Wolf talks about budget deal - sort of

HARRISBURG - The questions varied. The answers - such as they were - rarely did.

How close is a final agreement?

"We have to be close. We were working through this past weekend and we'll continue to work. . . . We need a budget soon."

Why won't it be finished this week?

"We need a budget soon. . . . All of us, it's fair to say, are working as hard as we can to make this happen as quickly as possible."

What are the sticking points?

"I'm not sure there's any sticking point. . . . It's a dynamic situation, but we're all working to get this done as quickly as possible."

So it went for nearly 10 minutes on Wednesday, as Gov. Wolf took questions from reporters during a news conference.

The event's stated purpose was for Wolf to announce the rollout of a heroin antidote to be used by Capitol Police. But when it came to the expected questions on the 152-day state budget impasse and how it might be resolved, he seemed determined to provide no new information.

Instead, he fell back on familiar refrains: His so-called framework agreement with Republican legislators is intact. Their talks continue.

"I think everyone is confident that we can get to an end result here," Wolf said.

GOP leaders struck a similar tone a day earlier, even as rank-and-file members complained about the lack of details they said they were getting.

With nonprofits, school districts, and counties pushed to the brink without their typical shares of state funding, Wolf challenged Republicans to deliver a final budget bill to him by Friday.

Lawmakers appeared certain to miss that deadline. Even budget bills with little or no opposition will take several days to get to Wolf's desk.

The House spent Wednesday passing minor legislation, such as a measure to rename a bridge in Indiana County.

Senators added voting days to their calendar to keep them here through the weekend.

At the event Wednesday, and in an earlier radio interview, Wolf said many key pieces of a $30 billion deal are still under discussion.

Those plans include reforms to the pension and liquor systems, as well as an expansion to the sales tax to send more money to the schools. In the radio interview, Wolf said he had not even seen final proposals for the pension and liquor reforms.

Talking later with reporters, he punted when asked which items might be affected by an expansion to the sales tax. "They're still working out the details of that," he said of Republican legislators.

House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R., Indiana) said Tuesday that his chamber could begin moving budget bills this week.

Wolf said he hoped legislation could come together "in the next couple days."

True to form, he refrained from predicting a timeline. "I'm not putting an artificial date out there," he said.

cpalmer@phillynews.com

609-217-8305@cs_palmer

Inquirer staff writer Angela Couloumbis contributed to this article.