HARRISBURG (AP) — It's the big head-scratcher in the Pennsylvania Capitol.
House Democrats this month helped pass bills that advanced a couple long-sought Republican priorities — scaling back traditional public pension benefits and breaking state-control over wine sales — apparently without any assurance that the Legislature's huge GOP majorities will return the favor to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. With less than two weeks until the fiscal year ends, the question now is what Wolf will get from tax-averse Republicans to advance his efforts to wipe out a damaging deficit and close huge funding inequities between wealthy and poor school districts. "We're negotiating with them," said House Minority Whip Mike Hanna, D-Clinton. "That's probably the biggest thing in the world. I mean, at this point last year, (House Republicans) had told us we weren't in the room, that they were going to pass their budget with no Democratic input." Wolf and lawmakers spent much of the last year mired in a bare-knuckled partisan fight over Wolf's first budget, an embarrassing crisis that all sides seem determined to avoid repeating, particularly in an election year. Legislative leaders and Wolf say there's been a different, more positive tone as they enter the final stretch to the July 1 fiscal-year deadline. But they also so far have failed to reach agreement on basic elements of a budget package, including how much the state will spend and whether taxes will go up to pay for it.