GOP leader: Sides are far apart on state budget

State Senator Dominic Pileggi

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, cautioned in a telephone interview Sunday afternoon that he saw no reason to believe a solution is around the corner.

"We're still very far apart, and we still have a lot of ground to cover before we come to an agreement," said Pileggi, who last spoke directly with Rendell late Saturday.

Attempts to reach Rendell for comment Sunday were not successful.

Rendell has proposed a $28.8 billion spending plan highlighted by a $418 million increase in state spending for public schools. He has called for a 0.5 percentage point increase in the state's 3.07 percent personal income tax as the easiest and most equitable way to balance that budget.

Senate Republicans, who hold a 30-20 majority in that chamber, have said they will not support an increase in any broad-based tax and have said the key to the state's fiscal health is taking a tougher line on spending.

The bill they endorsed last week was at $27.1 billion, a level Rendell and most legislative Democrats have said would require unacceptably severe cuts to the state programs and those who depend on them.

Sources said this weekend's talks centered on ways to raise revenue through targeted taxes and one-time sources such as the Rainy Day Fund in hopes of supporting a spending number between Rendell's proposal and the Senate Republicans'.

Pileggi said he expects budget talks to resume today even as the Senate takes parliamentary steps necessary to refer the budget bill to a House-Senate conference committee. That committee is likely to have little to do, however, until a negotiated compromise is reached.