State House, Senate Leaders Move Toward Budget Agreement

Michael Macagnone
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Republican legislative leaders want to have a budget deal to take to the governor by next week, well in advance of the June 30 deadline.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, said that the plan he continued negotiating this morning with House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, would keep them on the road to a finished budget by the middle of the month.

“It is an optimistic time frame but an achievable one,” Mr. Pileggi said Wednesday of the mid-June goal.

Mr. Turzai said that the eventual legislative budget deal would use the $27.6 billion plan the Senate passed as a ceiling, but did not rule out spending below that total.

That Senate plan restored some $500 million in spending that Gov. Tom Corbett cut in his February budget proposal.

Mr. Turzai said the Senate budget was “fiscally responsible while still balancing the needs of Pennsylvania citizens.”

Mr. Pileggi said that the two Republican caucuses were “not apart in concept, and we are working through the details” on primary education funding and other issues. Neither House nor Senate Democratic leaders were invited to today’s negotiations.

On higher education funding, Mr. Turzai said he would like to go further than the agreement brokered by Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, with state universities to limit tuition increases to the rate of inflation in order to see their funding restored.

He said tuition increases are a “crucial part” of discussions on higher education funding.

“I’d like [universities] not to be increasing tuition,” he said.

Both chambers have blocked amendments that would restore funding for a $150 million cash assistance program. Mr. Pileggi said that the legislators did not see the program as the highest priority.

“There is competition for limited resources,” he said, and that the senators felt its plan was “the right allocation for the limited funds we have.”

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