questions about whether the state can legally spend money.

State Treasurer Joe Torsella, a Democrat, last week warned that if legislators do not quickly approve a responsible revenue package, the state could run out of money to pay its bills as soon as next month.

Two sources familiar with negotiations attributed the latest setback in talks to House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, taking a lead role in negotiations.

They said Mr. Turzai, a fiscal conservative who is seriously considering a run for governor, abruptly shifted the House Republican position this week, rejecting any tax hikes to deal with the state's fiscal problems. …

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