Few choices await Pa. leaders on bridging $2 billion budget gap

    Democratic Gov.-elect Tom Wolf and Republican state lawmakers are preparing for another tough Pennsylvania budget process in the New Year.

    After January’s swearing-in festivities are over, the business of budgeting begins.

    The Corbett administration is leaving a deficit of $2 billion, something Budget Secretary Charles Zogby said will force a debate over how to find more money – with taxes or with overhauls?

    “And that’s really going to be, I think, at the heart of the coming debate over the 2015-16 budget,” he said Monday. “Do you look at pension reform, liquor privatization, that some suggest could generate as much as a billion dollars?”

    Wolf supports a 5 percent tax on natural gas drillers to boost state spending on education.

    But first, Republicans in control of the state House and Senate have said they’ll want to secure their priorities.

    Those include curbing public pension benefits, reducing the debt from long-delayed pension payments, and selling off the state’s wine and liquor stores.

    The issues were top priorities of the Corbett administration but stalled for the past three years.

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