The tone of Pennsylvania budget talks hit a new low this week.
The tone of Pennsylvania budget talks hit a new low this week as the governor promised to veto a stopgap measure meant to get state funding flowing to entities facing their own fiscal cliff due to the months-long standoff.
GOP Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said a deal still seemed distant after a Wednesday meeting with Democrats and the governor. As a result, he said, Republicans would go ahead with a short-term proposal to fund schools and social services through October.
“Why can’t they have some money while we’re continuing to negotiate?” Corman said during an impromptu press conference on the steps of the Capitol rotunda. “I don’t understand why anyone would be opposed to that.”
Gov. Tom Wolf responded by promising to veto the Republicans’ bill.
“They’re poking me in the eye again. That’s exactly what this is about,” said Wolf, during a hastily arranged press conference after Corman’s remarks. “They want to see, I guess, how far they can push me. They can’t.”
Wolf said he offered major concessions on two agenda items dear to Republicans – pension changes and liquor privatization. GOP leaders say they’re still considering the offer, and will need time and more information to vet it properly.
The governor acknowledged during his press conference that his proposal was not rejected out of hand by the GOP leaders. Still, he expressed frustration that Republicans appeared unprepared to offer him some kind of reciprocal compromise.
“Nothing,” said Wolf. “I got nothing on severance tax — nothing. I got nothing on education — nothing. I got nothing on property tax relief. And I got nothing — I got nothing — on how we’re actually going to balance this budget.”
Jenn Kocher, spokeswoman for the Senate Republicans, said Corman did not mention the governor’s offer during his remarks to the press out of respect for the governor’s wishes that the details of closed-door budget meetings be kept private.
Wolf has said for months that he wants to secure a full year’s budget to solve what he sees as long-term funding problems. On Wednesday, he was asked why the Republicans’ stopgap budget would endanger that goal.
“What they’re doing is a very cynical, hypocritical attempt to make people believe that they’re actually trying to make human services agencies’ lives easier. They’re not,” Wolf responded.
“In my budget,” the governor continued, “I’m proposing — and we Democrats have proposed for years — to actually provide for long-term and adequate and fair funding for human service agencies and for education. This stopgap is not that.”