Three weeks in, getting down to Pa. budget details

    Pennsylvania legislative leaders say after three weeks without a state budget, they’re starting to get around to detailed discussions.

    For nearly four hours on Tuesday, top GOP lawmakers and staff sat with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and his staff for a line-by-line review of their respective spending proposals. One top aide called it an “icebreaker,” albeit the kind of icebreaker that should have happened a month ago.

    The evening meeting didn’t yield any big agreement, but leaders emerged smiling, complimenting one another, and touting the “productive” talks.

    “The differences are narrowing,” said House Majority Leader Dave Reed. “It’s not exactly going quickly, but they are getting smaller.”

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    Any talk of new revenue sources was tabled for Tuesday. They are the major source of disagreement between Wolf and the GOP. The governor is asking for a number of tax increases to hike education funding and reduce property taxes. Republicans who control the Legislature have balked at such proposals.

    The lack of a state budget has cut off funding to local governments, nonprofits, schools, and contractors that receive money from the commonwealth. Wolf said there was no talk on Tuesday of a stop-gap measure to extend the state’s spending authority while a complete budget is still in the works.

    Wolf was asked how much longer it would take to make a deal.

    “I would not want to even guess,” he said.

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