By PA Independent Staff
HARRISBURG — Republicans headed home Tuesday evening without reaching a set spending figure and will reconvene with Gov. Tom Corbett in the Pennsylvania statehouse at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Corbett was not present for the second budget session of the day on Tuesday afternoon, but lawmakers and other administration officials spent the afternoon discussing legislation that would move with the budget in the final week of June.
“Today it was much more on legislative issues that we are trying to get our arms around,” said Senate President Joe Scaranti, R-Jefferson. “I think we’re still clearly trying to define what we can all agree on, that’s the problem.”
Because of limitations on how quickly legislation can move through the General Assembly, getting key bills in place to be passed during the final days of the budget session requires “days of work” by staff members, he said.
But a final spending figure — lawmakers and the governor are still about $300 million apart on their proposals — needs to be set in the next 24 hours to ensure all the deadlines can be hit, Scarnati added.
Education reforms, including a new teacher evaluation system and a new tax credit program that would help poor students in failing schools afford tuition at private schools, are among the governor’s top priorities as negotiations continue, said Kevin Harley, Corbett’s spokesman.
Corbett looking for several bills to pass before budget deadline. (11:55 a.m.)
HARRISBURG — While the state budget gets all the attention, Gov. Tom Corbett has other bills he wants to see on his desk before the spending plan is approved.
The big piece for Corbett is the approval of a 25-year, $1.65 billion tax credit for Shell Oil to build a petrochemical plant in western Pennsylvania that would provide an estimated 20,000 jobs — eventually.
The tax break has been criticized by some as a giveaway to big businesses, and Republican and Democratic lawmakers have expressed skepticism about the project, but Corbett defended the measure as a jobs bill Tuesday.
Corbett also is looking for an educational reform package that would include a new evaluation system for public school teachers, and a corrections reform bill that would streamline the parole system and reduce incarceration costs.
The corrections bill passed the state House unanimously last week.
State Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-Chester, said most of Tuesday’s morning meeting focused on those legislative goals and how they could be accomplished in the next two weeks.
Negotiating those other pieces of the pie are crucial to the budget process, as Corbett may be willing to inch the final spending figure higher in exchange for lawmakers’ work on his legislative agenda.
Lawmakers aiming for final spending figure in next 24 hours — $300M apart. (11:45 a.m.)
HARRISBURG – Republican lawmakers emerged from a morning meeting with Corbett seemingly confident that a final spending figure would be reached by the end of the day Tuesday or early Wednesday in advance of the June 30 deadline.
Pileggi said the meeting focused primarily on the other measures the governor wants to see passed along with the budget, but with 11 days remaining before the constitutionally required budget deadline, getting a final spending figure in place was paramount.
State Rep. Bill Adolph, R-Delaware, said the Legislature presented the governor with a new spending number.
Lawmakers and Corbett are haggling over about a $300 million gap between their proposed spending totals for next year, and all sides agree that getting a figure in place was the first step before individual line-items would be discussed.
Adolph said the final figure would be no higher than the $27.6 billion budget that was passed by the state Senate last month.
Corbett declined to comment on the new number offered by Adolph and other Republicans.
Lawmakers said another meeting was scheduled for 3 p.m.