House GOP tries again to resolve Pennsylvania standoff with own budget
HARRISBURG — Widening a Republican rift in the Pennsylvania Legislature, House Republicans unilaterally attacked the state government's 5-month-old budget stalemate with a spending plan of their own Tuesday, rejecting a bipartisan Senate vote a day earlier on a rival approach endorsed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
The House voted 115-86 for a $30.3 billion general appropriations bill, with four Republicans joining every Democrat in voting “no.”
The bill's passage represented the second time in the past month that a proposed budget deal between Wolf and the Legislature's Republican majorities has collapsed.
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said the Senate will re-send the $30.8 billion budget bill it passed Monday, a spending plan that Wolf has endorsed but that House Republicans protested as being too expensive. A key hang-up is the $1.2 billion tax increase that could accompany it as part of the Senate's deal with Wolf.
The House GOP has not entirely explained how it would pay for its spending bill through higher taxes on tobacco products, expanding the personal income tax to lottery winnings and license fees on an undisclosed expansion of casino gambling.
“There's been a lot of talk in the Capitol regarding our framework, our lofty goals,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Adolph, R-Delaware, told colleagues during comments on the floor. “But the toughest part of passing a budget in this framework is how to pay for it.”
Wolf, who opposes the House spending bill, has insisted on a tax increase big enough to deliver a record boost in aid to public schools and narrow a long-term budget deficit that has damaged Pennsylvania's credit rating.
As a trade-off, he agreed to sign legislation long sought by Senate Republicans to scale back public pension benefits and by House Republicans to allow private businesses to sell wine outside the state-controlled system.
The Senate bill delivered $350 million in new aid for public schools; the House Republican bill delivered $150 million.
Democrats said it was very similar to a Republican budget bill that Wolf vetoed June 30 because it did not do enough to address the deficit or reverse GOP-engineered cuts to education aid and human services funding dating to 2011.
“As you may recall, the governor vetoed that plan because it was inadequate,” said Rep. Joe Markosek of Monroeville, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee.