Meetings, talks, more meetings, but no budget at the Capitol

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Governor Tom Wolf, according to several staffers, opened the Governor’s Residence to Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and House Majority Leader Dave Reed on Monday.

The Republican legislators and Democratic governor presumably chatted. Perhaps they lunched.

Was there progress in the stalled budget negotiations that are six days beyond the June 30 deadline?

“The result was,” Steve Miskin, House GOP spokesman said with an exasperated pregnant pause, “there is still no budget.”

House and Senate Republicans sent a letter late Monday afternoon to the governor criticizing what they call his “indiscriminate veto.” Republicans allege there was agreement on 274 of the 400 budget line items and that they were funded at or above the levels Wolf requested. Their point, apparently, is that he didn’t have to veto their entire budget, just the parts he didn’t like.

“The governor vetoed it and vetoed it for only one reason: taxes,” Miskin said. “He wants to take more taxes out of Pennsylvanians and out of our employers.”

The legislative letter to Wolf, signed by all eight leaders, continued. “You have repeated on several occasions that now it is our plan versus your plan. This is disingenuous. Your plan has no legislative support, while our plan passed both legislative chambers with considerable majorities.”

Wolf’s spokesman, Jeff Sheridan, responded with a statement of his own that read in part: “It is reprehensible that Republican leaders are standing up for oil and gas drillers instead of school children … It is laughable that the legislative team that has given us multi-billion dollar deficits, annual fiscal crises and numerous credit downgrades are all of the sudden responsible fiscal stewards.”

Representative Joe Markosek agrees with that sentiment.

“We have a structural deficit caused by four years of the previous administration and the current legislative make-up,” said Markosek, the Appropriations Committee minority chairman.

He says Republicans have ignored Wolf’s priorities of property tax reform and a tax on Marcellus Shale drillers. He said they also don’t like having a Democrat, Wolf, at the negotiating table, and for a deal to be done the GOP has to give on something.

“If that requires new forms of revenue, then they’re gonna have to help us vote for some of those things,” Markosek said.

Or not.

Rank-and-file Republican lawmakers are back in their districts and seem content to frame the fight as a governor who wants to raise taxes and their attempt to stop him.

“Constituents are not hammering at their doors trying to break them down saying, ‘ tax me more,’ ” Miskin said. “No, they’re saying, ‘you keep up the fight.’ They’re taxed enough.”

The fight, such as it is, is nowhere near over. In fact, given the lack of urgency at the Capitol, it may not have yet begun.

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