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State GOP Still Discussing Budget, But No Concrete Plans

Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Dave Reed says house members are discussing the budget proposal passed by the Senate but aren't ready to introduce anything new.

The state House has no official plans to resume negotiations on balancing the state budget.

In a rare update, House Majority Leader Dave Reed said while members continue to discuss a proposal passed by the Senate last month, they’re not ready to introduce a counter-offer of their own.

Key components of the Senate plan include a severance tax on Marcellus Shale drilling, sales tax expansions, and consumer taxes on natural gas, electricity, and phone service.

Reed said the consumer gas tax—known as a gross receipts tax—is particularly hard to swallow.

“We’ve had concerns, particularly about the gross receipts tax for a number of years now,” he said. “We’ve been pretty open with those concerns to the Senate, the administration—and quite frankly I think the House [Democrats] have some concerns with the gross receipts tax as well.”

Reed said the House is slightly more amenable to the severance tax, but has some concerns about that as well.

“Some of our members have actually introduced their own severance tax proposals,” he said. “But I think even for some of them, they would be reluctant to use a severance tax to close a budget without some other revenue options, like gaming expansion or liquor privatization.”

Proposals to expand liquor sales and legalize video gaming terminals didn’t garner support in the Senate.

House Democratic spokesman Bill Patton said his caucus hasn’t been asked for input, and noted that “House Republicans seem to be at a loss for ideas.”

“Republicans have been unable to pass liquor privatization for the last seven years,” he added. “It’s time to look at more realistic bipartisan revenue ideas such as raising the state’s minimum wage and passing a reasonable severance tax on gas drillers.”

The budget won’t be balanced until lawmakers fill a $2 billion hole in the spending plan they passed at the end of June.