Wolf sees $2B in cuts, savings in forthcoming budget plan

Wolf sees $2B in cuts, savings in...

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf presented his budget proposal for the commonwealth on Tuesday.

Balancing state finances is expected to be a painful fight, but Wolf, a Democrat, is working on a new approach to make the numbers work.

Wolf is walking a fine line as he proposes to balance the state's budget without increasing the sales or income tax.

"I'm offering a budget proposal that represents a responsible solution to our deficit challenge in a different approach from the way things have been done in Harrisburg for almost a generation. Let's start here. In my proposed budget, there are no broad based tax increases," said Wolf. 

The money will have to come from elsewhere, like an increase on natural gas production, which the governor has proposed, as well as restructuring the corporate net income tax to eliminate loopholes.

Wolf also wants to charge local governments that rely solely on state police for law enforcement coverage and lease the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg.

"In this year's budget there is a $700 million shortfall that is because revenues have not kept pace with the projections and there are increased costs in defined programs the state has very little option to pay," said political analyst Terry Madonna.

In the past, Wolf has made recommendations for a general tax hike to make up the difference, but this year, he's taking a different approach.

"This year, he's said no general tax hike, translation, he's going to have to find ways to cut spending and he's already indicated how he will do that. Close the prison, reorganize state government, I think we'll hear a lot about reorganization, cost savings and efficiency," Madonna said.

Wolf is proposing more than $2 billion in cuts and savings.

The top-ranking Republican in the Pennsylvania House said he's encouraged by aspects of Wolf's budget proposal, but said there's a lot in the details that needs to be closely examined.

House Speaker Mike Turzai said Tuesday that Wolf took a few pages from the GOP playbook in crafting a spending plan that does not raise income or sales tax rates.

Still, Turzai said he'd like to see more emphasis on privatizing government functions, encouraging school choice and reducing state debt.

Republicans who hold large majorities in both legislative chambers put up strong opposition to Wolf's first two budget plans.

Lawmakers will have until June 30 to adopt a new budget. The plan is for the fiscal year starting July 1.

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