Budget Talks Paused As Wolf Mulls Offer
State budget negotiations are on ice as Gov. Tom Wolf considers the most significant offer from Republicans since talks stalled in June.
The proposal would let Wolf spend more money on schools, one of his campaign promises. But it would also scale back future pension benefits, delivering a kick in the pants to public sector labor unions, who have panned the deal.
Wolf said Thursday he needs more time — and more information — to consider the offer.
“The number on the savings of their pension plan for example changed three times or, what, it changed twice,” Wolf said. “There were three different numbers. So I just want to make sure that I know what that number is.”
Republicans disputed Wolf’s version of events. The administration has received an actuarial analysis of the cost of the proposed pension changes from the state’s two retirement systems.
Wolf has twice postponed making a final decision on the offer, leading to grousing among Republican legislative leaders.
“The frustration is, just, we need an answer,” said GOP House Majority Leader Dave Reed on Wednesday. “If it’s yes, that’s great, we’ll move on to the rest of the budget, get this thing done relatively quickly. If it’s no, that’s OK, we’ve got to figure out another direction to take collectively.”
The state budget is two months late. On Tuesday, House Republicans failed to secure the two-thirds majority vote necessary to override parts of the governor’s budget veto. They said the move would have freed up state funding for certain social services and school programs. But Democrats said partial overrides are unconstitutional. They equated the hours of floor debate to political theatre.
Republicans say the next step is to propose a stopgap budget measure, a short-term funding mechanism to allow schools, social service agencies and other contractors to be paid in spite of the stalled negotiations.