Wolf tries new tactic in stalemate to secure a budget agreement: Smaller, quieter meetings

Government And Institutions Associated Press

Gov. Tom Wolf is shifting strategy as a state government budget stalemate stretches into a third month, abandoning heavily attended meetings with lawmakers and aides in the Capitol in favor of smaller, more private meetings without staff.

Continue Reading Below

On Tuesday, Wolf held private meetings in his official residence with top Republican lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and House Majority Leader Dave Reed.

"The path that negotiations have been on have not been productive," Wolf's spokesman Jeff Sheridan said Tuesday. "I think there's been a lot of people in the room, a lot going on outside the room."

Some of Wolf's Capitol meetings had been attended by a dozen lawmakers and dozens of aides to both the governor and lawmakers. The meetings tended to be short, with little progress reported.

Reporters waited outside those meetings for them to break up. Occasionally, the public comments made by Wolf or lawmakers as they left were sharply critical about their negotiating partner.

"I think the governor is really trying hard to get a final budget and he's trying a different tactic," Sheridan said.

Continue Reading Below

On June 30, Wolf vetoed the Republican majority's entire $30.2 billion budget bill hours after it passed without support from a single Democratic lawmaker. Meanwhile, Republicans balked at Wolf's $31.6 billion budget plan, saying it would require the biggest tax increase in Pennsylvania history.

Wolf has criticized the GOP's budget as shortchanging public schools and safety-net services, while worsening state government's long-term deficit and letting the natural gas industry escape the kind of severance tax that is imposed by every other major gas-producing state.

Wolf and Republican lawmakers are also battling over how to scale back costs in Pennsylvania's two major public employee pension systems, handle the state-controlled system of wine and liquor sales and cut the property taxes that provide the biggest source of revenue for public schools.