Top Senate Democrat says Pa. budget probably won’t be balanced

 Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa spoke at an event for the Pennsylvania Press Club, which regularly features state and US lawmakers. (Katie Meyer/WITF)

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa spoke at an event for the Pennsylvania Press Club, which regularly features state and US lawmakers. (Katie Meyer/WITF)

According to Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, he and other Democrats haven’t so far been party to many of the budget negotiations that are heating up in the Capitol.

“There’s only been a handful — not even a handful maybe just a couple  conversations on the budget,” he said. “It’s a little different from previous years.”

But based on what he’s hearing, Costa said he’s increasingly concerned this year’s budget won’t be properly balanced.

The commonwealth is up against a roughly $1.5 billion revenue shortfall–and that’s just for this fiscal year.

Democrats in the House and Senate–and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf — have long pushed to fill budget holes with broad-based tax increases. Republicans have rebuffed those attempts, as well as any other bids to raise more narrow taxes, like ones on natural gas.

It’s still unclear how GOP leaders want to close the gap. And Costa said he’s not optimistic.

“A year from now, someone will be standing here and probably repeating the same thing,” he said. “We’re a billion-and-a-half dollars short, and there’s no willingness to be able to address the problems that we have going forward. We’ll make up ways to figure it out, to get through it…and we’ll put that off for another year.”

The budget is due June 30th.

Costa said he thinks it’s possible a spending plan will be in place by then, but that the revenue plan — a key component of the budget — will probably take longer.

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