Budget's Partisan Gridlock Replaced By House-Senate Stalemate
Pennsylvania’s House and Senate Republican majorities are rowing in different directions toward a spending plan, fueling fears the state budget won’t be safely docked anytime soon.
The Senate passed a $30.8 billion spending blueprint with bipartisan support on Monday.
Minutes later, a committee over in the House approved a more modest $30.2 billion spending plan.
“We are facing reality,” said Rep. Bill Adolph (R-Delaware), chairman of the House Appropriations Commission. “This is a reality check.”
The House’s scaled-back budget assumes new revenue from higher taxes on cigarettes, e-cigarettes and tobacco, an income tax imposed on lottery winnings and an expansion of gambling that includes internet games and additional slots at casino satellite sites.
GOP Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman cautioned the House GOP about charting a new course now.
“We need to get things done that the governor will sign,” said Corman. “I think we’ve now got him to a point where he’s comfortable with what we’re passing, we’re comfortable with what he wants, and we can finally get this finished.”
Corman added that the Senate can’t support the gambling expansion being proposed in the House, though the Senate has not shared its own plans to raise revenue, making the spending bill it passed Monday effectively incomplete.
The tax package in the works would raise $600 million in the remaining six months of the fiscal year, Corman said, and “north of” $1 billion a year after that.
The governor’s office says Wolf remains committed to the Senate’s version of the state budget.
Rep. Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny), ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations panel, couldn’t guess how the emerging House vs. Senate stalemate might be resolved.
“I think we are going to come to a solution. I’m not going to give you a better answer than that, and I’m sorry,” said Markosek, “but I think we will get through this.”