HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania House Republican leaders appeared to lose a pair of battles Wednesday on public pension legislation backed by Gov. Tom Corbett and a Philadelphia public schools bill as they tried to find a successful end to a rocky spring session before it dragged farther into summer.
They agreed to postpone a vote on the pension bill until the fall and to allow a vote on separate legislation that would authorize Philadelphia to impose a $2 per-pack sales tax on cigarettes to help plug a crippling deficit, a key Republican lawmaker said.
The lawmaker, House Human Services Committee Chairman Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks, said he won the commitments after he agreed to undo a procedural maneuver that had derailed a vote on the pension bill a day earlier.
Earlier Wednesday, Corbett attacked lawmakers behind the maneuver as unable to "stand up to the special interests," a reference to public-sector labor unions that had opposed the pension legislation because it pared back benefits for future state and public school employees.
DiGirolamo objected to the "special interests" accusation and questioned the merit of the pension bill.
"It didn't do anything at all to address the unfunded liability, there were no savings in there for school districts, there was no money in there or savings for the budget this year, for the budget next year, for the budget three years from now," DiGirolamo told reporters. "I think we've got to get a different approach."
Corbett has withheld his signature from a $29.1 billion budget bill on his desk, in part to try to spur action on the pension legislation.
However, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, said earlier this week that the pension legislation does not have enough support to pass that chamber.
In the House, DiGirolamo's motion on Tuesday to send the pension bill to his committee passed 107-96, with support from 15 Republicans and all 92 Democrats.
He also said legislation with the Philadelphia cigarette tax was due for a floor vote Wednesday night, but he denied that he made it a condition of springing the pension bill from his committee.
"We're not making deals, but that was important to me that we get a vote on that, very important because I live right next to Philadelphia," DiGirolamo said.