House ties liquor to transportation in budget talks - abc27 WHTM

House ties liquor to transportation in budget talks

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The clock is ticking.

The June 30 budget deadline is a month and ten days away.

But state lawmakers aren't in Harrisburg this week. They won't be next week, either.

"It's an election week, and we historically are off the week before election," said Senator Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), the minority leader who spoke at the Pennsylvania Press Club in Harrisburg Monday.

"The following week is Memorial Day then we come back for four straight weeks," he said. "Of the 20 working days in June, we'll be up here probably 17 or so. There's ample time to get work done."

But there's still much work to do, and Costa said one of the major stumbling blocks will be the House's insistence on tying liquor privatization to transportation funding.

Costa says the House GOP, which has already passed a liquor bill, is intimating to the Senate that it won't pass a funding plan to fix roads and bridges in Pennsylvania until the Senate passes a plan to sell off the state stores.

abc27 sources confirm that is the attempt by House Republicans.

"It is happening," said Costa. "And it's wholly inappropriate. We think transportation funding is a safety issue that needs to be left to its own accord and let the chips fall where they may."

Costa worries that if transportation isn't done with the budget, it may not get done. Any plan will include higher taxes at the pump and higher fees for drivers' licenses and registrations. Next year is an election year and politicians are skittish about making voters pay more before facing them at the polls.

"As you get closer to the election folks are starting to look to see who's running against them. That true for Democrats and Republicans, quite frankly. If we don't get it done by June 30, every month it diminishes our opportunity to get it done," he said.

As House Republican insider tells abc27 his members aren't likely to approve higher taxes for transportation without getting something in return. That something, he said, should be a bill to get the state out of the booze business.

The horse trading has begun in Harrisburg.

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