Hints of a stop-gap budget in Pa., but no big breakthrough

    Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, R-Jefferson (middle), and Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny (right), at a press conference in 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Knight)

    Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, R-Jefferson (middle), and Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny (right), at a press conference in 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Knight)

    A top Republican lawmaker suggested Monday that Pennsylvania may need a short-term budget as a compromise on a full spending plan proves elusive.

    “The Senate Republicans (and) the House Republicans don’t want to see services for the most vulnerable in the commonwealth … held up,” said Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, as he emerged from a private meeting with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

    The one-on-one meeting followed a larger confab between the governor and all four Republican legislative leaders.

    “I’m open to all kinds of conversations,” said Wolf after the meeting, when asked about his willingness to sign a stop-gap budget agreement.

    Pennsylvania is entering its third week without a spending plan for the current fiscal year, and there is no apparent compromise on the horizon.

    The governor wants to increase a bevy of taxes in order to hike education spending and drive local property taxes down.

    Republicans have been unwilling to accept tax increases, though some leaders have softened their stance in the past few days.

    Senate leaders have suggested they’re opposed specifically to higher sales and income taxes, leaving the door open to a new tax on natural gas drillers.

    That view is apparently not shared by House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny. The governor singled him out on Monday for “continued intransigence” on the drilling tax.

    “He’d rather do good things for his friends in the oil and gas industry than find a way to fund schools,” said Wolf of the House speaker.

    Turzai has said he doesn’t want to hamper gas development that provides jobs in the commonwealth.

    Without a budget, the state can still pay for essential services and commonwealth employees’ salaries. But contractors, local governments, and schools are going without funding. They warn that could halt services and prompt staff layoffs if the budget impasse drags on through August.

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