Offers, counteroffers in Pa. budget talks

     Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman says Republicans in the Legislature are trying to meet Gov. Tom Wolf's goal on increased education funding

    Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman says Republicans in the Legislature are trying to meet Gov. Tom Wolf's goal on increased education funding "if he can meet our No. 1 goal" of changing the pension system for future state workers. (AP file photo)

    The pace of talks over a Pennsylvania budget maybe picking up, with each side trading proposals over the past week.

     

    The latest offer came Wednesday: Republicans asked Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to support ending the traditional pension for future state and school workers. In return, they said they would vote for the governor’s proposed $400 million funding increase for schools.

    The pension proposal was said to be a revised version of a bill the governor vetoed earlier this summer after it was passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

    The Wolf administration is mulling the plan, which appears to force the governor to choose between claiming victory on education funding and being a friend to the public-sector unions that supported him during his general election campaign.

    “We also would like to see an actuarial analysis,” said spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan, “so that we can see how the savings that they say are included in their plan stack up against the governor’s.”

    Wolf offered his own pension overhaul plan late last week. It was roundly dismissed by Republicans.

    The governor has made increasing schools funding one of his top priorities, but Sheridan said the deal on the table may be too narrow. Wolf has sought $400 million for “basic education,” or kindergarten through 12th-grade schools, but he also wants more money for early childhood programs and higher education.

    Republicans say their offer doesn’t go beyond the basic education funding boost.

    “That’s been his No. 1 priority. That’s been the thing that he has talked about the most,” said GOP Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman. “So we’re trying to meet his goal if he can meet our No. 1 priority.”

    Corman said the sources for the additional education funding still must be negotiated, but he thinks a portion would have to come from changes to the state-run liquor system. He said Republicans remain opposed to any broad-based tax increases.

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