Pennsylvania lawmakers are preparing for a long weekend in order to hash out final details of a new state budget before the June 30 deadline.
The Capitol Rotunda was unusually quiet for a Friday. No rallies were scheduled and there was no flurry of activity on the marble steps. A pizza delivery of four boxes was the only telling sign of what's going on behind closed doors.
“It is flurrying right now,” Rep. Jeff Pyle (R-Indiana) said.
Pyle explained that most of the action was going on inside offices with smart phones, tablets and laptop computers. Text messages, emails, and phone calls were being used to work out possible budget deals.
“It really isn't an out-in-the-open thing,” Pyle said. “It's guys talking to each other about what we want to do this, we want to do that, we want to do this, we want to do that. Then, it's a matter of figuring out how do we pay for everything.”
Pyle, a seasoned lawmaker, takes the budget deadline in stride, but the long process is taking its toll on freshman Rep. Patty Kim (D-Dauphin).
“I've heard a lot of horror stories about the budget so I anticipate it, but nothing's happened,” she said. “I'm tired because I've anticipated, and I'm nervous before the budget. I need to pace myself.”
Besides agreeing on the $30 billion budget, lawmakers said they are hoping to finalize four key pieces of legislation separate from the job at hand. Kim believes issues of transportation, liquor privatization, Medicaid expansion, and pension reform may linger into the summer.
The state-spending plan, that's a different story.
“It's realistic to think we'll finish on time,” Pyle said.
“I think the budget will definitely get done by Sunday,” Kim said.
In a statement to abc27 news, Gov. Tom Corbett's office said negotiations continue with the General Assembly, but the governor is “optimistic that Pennsylvania will again have a balanced budget without raising taxes for the coming year.”
Lawmakers realize their weekend plans could consist of long hours inside the dome.
“It's a very long process,” Kim said. “It's a good process, but it can be frustrating. I'm just looking forward for this being all done.”
Pyle said he comes armed with a secret weapon.
“I'm chugging Lipton iced tea, unsweetened, extra caffeine,” he said.