Gene DiGirolamo

PA Budget Talks Go Underground

Sep 1, 2015

State budget talks are being kept quiet this week as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf plans to meet with top Republican lawmakers without the press lurking outside.

The governor’s office said Monday the coming meetings will be smaller and more low-profile in an attempt to get closer to a deal.

Spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan said the impromptu hallway press conferences that have punctuated so many meetings over the past several weeks haven’t been helpful. The state spending plan is already two months late.

A state House Republican with a reputation for bucking party leaders is trying to loosen up the deadlock that has gripped budget negotiations for weeks.

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) is offering his own attempt at a compromise state spending plan. It includes a new tax on natural gas drillers and a higher personal income tax — more than the GOP supported in new spending, but less than Gov. Tom Wolf proposed.

Policy and research groups from Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio have joined forces to urge their states’ governors to adopt a common severance tax rate for companies drilling for gas and oil in the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations.

The Corbett administration wants to expand the block grant approach of funding county human services programs, despite concerns that assessments of the new method have been done in a vacuum.

The human services block grant was approved in 2012, changing the way certain counties receive human services funding. Instead of getting discrete funding for seven different programs, selected counties have received one lump sum to parcel out among all the services.

One state lawmaker’s call to investigate the proliferation of prescription drug abuse in the commonwealth could be the opening salvo in a war on drug companies, or a blip on the radar in the Legislature.

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) says he’s had it.