Pa. House, Senate GOP clashing over gaming in budget negotiations

     Members have not yet come to a consensus on any of the budget's major components. (AP Photo)

    Members have not yet come to a consensus on any of the budget's major components. (AP Photo)

    Pennsylvania House and Senate Republicans are struggling for consensus on major budget components ahead of Friday’s deadline.

    One of the big sticking points remains how far to go on expanded gambling, which is likely one of the primary sources of new revenue.

    The House GOP favors a broad gambling expansion legalizing both internet betting and video game terminals in bars and taverns.

    Senate leaders, meanwhile, have been adamant they don’t have support for the terminals, which are commonly referred to as VGTs.

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    Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman has long opposed them himself. But Monday he indicated he’s now trying to drum up support among his members, because consensus with the House might be impossible otherwise.

    “[House members] think VGT is an important part of that bill…so we’re working through that to see if there’s a way to thread the needle to get support for that,” he said. “We haven’t hit critical mass as of yet.”

    Asked whether his opinion was changing on VGTs, Corman responded that “One thing I’ve found out—particularly being in a leadership position—at the end of the day, whatever gets a budget done, you find a way to support it.”

    “I have concerns,” he added, “but I have a lot of members in my caucus who are very big supporters of it.”

    Leaders have been reluctant to narrow down other revenue options, like updating liquor taxes or borrowing money from the state tobacco fund.

    Corman said there is a decent chance they’ll pass a spending bill by Friday, but the actual revenue plan could take longer.

    “We’re trying to work to get everything in place,” he said. “But at a minimum we want to get the GA [general appropriations] bill done.”

    The state has to fill a $1.5 billion shortfall for this fiscal year, plus come up with at least $700 million more to balance next year’s proposed spending.

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