(Aug 19) Wolf, Republicans report progress on pension, education funding in budget stalemate

By Kate Giammarise and Karen Langley
Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau

HARRISBURG — For the first time in weeks, Republican legislative leaders say the potential for a deal on the long-overdue state budget appears to be closer.

An offer by Republican legislative leaders that combines the pension reform they are seeking with some of the increased education spending Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is seeking could resolve major disagreements over the state budget.

“If the governor accepts it, it’s huge,” said Senate President Joe Scarnati. “It’s a home run in the sense of what the governor has wanted to deliver, and for what the Legislature has wanted to deliver on pensions. The significance of this can’t be stated enough. It’s a huge move. It’s a huge change in the tenor of the meetings.”

“We’re going to get back together as quickly as possible but I think we’re making some progress,” Mr. Wolf told reporters.

On June 30, the governor vetoed a Republican-crafted budget that didn’t include the governor’s proposals to significantly raise education funding and provide relief from local property taxes by raising the sales and personal income taxes and imposing a severance tax on natural gas drilling. In the weeks since, the governor and legislative leaders have met behind closed doors but didn’t appear to be close to reaching an agreement.

The proposal put forth by Republican leaders today combines something similar to the pension changes they have been asking for, with an additional $300 million in basic education spending, which has been a top priority for the governor.

Full story: Wolf, Republicans report progress on pension, education funding in budget stalemate, by Kate Giammarise and Karen Langley, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 08/19/15

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