House GOP introduces budget bill - abc27 WHTM

House GOP introduces budget bill

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"This budget is more than last year," said House Appropriations Chairman Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) in explaining the budget bill that will officially kick off the budget debate in Harrisburg.

It's due June 30, less than five weeks from now.

The House GOP plan would spend $28.3 billion, which is a $500 million more than last year's budget.

But it's $100 million less than the governor proposed in February. It would spend $10 million more on basic education than Governor Corbett's $90 million budget plan.

Majority leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) would make no promises except one, and he repeated it several times during a Capitol press conference.

"We do have a constitutional obligation to have the budget done June 30, and we're gonna meet that."

The governor asked lawmakers to pass pension reform, transportation funding and liquor privatization along with the budget.

House GOP leaders repeatedly dodged questions about those three big-ticket items.

Corbett's budget secretary Charles Zogby called the House GOP effort "a good starting point."

House Democrats were not so polite.

"We do disagree with a lot of their priorities," said Bill Patton, a spokesman for House Democrats. "They're misplaced. We need more money for education, we need more money for human services, and this budget does not provide that."

Adolph emphasized there would be more money for basic education and additional state policemen and social service providers.

But the truth is there's an all-Republican power play happening behind the scenes. The GOP has the numbers to pass whatever budget it wants to, if it can agree.

But that's a big "if" in Harrisburg. The senate wants a comprehensive transportation funding package—and so do House Democrats—but House Republicans say that isn't a priority for them.

House Republicans wants liquor privatization, which does not appear at the top of Senate Republicans "wish list." Pension reform, many experts say, is desperately needed.

Last week, Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said House Republicans are trying to link transportation to liquor privatization. Costa called that "wrong."

On Wednesday Turzai insisted there was no linkage and that Costa was wrong in saying so. "Those issues (liquor privatization and transportation) will rise or fall on their own merits," Turzai said. 

But there is much debate, arm-twisting and behind-closed-doors negotiating to be done in the next few weeks. House Republicans commit to nothing except a budget by June 30.

So I ask Speaker of the House Sam Smith, what is the likelihood of those big ticket items (liquor privatization, transportation) getting passed if they don't pass with the budget?

Smith thinks for a moment, and then with a twinkle in his eye he says, "The likelihood is, if I answer that question then I've predicted it. So I'm not going to answer it."

Let the games begin!

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