Pa. budget talks go underground

    A man in a tan jacket and blue tie, the American flag off to the left

    Pennsylvania state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks, supports a severance tax on natural gas. (AP file photo)

    Pennsylvania budget talks are being kept on the QT this week, as Democratic Governor Tom Wolf plans to meet with top Republican lawmakers without the press lurking outside.

    Budget negotiations have been behind closed doors, but the governor’s office said Monday these discussions will be smaller and more low-profile in an attempt to get closer to a deal. The governor’s spokesman, Jeffrey Sheridan, said impromptu hallway press conferences that have punctuated so many meetings over the past several weeks haven’t been helpful.

    The state spending plan is two months late. Wolf hasn’t answered a GOP offer to trade education funding for an overhaul of future pension benefits. Republican House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, all but threw up his hands last week when the governor remained noncommittal on the proposal.

    “He’s had a week,” said Reed. “He’s got 30,000 state employees to help him get an answer to these questions, for goodness’ sakes. If he can’t get them in a week, I don’t know when he anticipates getting them.”

    Schools, social service agencies, and other contractors have seen their state funding dry up during the budget impasse. To get money flowing again, state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks, is proposing a short-term funding measure.

    The Wolf administration opposes such a move, fearing it’ll remove the impetus to come to a final agreement on state spending.

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