Eight weeks after Governor Tom Wolf unveiled a $32.3 billion budget proposal for the new fiscal year, the Republican-controlled state House Tuesday approved its own version, a $31.5 billion spending plan.
The GOP plan was introduced Monday and was approved quickly along party lines with four Republicans joining all Democrats in voting “no.” The Republican budget includes no tax hikes and cuts $800 million from Wolf’s proposal.
The governor called the Republican version “an opening conversation.”
“I applaud them for doing this early,” he said. “There are a couple of things clearly that we need to talk further about.”
One of those things is a $350 million cut to Wolf’s allotment for Health and Human Services, including childcare.
“If we want our citizens to be able to work and to make a real contribution to our economy, we've got to make sure they have access to the services they need to do that and childcare is one of those,” Wolf said.
He said before the state asks families to forego childcare services, “maybe we ought to ask corporations to pay their fair share.”
Wolf praised House Republican leaders for supporting his proposed increases of $100 million and $25 million for basic education and special education, respectively.
“But I am concerned that they're gutting $50 million from what I proposed on early childhood education,” Wolf said.
House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, said his caucus’s plan still needs $800 million in additional revenues.
“We’re open to discussion on those items,” Reed said, adding that most of those revenues are expected to come from online gambling and liquor sales.
“I don't understand how he (Reed) comes up with the numbers he comes up with,” Wolf said. “I haven't seen any evidence that we can do that. “
Instead, for a third straight year, Wolf is pushing for a shale severance tax on natural gas drillers. However, the severance tax has never gained traction in the legislature.
“I don't know why that is, because it's something that I think the majority of Pennsylvanians support (it),” he said.
Despite the disagreements over cuts to human services spending and a shale severance tax, Wolf said he’s confident Pennsylvania will have a budget in place by the July 1 deadline.
“I don't see why we can't. I mean, I understand that there are games people play,” Wolf said. “I believe we can have a good fulsome conversation on this and I'm looking forward to just that in the coming weeks.”
WITF's Katie Meyer contributed to this story.