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Politics & Government

The Latest From Harrisburg: Wolf Says He'll Veto GOP Budget Bill

AP_695700952775.jpg
AP Photo/Matt Rourke
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The Pennsylvania Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pa.

Republican majorities in the Pennsylvania House and Senate are expected to send budget legislation today to Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, along with bills to completely change how wine and liquor are sold and to squeeze billions in savings from public sector pensions.

Wolf has warned he'll veto some or all of the budget proposals, which he has criticized for not adding to the state's deficit and not including enough money for education.

The latest news from an efforts by  lawmakers to send various pieces of major legislation to Wolf's desk:

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9:38 p.m.

Gov. Tom Wolf says he's going to veto a Republican-penned budget bill, and calls it full of gimmicks that leave it unbalanced.

Wolf spoke Tuesday night in his Capitol offices, just hours after the Senate approved a $30.2 billion budget bill and sent it to him.

Every Democratic lawmaker voted against the legislation, which the majority Republicans passed after negotiations with Wolf stalled.

Republicans say it's a responsible plan. It boosts spending by about $1.1 billion, including more money for education, and doesn't raise taxes.

However, Wolf pans the GOP's plan as shortchanging schools still suffering from cutbacks. He says it uses stopgaps that'll worsen the state government's deficit and lets the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry off the hook.

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7:38 p.m.

The state Senate is sending to Gov. Tom Wolf to a Republican-penned bill that will end the traditional pension benefit for most new school and state government workers, but Democrats expect Wolf to veto it.

The Senate voted along party lines, 29-20, on Tuesday night, a few hours after the House voted 106 to 89.

The vote completes a flurry of action by the Republican-controlled Legislature to send an ambitious agenda to Wolf's desk, including a $30.2 billion budget bill and a bill to allow private companies to take over the state-controlled wine and liquor business.

Wolf is expected to veto all three bills.

The pension bill is estimated to save about $11 billion on payments over 30 years on a state pension debt currently estimated at $53 billion. New hires would go into a 401(k)-style retirement plan, as would lawmakers after their next election.

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7:23 p.m.

A bill to privatize the sale of wine and liquor in Pennsylvania has passed the Legislature but faces an uncertain fate in the hands of Gov. Tom Wolf.

The House voted 113 to 82 on Tuesday for the Republican-backed proposal to let private companies take over the marketing, shipment and sale of wine and liquor in the state.

Earlier in the day, the bill passed the Senate, 27-22, without a single Democratic vote.

Wolf has opposed the measure and it is likely he will veto it. The Democratic governor is also considering whether to veto the entire budget or just parts of it. Wednesday is the first day of Pennsylvania's new budget year.

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4:55 p.m.

The Pennsylvania Senate has given final approval to a new state spending plan, but the Republican-penned bill didn't get a single Democrats' vote and it's facing a veto by Gov. Tom Wolf.

The Senate voted along party lines, 30-19, for the $30.2 billion plan on the final day of the fiscal year. It boosts spending by about $1.1 billion, including more money for education, and doesn't raise taxes.

However, Wolf pans the GOP's plan as shortchanging schools still suffering from cutbacks. He says it uses stopgaps that'll worsen the state government's deficit and lets the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry off the hook.

Much of the debate revolved around Wolf's drive to slap a severance tax on the industry.

Wolf says he'll veto the entire budget bill or use his line-item veto power to reject portions of it. Republicans say it's a responsible budget, especially considering the $4 billion tax increase Wolf is seeking.

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4:12 p.m.

The state House is giving approval to a bill that will move most new school and state government workers into a 401(k)-style pension plan.

The House voted 106 to 89 on Tuesday for a Republican-backed bill that will save about $11 billion in payments over 30 years on a state pension debt currently estimated at $53 billion.

Lawmakers will go into the new plan after their next election.

Democrats voted against it. They argue that the pension bill won't produce immediate savings, it endangers the retirement security of the future employees and it's vulnerable to a court challenge.

The measure goes back for another vote in the Senate, which is expected to occur later in the day.

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12:52 p.m.

A Republican-penned proposal to allow private companies to take over the marketing, shipment and sale of wine and liquor in Pennsylvania has passed the state Senate.

The bill passed the Senate, 27-22, on Tuesday and is expected to pass the House later in the day. However, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf opposes the measure and it is likely that he will veto it.

Every Democratic senator voted against the measure and top Democrats say they will oppose any Republican effort to override Wolf's veto.

The bill passed amid a flurry of activity in the Republican-controlled Senate on the last day of the state government's fiscal year.

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12:01 p.m.

A proposal to overhaul public sector pension benefits is being debated in the Pennsylvania House, while the Senate is taking up a wine and liquor privatization measure.

Action on the two major Republican agenda items got underway Tuesday, the final day of the state's fiscal year.

Lawmakers also plan final votes on a Republican-crafted state budget that seems destined for a veto from the pen of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

Wolf argues the $30.2 billion spending plan shortchanges schools, lets the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry off the hook and adds to the state deficit.

Republicans say it's in balance, responsible and avoids any tax increases.