Pileggi at the Press Club

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi spoke before a more crowded than usual Pennsylvania Press Club this afternoon. More newsworthy material from the speech/Q&A includes:

-Legislative leaders from all four caucuses have agreed on a spending plan “a bit north of 28 billion dollars.” Pileggi says lawmakers reached this consensus on Saturday, but that talks broke down once Governor Rendell started reviewing the details and adjusting various line items. Rendell’s spokesman, Gary Tuma, says the administration isn’t commenting on Pileggi’s remarks.

-The Senate will pass an appropriations bill by the June 30th budget deadline, whether or not Rendell has agreed to its specifics.

-Rendell is “nonnegotiable” on the fact the budget needs to assume $850 million of FMAP money. Pileggi says that’s despite the fact “no one” thinks the amount will ultimately come through. The issue here is that Rendell wants to trim the money out of the budget himself, while Republicans would rather have a say over what line items are cut.  Rendell has warned trimming the federal money out of the budget would result in 20,000 state employee layoffs.

-Senate Republicans are open to a basic education increase – but not the $300 million House Democrats are asking for. (That’s down from Rendell’s initial $354 million increase.)  Pileggi wouldn’t say how much of an increase he’d support, but word from a caucus official is that Senate Republicans could approve an increase of as much as $100 million, if the context was right.

-A natural gas tax is still on the table. “There’s, I’d say growing recognition in our caucus – and we expressed it openly last year during the budget discussion – that there should be a tax on the Marcellus Shale extraction,” Pileggi explained. He says talks right now are focusing on the timing and details of the proposed levy. “So you have the design question, and then you have the timing question. When is it appropriate to impose that tax? And with the passage of time the timing question is more irrelevant now than it was last year. We still have the entire design discussion that has not even started yet.”

And some non-budget tidbits:

-Pileggi says he’d support a limited constitutional convention. “The challenge with any constitutional convention is to limit the areas addressed,” he said. “I do not believe, for example, that a convention should re-open issues like abortion, gun rights or same-sex marriage.” Both Republican Tom Corbett and Democrat Dan Onorato have endorsed the idea of a limited convention restricting state government, and Pileggi says he’ll work with the winner to accomplish that goal.

-The Majority Leader is skeptical Corbett would be able to balance the state’s books next year without some sort of tax increase. During the Republican primary, Corbett pledged not to raise taxes, if he’s elected governor. Noting departing stimulus dollars, the pension time bomb and a still-soft economy, Pileggi said, “I don’t see how he can do it, frankly.”

About pubradiopolitics
Scott covers state government and politics for Pennsylvania's public radio stations, including WITF in Harrisburg, WHYY in Philadelphia and WDUQ in Pittsburgh.

One Response to Pileggi at the Press Club

  1. Pingback: Detrow: Pileggi at the Press Club | Politics PA

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