Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said that while everyone in the Capitol remains obsessed with getting a liquor privatization bill passed before the legislature's summer break, the clock is also ticking (and loudly) to get a state budget signed into law.
Speaking at the monthly press club luncheon in Harrisburg Monday, Scarnati said legislative leaders have yet to meet with Gov. Corbett about his proposed $28.4 billion spending proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
And, he noted, the state's financial situation is far from rosy: as it stands now, revenues are falling short and cannot sustain spending set in the current budget.
"So we are going to fixate ourselves on liquor, and not have a budget meeting?" said Scarnati, of Jefferson County. "We have not had a substantive meeting on the budget yet, and it's almost May. And revenues are not looking good, and we still have a lot of legislative priorities to get through."
"Hopefully we can move something forward within the time frame that the governor would like to see," the senator said.
But there are only nine weeks left between now and June 30th (counting this one) and Scarnati said "the last thing I want to be part of is creating another system that doesn't work. Let's get it right."
The Corbett administration has been pushing hard for the Senate to swiftly take up the liquor privatization bill that passed the House of Representatives in March. That measure would gradually phase out State Stores, while at the same time allowing private entrepreneurs to begin selling wine and hard liquor.
Getting a privatization bill passed and signed into law this year is considered key to Corbett's reelection chances, and the governor and his staff have made it one of their top priorities.
But Scarnati reinforced Monday what has been known for a while now to most: there is little support in the Senate for the House's privatization proposal. And so the Senate will hold three hearings - the first one is scheduled for tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. in the Capitol - with the intent of making changes to the House's bill.
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