Protesters camp on Capitol steps as budget deadline approaches

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – With the state budget due in a day, protesters gathered Monday at the Capitol to back Governor Tom Wolf’s plan.

Republicans, of course, have their own version, so what would happen if, and when, there’s no agreement by the deadline?

We told you over the weekend if the legislature passes a measure and the governor vetoes it — which he has pledged to do — lawmakers are prepared to come back Wednesday and start the process again.

The protesters say they’re ready for that, too. They planted themselves where they can’t be missed: on the Capitol steps.

Ryan Richard set up his tent on the concrete Monday afternoon. He came from Pittsburgh to fight for the budget he wants.

“I got a 6-year-old kid,” the nursing home worker said. “I’m worried about how his future is going to look.”

The group, dozens strong by Monday evening, made signs on the steps, pushing for Wolf’s plan — a tax on shale drillers, more money for schools.

“Quality education for our children of all colors,” Maria Ortiz of Philadelphia said.

But Wolf’s proposal is all but dead, voted down weeks ago. Republicans say the governor wants to tax and spend too much.

“You can only spend what you have,” Republican Senator Richard Alloway said. “It’s nice to go around and say, ‘I want to give money to this program and that program,’ but who are you taking it from? And that’s the bottom line.”

The Senate is set to vote on the Republican plan Tuesday, just in time to meet the deadline to put a measure on the governor’s desk.

In the House Monday, members took up a different attempt to save money: debate over a pension reform bill.

The measure would shift new state employees off pensions and onto 401(k) plans, which its GOP backers would save the state billions of dollars in the coming years.

“We’re trying to protect taxpayers in this new pension bill,” said Representative Stan Saylor (R-York). “Make sure that the risk taken in any system that you create is taken by taxpayers and the employee.”

But the partisan divide strikes again.

“It’s not going to reduce the deficit that has already built up in the pension system,” Representative Sid Kavulich (D-Lackawanna) said.

That bill will see a final vote Tuesday.

Back outside the Capitol building, the focus stayed on Tuesday’s budget vote, and likely veto by the governor.

“We will keep coming back,” said Rose Yanko, of Wilkes-Barre. “We will keep making noise. We will be a little bit disruptive. We will express our voice.”

Even if it means camping on the steps all week.

“We’re going to continue fighting until we get what we want,” Richard said.

Assuming the Senate passes the House budget measure Tuesday and the governor vetoes it, Wednesday shouldn’t look very different for state employees.

Several senators we talked to said workers won’t feel the effects right away, and probably not for weeks.

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