Pennsylvania lawmakers appear far from consensus on paying for the budget

     Lawmakers have just over a week until the budget deadline. (AP Photo)

    Lawmakers have just over a week until the budget deadline. (AP Photo)

    House and Senate leaders are preparing to work through the weekend as they try to finish budget negotiations before their June 30th deadline.

    However, they still have little to say about their negotiations.

    Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said the House, Senate, and Governor are close to being on the same page on a relatively austere spending plan that would spend approximately $31.8 billion.

    But that’s the easy part — they still have to figure out a way to pay off this year’s $1.5 billion revenue shortfall, plus raise an additional $700 million to actually bring the new budget into balance.

    The House has proposed a sweeping gaming expansion to close the gap somewhat, as well as privatization of the liquor industry. The Senate favors its own, more modest gaming bill, and has also been skeptical of the liquor measure.

    “I was more optimistic two weeks ago,” Corman said when asked about the gaming negotiations. “As I always tell people, nothing’s ever dead around here.”

    Corman said senators are discussing borrowing money to fill in the gaps — though it’s not certain how much, or where exactly it would come from.  

    “You know, we’re going to [borrow] as little as possible,” Corman said.  “The challenge for us is the revenue estimate came in a billion-and-a-half higher than what the revenues came in, so you have to take care of the deficit first.”

    Governor Tom Wolf criticized that suggestion, saying he doesn’t want to balance the budget on short-term fixes.

    Wolf is pushing for a severance tax on natural gas, something Republicans in both chambers oppose.

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