Corbett's office and top Republicans continued to keep much of their work behind closed doors, providing few details about their ongoing efforts to piece together a budget and draft legislation on transportation funding, public employee pensions and private wine and liquor sales. The state's new fiscal year begins Monday, and lawmakers plan to work through the weekend, leaving Harrisburg on Sunday until September.
However, the crush of work remaining to be done could force lawmakers to stay in Harrisburg for an eighth straight day on Monday, if not a ninth straight day on Tuesday, as well.
Also circulating are proposals that would increase business tax deductions, expand Medicaid eligibility under the 2010 federal health care law, allow small games of chance at bars and help Corbett make a legal case to Attorney General Kathleen Kane for his contract to hire a British company to manage the $3.5 billion Pennsylvania Lottery.
Spending under a $28 billion-plus budget is largely settled. Still, Corbett and his fellow Republicans have kept it under wraps and final decisions have yet to be made how exactly to pay for the spending plan, said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jake Corman, R-Centre. Corbett's largest business tax cut to date, approximately $360 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year that begins Monday, is under consideration as part of the budget plan.
Divisions within the Republican majority mean prospects are narrowing for passing legislation on pensions, transportation funding and private wine and liquor sales by Sunday night.
Transportation legislation and wine and liquor legislation are, to some extent, linked: Senate Republicans want to see House passage of their top priority, the transportation legislation, while House Republican leaders want to see Senate passage of their top priority, privatizing the state-controlled liquor and wine system.
The latest Senate Republican plan to allow the private sale of wine and liquor and liberalize beer laws was still lacking enough support to pass after emerging Thursday, senators said.
"It's still in a state of flux," said Sen. Scott Hutchinson, R-Venango. "It's not nailed down."
As a result, Republican senators said no vote was expected before Friday afternoon while Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, continues his search for ways to secure the 26 Senate votes necessary to pass a bill, which is a top priority of Corbett and House Republicans.
Democrats are against it, and continue to advocate legislation that would increase public school aid by $300 million instead of cutting business taxes and expand Medicaid eligibility to provide taxpayer-paid health care to hundreds of thousands of uninsured Pennsylvania adults.
"Let's start focusing on the important things," said Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia.
A Senate committee vote on a Medicaid expansion could happen as early as Friday as senators negotiate the legislation behind closed doors. Corbett's office is engaged in the talks, but the fate of a bill is uncertain in the more conservative House of Representatives, even though it will include conditions that make it amenable to Corbett and some Republican lawmakers.
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 nearly $2 billion-a-year plan, written by House Republicans, that some Democrats say does not go far enough.
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 and add to the $5.3 billion that the Department of Transportation is spending this year on highways, bridges and mass transit systems.
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 Republican proposals in the House and Senate to overhaul the state's public employee pension plans, which Democrats also 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.