HARRISBURG - One warned of an "intense three-month run" looming in the Capitol.

A few called for introducing tax-cut bills as a preemptive strike against a governor who wants the opposite.

Another pitched a flat funding formula for public schools and ending other programs, such as grants to college students whose "major is poetry or some other Pre Walmart major."

The comments and proposals emerged in private emails Republican legislators sent last week to their colleagues, as they strategized how to win the budget battle with Gov. Wolf.

The string of emails, obtained by The Inquirer, began with a two-page memo of talking points distributed to all House Republicans by the spokesman for House Majority Leader Dave Reed. It urged legislators to devote "just 30 minutes a day" on public outreach to deliver the GOP message and counter Wolf and the Democrats.

"Be proactive," it said.

What followed was a series of unvarnished replies that offered an unusual window into the political and public-relations plotting that typically occurs only behind closed doors in Harrisburg.

One unmistakable point was that no one believes the debate ended or even changed when Wolf ended this year's unprecedented impasse by not vetoing the Republicans' last $30 billion spending proposal - one that lacked the taxes he insists are critical to fund education and shore up state coffers.

Instead, that amounted to a timeout, one that could be over.

"As we pivot from old to new budget faceoff, I'm observing some clues that a stronger coordinated pro-tax-hike push may be coming at us," Rep. Stephen Bloom of Cumberland County wrote in his reply-all message sent Monday to the 119 House Republicans.

(Told about the email string, a Wolf spokesman Friday called it proof of "how obstructionist the right-wing element of that caucus is.")

The Republicans believe the governor is working on a game plan of his own. In his email, Bloom predicted Wolf was crafting "a more sophisticated messaging campaign" and would enlist outside groups and advocates to trumpet his case.

The concern is not unfounded. Last year, Wolf's allies spent hundreds of thousands of dollars circulating television ads and mailers to attack Republican lawmakers on their budget stance.

"So maybe I'm just becoming paranoid or maybe there really is something afoot, I can't say for sure," Bloom wrote. "But it would behoove us to be ready for an intense three-month run to June 30," the deadline for next year's budget to be passed.

That sparked an email discussion over tactics.

Rep. Rick Saccone of Allegheny proposed going on the offensive.

"Lets respond with a strong tax CUT strategy to knock them on their heels," he wrote.

Rep. Dan Moul of Gettysburg kept it simple: "I think it's important that we put together a budget that does not spend one dime more than projected revenues. Maybe assign every line item a percentage so that everyone goes up or down together."

Another lawmaker quickly seconded that idea, adding a time element.

"And put it on [Wolf's] desk in May," wrote Rep. Cris Dush of Jefferson County, suggesting that a swift and cohesive effort by Republicans to pass a budget would put the pressure on the other side of the aisle.

"Democrats coming off of a primary where their votes against the schools are a factor will have the burden of that conversation being unrelenting if we're out of the gate with an early budget that provides what is truly necessary," he wrote. "After nearly a year of the governor making them worry about closing doors they have to be seeking relief."

Such timing could be relevant. From a political standpoint, the stakes in the coming months are high. All 203 seats in the House are in play this year, as well as half of the 50 Senate seats. And with the presidential election, Democrats are hoping to take advantage of higher voter turnout and chip away at the commanding majorities Republicans have in both legislative chambers.

The most detailed - and pointed - GOP battle plan came in an email from Rep. Brad Roae, who for nearly a decade has represented Crawford County, in the state's northwest corner, and serves on the Finance and Human Services Committees.

Roae listed for his colleagues what he said should be their priorities: Make the required debt pension payments; flat fund education; then "keep going down line items, fund the most important things and when we run out of money we stop."

He was unsparing in his proposed cuts. One hit lawmakers themselves - requiring them to file "actual expenses" instead of getting per diem payments for their travel and housing costs.

But most reflected a standard wish list for the more conservative wing of the party.

Roae called for closing state-owned residential facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, reversing the Medicaid expansion that added coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured Pennsylvanians, selling State Stores, and repealing prevailing wage policies.

He said arts grants and even the state meteorologist may have to go. And he proposed ending higher-education grants for students studying "poetry or some other Pre Walmart major."

Roae also left no doubt as to his view of their role: "Everything needs to be flat funded or cut. People elected us to cut spending, not raise taxes."

Asked about the emails, Reed, the House majority leader from Indiana County, noted the GOP caucus has more than 100 members and said "each and every one are entitled to their opinions on policy and strategy."

Negotiations on next year's budget are still in the early stages. Hearings are over, but talks began last week.

Reed acknowledged the GOP starting point includes the premise of no new taxes but said the strategy is still evolving.

"For me, personally, numbers dictate the discussion and I try to keep emotions out of it," he said late last week. "In the end, I think it's a better strategy to sit down and be reasonable."

Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan wasn't surprised to hear about the email string.

"This isn't much different than what they did over the last nine months," he said Friday. "Both the House and Senate Republican caucuses have very extreme elements, and they worked very hard to blow up every agreement we had the last time around."

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