Pa. Legislature back in session, budget talks begin

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania lawmakers head back to the Capitol Monday and begin hashing out the state budget.

It’s only six weeks before the deadline for Governor Tom Wolf and Republicans to iron out sharp differences on taxes and spending. The new fiscal year begins July 1, and that’s when the state is supposed to have a budget.

Wolf is proposing a $33.3 billion spending plan for the fiscal year 2016 to 2017 budget. That’s an 11 percent increase over the Republican’s $30 billion budget for this fiscal year the governor allowed to become law without his signature.

The governor’s budget includes a $2.7 billion tax increase. Most of it would come from increasing the state income tax rate by 11 percent to 3.4 percent. Wolf wants to increase funding for public schools, pensions, prisons, and human services.

Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai says he only wants to increase spending by about two percent or around $600 million. Republicans want to overhaul public pension benefits, but the Pennsylvania House and Senate have different ideas on how to do that.

The legislature’s independent fiscal agency estimates next year’s budget includes a $1.8 billion deficit.

This all comes after a record budget standoff between Republican lawmakers and Governor Wolf, a Democrat.

Some Republicans say they may be able to get enough Democrats on board for a veto-proof budget if no deal is in sight in late June. Many lawmakers believe the budget talks won’t go as long this year because the election is in November.

 

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