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Politics & Government

Budget Plan Puts GOP, Wolf On Collision Course

Matt Rourke

State lawmakers and Governor Tom Wolf could be headed for another clash over the Pennsylvania budget, now more than eight months late.

Top Republican lawmakers say they’ll pass a plan this week to restore funds vetoed by the governor late last year. The more than $6 billion proposal would bring the total state budget to about $30 billion, and the supplemental funding aims to make a variety of line items whole again – like the schools, rural hospitals, and agricultural programs on the brink of closing because they haven’t received all their state money.

Wolf said he hasn’t seen all the details of the plan, and he’s not promising a signature or a veto. But he stressed that the proposal must fit his oft-stated criteria.

“I want a budget that is balanced, where the math actually works, and that invests in the things that Pennsylvania needs to invest in,” Wolf told reporters on Tuesday. “We are looking at a train wreck in 2016-17, a huge deficit, if we don’t do something about this.”

Democratic lawmakers criticized the Republicans’ plan, which contains a move to prop up the schools budget using money set aside for students’ financial aid for college.

“We want to work together, we’re willing to compromise, but this certainly isn’t the path to go on,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Frank Dermody.

Republicans countered that they have few options to raise additional revenue this late in the fiscal year, and the options they do have are unpopular on both sides of the aisle.

“This is the revenue available,” said GOP House Majority Leader Dave Reed. “This allows us to keep school districts open.”

Republican Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said he hopes Wolf signs the plan.

“It’s March, for goodness’ sakes,” Corman said. “We can focus on what this budget isn’t, but I think we ought to focus on what it is.”