Pa. lawmakers head to Capitol for sixth straight day

     State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in an undated photo. (AP Photo)

    State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in an undated photo. (AP Photo)

    Pennsylvania’s Legislature is at work in Harrisburg to tackle a backlog of bills including a proposed multi-billion-dollar expansion of state transportation funding.

    Dozens of amendments are on tap as lawmakers hold a rare Saturday session.

    Pending in the House is a Senate-approved bill that would increase a wholesale tax on motor fuels to generate a $2.5 billion annual increase in funding for highways, bridges, mass transit and other programs.

    The House Transportation Committee has endorsed a less expensive alternative to the Senate bill that would tap the same tax to raise about $1.8 billion a year. That proposal is among the more than 90 proposed amendments to the Senate bill.

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    Other pending business includes a $28.3 billion state budget that must be approved by Sunday and a Senate liquor-privatization bill.

    THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

    Pennsylvania state lawmakers were returning to the Capitol for a sixth-straight day Saturday as the Republican majority seeks to wrap up an on-time state budget and secure victories for Gov. Tom Corbett’s legislative agenda.

    Time is running short.

    The new fiscal year begins Monday, and House and Senate leaders have yet to strike agreements on major legislation to allow the private sale of wine and liquor and generate billions of dollars for roads, bridges and mass transit agencies primarily by increasing motor fuel taxes.

    The House and Senate were each scheduled to resume voting sessions at 1 p.m.

    In the House, a vote was possible on transportation legislation, but the chamber’s Republican leaders on Friday were still trying to cobble together at least half of the caucus to join Democrats in supporting a bill.

    Meanwhile, Senate Republicans were poised to advance a $28.3 billion budget bill after going into the early morning hours of Saturday to secure a key vote on a bill to privatize wine and liquor sales over the objections of Democrats. The bill still needs full House and Senate approval to reach Corbett’s desk.

    The two issues are indirectly linked: Senate Republicans have made a transportation bill a top priority while House GOP leaders helped lead efforts to privatize the state-controlled liquor and wine system.

    Several Republican senators said some support for the wine and liquor plan was driven by a desire to encourage House passage of a transportation funding bill.

    Meanwhile, the Senate may advance legislation to potentially expand Medicaid eligibility to hundreds of thousands of adult Pennsylvanians under the 2010 federal health care law. The bill won approval from a Pennsylvania state Senate committee on Friday night, even though support for it is uncertain from Corbett and the more conservative House.

    Republicans have all but abandoned efforts to pass legislation sought by Corbett that makes major changes to public employee pension laws.

    Also circulating were proposals that would increase business tax deductions, allow small games of chance at bars and help Corbett make a legal case to Attorney General Kathleen Kane for his contract to hire a British company to manage the $3.5 billion Pennsylvania Lottery.

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