State budget negotiations continue in Harrisburg as the Corbett Administration attempts to iron out differences with fellow Republicans in the legislative leadership. Their goal is to have a spending plan signed and in place one week from tonight, making this the first budget deadline met in 8 years.
Governor Tom Corbett said last night that he remains confident that a deal can be reached in time to meet that deadline, but there are indications that his confidence is not shared by the Senate leadership. Drew Crompton, Chief of Staff to Senate President Joe Scarnati, says the governor’s refusal to discuss a proposed Marcellus Shale “impact fee” has the potential to push the process beyond June 30th. The governor has previously stated that the impact fees are to be kept separate from the general fund budget and he refused to comment on whether or not they were a part of Wednesday’s talks. Corbett does list tort reform and school vouchers as two major issues that need to be discussed before party leaders can agree on a budget.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi previously stated that a handshake agreement of sorts would need to be in place by today if the budget had a chance to pass by June 30th. As talks ended last night, indications were that such a “gentleman’s agreement” is still elusive.
Meanwhile, state Democrats are critical of the budget negotiation, calling it a “behind closed doors” process. Republicans control the House, Senate and Governor’s office in Harrisburg.