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Turzai Adjourns House; Senate Abandons Compromise, Adopting Republican Budget Plan

HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) -- Led by House Speaker Mike Turzai, Republicans adjourned the state House for a Christmas break without enacting a compromise state budget that Gov. Tom Wolf would sign.

"The House Republicans took their caucus and went home," said Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Markosek of Monroeville, the Democratic House Budget chairman.

The abrupt departure from Harrisburg brought cries of disbelief from Democrats who claimed that they were never consulted by Turzai.

"They've abandoned their duties," said Markosek. "We have a duty to pass a budget. We have education and human service infrastructure out there. People who need help. People all over the Commonwealth, and instead of doing their job, they took their caucus and went home."

The day had begun with high hopes that the already-approved bi-partisan Senate $30.8 billion budget bill, which Wolf said he would sign, would be approved by the state House.

"This was blown up today by House Republicans who have abdicated their responsibilities to the Commonwealth and their citizens to move forward to fund our needs appropriately and adequately and that's what we were about to do until the rug was pulled out from under us," said Pennsylvania Rep. Dan Frankel of Squirrel Hill, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

House GOP leaders refused to allow that vote, bringing objection from even some local Republican lawmakers.

"It makes no sense to adjourn without a state budget with schools threatening to close, with human service agencies already closing," Pennsylvania Rep. Jim Christiana, a Beaver Republican, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano. "It makes no sense to leave the Capitol."

Speaker Turzai urged Senate Republicans to renege on their deal with the governor and the Democrats and adopt a smaller $30.2 billion budget that does not fund public education as much as the original compromise.

Abandoning all pretense of bi-partisan compromise, Republican lawmakers in Harrisburg went back to the future -- reverting to that lower budget similar to one Republicans passed on June 30 and vetoed by the governor.

House Republican leaders urged Senate Republicans to abandon the compromise with the governor, saying they lacked the votes to hike taxes to pay for it.

"We just need to admit that the Senate may have had the votes for a GA or budget bill but they never had the votes on the taxes," said Pennsylvania Rep. Dave Reed of Indiana, the House Majority Leader.

Late Wednesday, Senate Republicans gave in, adopting the House Republican budget and sending it to the governor.

In a statement, Wolf said, "It is deeply disappointing that today the Senate has caved to those same House leaders and extreme interests to continue the failed status quo and harm our schools and children by denying them these critical additional funds."

"It seems that the Republican legislature is intent on continuing the Harrisburg status quo and getting out of town to go on vacation instead of continuing the hard work to move Pennsylvania forward."

No word yet on whether the governor will sign or veto the Republican budget.

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