House and Senate GOP leaders say they are nearing agreement on a state budget proposal to present to Gov. Corbett in closed door negotiations as early as next week.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) told reporters at an impromptu news conference in the Capitol Wednesday, that the budget remains "a work in progress" and that the Senate's proposed $27.65 billion spending plan is a "good parameter" for ongoing discussions.
Corbett has said the Senate budget is unsustainable and that he is seeking a a so-called "spend number" closer to the $27.15 billion budget he presented in February.
But Turzai and Senate Majority leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware) said increased revenue collections in the past several months will allow the restoration of some funding - particularly in the area of higher education.
Meanwhile, Turzai said he wants to see a little quid pro quo for the restoration of some $245 million in Corbett cuts to higher ed, namely that the state-supported schools would agree to freeze tuition for in-state students.
"We want to see [funding restoration] tied to tuition," said Turzai, offering no specifics on the plan.
But Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jake Corman (R., Centre), who led the Senate effort to the restore the cuts, told Capitolwire news service, he doesn't see that as realistic. "My guess is the universities will not be able to guarantee zero in-state tuition. Not sure … what the House is thinking on higher education.”
Turzai said he supports the Senate plan to restore $50 million to accountability block grants to pay for early childhood education and $84 million cut by Corbett from the human services block grant.
Neither Turzai nor Pileggi suggested the legislature was planning to restore $150 million in emergency temporary general cash assistance for the disabled.
"We think this allocation is the right allocation of limited funds," said Pileggi of the overall plan, which passed the Senate earlier this month.
Neither House nor Senate Democratic leaders were invited to the talks.
Pileggi said completing the budget by mid-June - two weeks ahead of the June 30 deadline - was optimistic, but "achievable."
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