Gov. Wolf Says Budget Can Hit Goals Without Major Tax Increase

HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA/AP) – Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is backing off his proposal for an increase on sales or income taxes, and now says his budget priorities can be met without it.

Wolf said Tuesday that budget negotiations are going well, even though tight-lipped negotiators are reporting no agreements with nine days until the fiscal-year deadline.

“I think we’re making some good progress, I think we’re very close,” Wolf said.

Wolf spoke during a regular appearance on Pittsburgh radio station KDKA-AM.

Wolf now says his priorities are a balanced budget with a $250 million increase for public schools and $34 million more for heroin addiction programs.

He admits there is disagreement on some of the issues with the budget but there they are, “working through those and I think everybody really is trying to get to a point where we have a budget that is in balance.”

He’s also echoing Senate Democrats’ concerns about a gambling expansion under consideration in the House to help balance the budget. He says the proposals carry somewhat questionable revenues that may pose a threat to collections from casino gambling and lottery sales.

State Minority Leader Jay Costa echoed the optimistic sentiments of Gov. Wolf Tuesday afternoon in an interview with the KDKA Afternoon News.

Sen. Costa joined Robert Mangino and Shelley Duffy to react to Gov. Wolf’s comments regarding the state budget talks. Gov. Wolf dropped his proposal for a broad based income tax hike ahead of negotiations that are much different than those last year.

Sen. Costa said on behalf of Senate Democrats that Harrisburg should not be focusing on Internet gaming as a revenue resource. He said the gambling expansion being considered in the House carries questionable longer-term revenues that pose a threat to collections from casino gambling and lottery sales.

A total of $150 million in revenue is expected to come from the Wine and Spirit Modernization Bill and another $500 million could come from raised taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco excluding cigars.

He said arguments over spending numbers could throw a wrench into the seemingly copasetic budget talks, but doesn’t foresee an impasse similar to last year’s nine month stalemate. The Senate will vote Wednesday on a proposal for the fiscal year that starts July 1.