Keep talking on PA budget


Speaker Mike Turzai, (R-Pittsburgh), said an override of Gov. Tom Wolf’s recent state budget veto is possible if negotiations to end a lengthening stalemate do not progress.

Turzai has offered no timetable for when a bipartisan budget deal to end the 27-day stalemate could be reached or an override vote scheduled to turn the vetoed GOP budget into law.

He said his caucus will not vote on any hike in state taxes if privatizing the state liquor stores is not part of a deal. He called Wolf’s proposed severance tax on natural gas production “phony”, since Pennsylvania already levies an impact fee on drillers.

“The goal is to get the governor to realize he doesn’t have the votes for what he has put on the table,” Turzai said.

It would take a two-thirds vote in both the Republican-controlled House and Senate to override the governor’s veto, which means that crossover support from Democratic lawmakers is necessary.

But Bill Patton, spokesman for House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, (D-Allegheny County), said there are no Democratic votes for an override.

The governor has proposed a combination of tax increases and tax shifts to address a $1.5 billion budget deficit, education funding and property tax relief. GOP lawmakers passed a budget with no tax hikes and focusedinstead, on selling the liquor stores and reducing pension benefits for new state government and school district employees.

Wolf vetoed that budget and related liquor and pension bills last month.

Turzai said his caucus is prepared to borrow money to run its operations if a surplus runs dry with no budget in place.

Meanwhile, social services agencies in Philadelphia and across the state are expected to suffer from the budget delays.

As The Philadelphia Tribune recently reported, “billions of dollars that would otherwise flow to counties and nonprofit groups that provide a range of social services, from addiction counseling to child welfare cases, are expected to be held up,” in a dispute over the state budget stalemate.

Instead of pursuing the course of counterproductive veto override, lawmakers in Harrisburg should be focused on productive discussions and finding common ground on the state budget.


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