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Pa. assembly leaders meet, but no deal on highways

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By The Associated Press
Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

HARRISBURG — The likelihood of a deal on transportation funding remained unclear after a lengthy negotiation Wednesday by most of Pennsylvania's highest-ranking legislative leaders ended inconclusively.

The closed-door, 2½-hour meeting in the Capitol focused on a set of about a dozen issues their staffs had produced, and afterward the participants gave few details but said they felt encouraged.

“Nothing's finalized but we certainly made a lot of progress,” said Speaker Sam Smith, R-Jefferson. “Everybody's still talking.”

Participants said unresolved issues include where they will find the money, how the spending might be phased in and whether they will limit wage requirements for public works projects.

The lack of an agreement makes it unlikely that a bill to fix roads and bridges and support mass transit systems gets considered when lawmakers reconvene next week.

“It's not the end of the world if it doesn't,” said House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny.

Transportation funding is the biggest issue before the General Assembly, and Gov. Tom Corbett has been pushing for a deal. The state Senate passed a $2.5 billion-a-year plan June 5, but the proposal stalled in the House before lawmakers broke for their post-budget summer break.

Corbett spokesman Jay Pagni said the governor remains confident a deal will get done.

“We're under the impression and expect that it will happen this fall session,” Pagni said.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, who hosted the meeting, said he felt House leaders were “in the range” of the size of the Senate-passed bill, including about $500 million for mass transit. He declined to say which elements did get resolved.

“I don't want to get into particulars ... when the issues are interrelated,” Pileggi said.

Pileggi said legislative aides will continue to work on the issue but the leaders do not expect to meet before Tuesday, when both chambers plan floor sessions.

A spokesman for House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, offered no immediate comment about the lack of an agreement following the meeting on Wednesday. Turzai, who alone among the six highest-ranking members did not participate in the meeting, has said he supports a much smaller-scale transportation funding bill.

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