Conference committee recesses, closed door talks to begin

Has the (metaphorical) sun set on the budget process? Bogged down in procedural disputes and openly criticized by Gov. Rendell the barely 24 hour-old conference committee abruptly recessed earlier this afternoon with the prospect of closed door talks to begin tomorrow.

Committee chairman Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.) pulled the plug on the rare conference committee meeting 0 which was being broadcast live = this afternoon after Gov. Rendell called the proceeding a "circus." Rendell urged the committee to get cracking with the information before them and rejected the idea that any of his cabinet secretaries should have to testify before the committee since budget hearings were already held months ago.

"As nearly a month has elapsed since the July 1 deadline, the people of Pennsylvania should not tolerate another day of procrastination, posturing and delay.”

Evans said he hopes to resolve key differences in closed door talks with Rendell and Senate Majority leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware) tomorrow and then reconvene the bipartisan committee on Saturday.

Rendell also said he is prepared to sign a temporary budget earlier than Monday if all parties agree that no agreement is within reach. Rendell yesterday said he would sign an interim budget to restore government workers' pay and keep essential government operations going. Ostensibly, legislative leaders would keep slogging through the rest of the budget until a deal is struck.

Sen. Pileggi said continuing talks would be pointless until the parties agree that a personal income tax hike will not be part of the discussion - something Senate and House Democratic committee members would not concede.


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