HARRISBURG (AP) — Widening a Republican rift in the Pennsylvania Legislature, House Republicans unilaterally attacked the state government’s 5-month-old budget stalemate with a spending plan of their own Tuesday, rejecting a bipartisan Senate vote a day earlier on a rival approach endorsed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
The Republican-controlled House voted 115-86 for a $30.3 billion general appropriations bill, with four Republicans joining every Democrat in voting “no.”
The bill’s passage represented the second time in the past month that a proposed budget deal between Wolf and the Legislature’s Republican majorities has collapsed.
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said the Senate would resend the $30.8 billion budget bill it passed Monday, a spending plan that Wolf has endorsed, but that House Republicans protest as being too expensive.
A key hang-up for the Senate’s budget bill is the $1.2 billion full-year tax increase that Senate officials say could accompany it as part of the Senate’s deal with Wolf. Senate leaders have not outlined a plan to raise the money.
House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, countered that the Senate would need a two-year, $3 billion tax increase — $2.2 billion in a full year — to pay for its spending plans, and he questioned its political viability in the House.
“I do not see any votes in the House for something like a $3 billion tax increase,” Turzai said.
The House GOP said its spending plan would require a nearly $1 billion revenue package. They would draw most of the money from a $1 per-pack tax increase on cigarettes, new taxes on smokeless tobacco products and electronic cigarettes, and fees and taxes from legalizing Internet-based casino gambling sites and authorizing slot machines at off-track betting parlors.
Wolf, who opposes the House spending bill, has insisted on a tax increase big enough to deliver a record boost in aid to public schools and narrow a long-term budget deficit that has damaged Pennsylvania’s credit rating.
As a trade-off, he has agreed to sign legislation long-sought by Senate Republicans to scale back public pension benefits and by House Republicans to allow private businesses to sell wine outside the state-controlled system.
House and Senate Democratic leaders continue to back Wolf.
The Senate bill delivered $350 million in new aid for public schools, a 6 percent increase; the House Republican bill delivered $150 million. The bill also would deliver less aid than the Senate bill to special education, higher education and human services.
But the House proposal would not harm working people or the state’s economy, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Adolph, R-Delaware, told colleagues during debate.