House brings Pa. budget closer to vote, but obstacles loom

    House Minority Leader Frank Dermody

    House Minority Leader Frank Dermody

    After a bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives, the Pennsylvania state budget is one step closer to completion, just before its Thursday deadline.

    However, the House’s budget will first face scrutiny from the Senate and Gov. Tom Wolf.

    The House’s $31.6 billion spending plan marks a 5 percent increase over last year’s budget. House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, said the plan falls in line with several of the governor’s priorities.

    “The education spending is, I think, where the governor wanted it to be, what he was asking for,” Dermody said. “We have over $250 million. So there’s good things in this budget I think everyone can support.

    “There may be some tweaks, but I believe we can work through this with the Senate and with the administration to come to a close.”

    And House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, said he is hopeful the Senate and administration pass the proposal quickly.

    “You know, we’ve had conversations with the Senate, we’ve had conversations with the governor, and I think this is in the ballpark of what could be a finished product,” he said. “I think we’re in the ballpark of what could be a final budget proposal.”

    Senate leaders, though, indicate they won’t sign off on the plan as it is; Wolf is also holding off on endorsing it, noting a lack of revenue to pay for the spending hikes.

    The budget passed by the House hikes cigarette taxes by a dollar a pack, and relies on increased revenue from liquor changes, expanded casino gambling, and a one-time tax amnesty program.

    Neither the governor nor Senate have yet suggested any alternative funding plans.

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