HARRISBURG - Gov. Tom Corbett and top Republican lawmakers worked behind closed doors Thursday, providing few details about their ongoing efforts to piece together a budget and draft legislation on transportation funding, private wine and liquor sales and public employee pensions.
The House and Senate both scheduled a fourth straight day of voting Thursday and planned to work through Sunday as they scramble to wrap up a $28 billion-plus budget and reach consensus on the three issues that Corbett wants completed before their looming summer break.
However, Corbett and his fellow Republicans have not pieced together how exactly to pay for their latest spending plan, said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jake Corman, R-Centre. That plan, for the 2013-14 fiscal year, remained under wraps Thursday.
Divisions among Republicans mean prospects are narrowing for passing legislation on transportation, liquor privatization and pensions before lawmakers plan to depart Harrisburg for the summer at the close of session Sunday.
The House Transportation Committee met Thursday morning in an effort to respond to the Senate's $2.5 billion-a-year bill that would raise gas taxes, motorist fees and fines for driving violations to accelerate highway and bridge repairs and shore up struggling mass-transit agency budgets. The committee passed a $2.1 billion-a-year plan, written by House Republicans.
Corbett had proposed a $1.8 billion-a-year plan that did not include any fee or fine increases. The proposals would give Pennsylvania one of the nation's highest gas taxes.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, was working on an amendment designed to win passage of a private wine and liquor sales bill, a top priority of Corbett and House Republicans. A Senate Republican plan unveiled last week does not have the support of enough Republicans to pass the chamber, and the Senate's 23 Democrats have opposed efforts to allow private stores to sell wine and liquor.
Meanwhile, conflicting actuarial estimates by consultants to the governor's office and Pennsylvania's two major retirement system agencies have compounded confusion over the financial implications of proposals in the House and Senate to overhaul the state's public employee pension plans, which Democrats oppose. Both proposals would replace the traditional pension plans with a 401(k)-style plan that would become mandatory for newly hired state workers and school employees in 2015.
The Public Employee Retirement Commission, which is required to issue an actuarial note on pension-related legislation, did not have enough time to do its own independent analysis of the financial implications of the bills, executive director James McAneny said.