As Pa. budget talks stall, campaign tactics fill the void

     Gov. Tom Wolf, center, speaks with Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, left, as Lt. Gov. Michael Stack looks on after Wolf delivered his Pennsylvania budget address in March. Any affinity between the GOP majority and the Democratic governor has all but evaporated since then. (AP file photo)

    Gov. Tom Wolf, center, speaks with Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, left, as Lt. Gov. Michael Stack looks on after Wolf delivered his Pennsylvania budget address in March. Any affinity between the GOP majority and the Democratic governor has all but evaporated since then. (AP file photo)

    The political debate over the state budget has hit a lull within the walls of Pennsylvania’s Capitol, but it’s very much alive on roadside billboards, radio ads, and in mailboxes.

    “We’re in a messaging war, but that’s on both sides,” said Sen. John Blake, D-Lackawanna, this week.

    GOP ally Americans for Prosperity has radio ads and billboards blasting the governor for trying to raise taxes.

    An affiliate of the Democratic Governors Association has its own TV and radio ads, as well as mailers slamming individual Republicans for not supporting the governor’s budget vision.

    State Sen. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe, said the attacks on lawmakers will hurt Wolf’s ability to make a deal with Republicans.

    “Oh my gosh, yeah. Definitely,” said Scavello. “Because, you know what, I could be one of those swing votes, I tell you right now.” And after his district was blanketed by critical mailers? Not so much, Scavello said.

    “It’s called communication,” said a disdainful Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia. He said there’s nothing unexpected about the current messaging war – including any proxy-attacks against lawmakers. “It has no interference with the negotiating practice, and it’s exactly what we would all do,” Hughes said.

    Even if it’s expected, it can leave some with raw feelings. Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, observed Monday, “the level of acrimony is probably the highest I’ve ever seen … from both sides.”

    The DGA group’s TV ad-buy runs out in a few days. A spokesman says America Works USA hasn’t decided if there will be more to come.

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