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A Capitol Pastime, Linkage Becomes a Fighting Word

Rumblings of horse trading, linking issues and leverage have the Senate's minority leader up in arms. Democrat Jay Costa said recently he's worried the Pennsylvania House will hold transportation funding hostage.

It's not the first time Senate Democrats have voiced such a concern. But Costa was especially emphatic discussing it during a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon in Harrisburg last week.

"What we don't agree to and strongly object to is the fact that this - what I'll call the obstinate leadership in the House - is insisting that we tie transportation funding and wine and spirit privatization," Costa said. "Folks, I gotta tell you, we believe that it's wrong, it's not appropriate, and we should not be doing it."

Later, Costa told reporters "there's no question" the House GOP is trying to link the issues.

The House GOP spokesman has said there's no effort to tie the fates of the two issues. Some House Republicans have supported putting whatever revenue the state gets from privatizing its wine and spirits system toward transportation funding, but any public indication of linkage stops there.

There has been no legislative action to suggest the issues are being held up. A transportation funding proposal hasn't yet passed the full Senate to go over to the House. A liquor privatization proposal passed by the House has been rejected by a key Republican senator who is holding hearings on the issue.

Some lawmakers and staffers suggest tying the two proposals together may be a tacit understanding more than an explicit plan. Costa said it shouldn't work that way.

"I'm offended by the linkage between something that's so significant - safety and jobs - with something (that) is - what I wouldn't say is a luxury, but something I would say equates to convenience," he said.