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Pennsylvania Senate Passes Bi-Partisan Budget But House Seems To Balk

HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) - On Monday, the Republican-controlled PA Senate passed a bi-partisan $30.8 billion state budget that Governor Wolf says he will sign.

"It was a big step in the right direction with budget negotiations. I'm really proud of what we did today," PA Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, a Jefferson Hills Republican, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano shortly after the vote.

Reschenthaler hailed the agreement, but it's not clear that House Republicans will go along, says PA Rep. Jim Christiana, a Beaver Republican, who objects to higher taxes.

"I don't realistically see the House having the votes to raise that amount of taxes in spite of the Senate sending it to us," said Christiana.


The deal is actually four separate bills -- two of which passed the Senate easily -- with the other two scheduled for a vote later this week.

The first vote was a spending bill that eliminates the $1.3 billion structural deficit, increases K-12 public education spending by an additional $460 million, and hikes human services spending by $300 million.

Locally, 7 Republican and 3 Democratic senators voted for the budget deal, including PA Sens. Camera Bartolotta, Jim Brewster, Jay Costa, Wayne Fontana, Guy Reschenthaler, Pat Stefano, Elder Vogel, Randy Vulokovich, Kim Ward, and Donald White, while one local Republican senator, Tim Hutchinson, voted against the budget.

The Senate also passed a bi-partisan pension reform bill on Monday and is expected to pass a liquor reform bill later this week that will keep the state stores but allow wine to be sold in grocery stores.

The 43 to 7 vote came after months of partisan haggling between legislators and the governor and was the first of a four-part budget deal that includes (1) a $30.8 billion spending package, (2) a pension reform plan that combines a 401-k with a traditional pension, (3) a liquor reform that keeps the state stores but permits wine sales in grocery stores, and (4) a still undetermined mix of taxes but no hike in income, sales, or Marcellus shale tax.

Democratic Senate leader Jay Costa hailed the agreement because it increases investments in education and human services.

"We've really been on a decline in those areas. This budget really makes those investments because we're at a crossroads here in Pennsylvania. We have to make a choice whether we are going to manage decline or grow and make investments," says Costa.

But House Republicans are apparently balking at the taxes needed for the deal, insists Christiana.

"Many of us oppose raising taxes to that level, so I don't realistically see the House having the votes."

House Republicans are pushing their own $30.2 billion budget that won't pass the Senate and the governor won't sign.

Newly elected Republican Reschenthaler who supported the compromise said both Republicans and Democrats must work together.

"At the end of the day, we have to remember -- some of us might be on the far left, some of us might be on the far right -- it doesn't matter because when you govern, you got to govern from the center, and that's what we're trying to do in the Senate. That's what I'm trying to do," he said.

But unless the House goes along, it's a stalemate.

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