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Wolf says ball is in court of GOP lawmakers after blowup of proposed budget deal


HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania — With the collapse of a fragile deal to end a five month budget stalemate, Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday that the next step is up to Republican legislative majority leaders.

Wolf also hammered Republicans, saying leaders of the commanding House and Senate GOP majorities could not secure enough rank-and-file support for a crucial sales tax increase they had proposed because their ranks include too many "who just want to blow things up."

"The ball is in the Republicans' court," Wolf told interviewers Tuesday morning during a regular appearance on Pittsburgh radio station KDKA-AM. Later in the interview, he said, "it's really important that the Republicans deliver on what they promised."

The proposed deal, first floated two weeks ago by Wolf and Republican majority leaders, unraveled in earnest in the last few days. The sides, however, are quarreling over why it unraveled.

Wolf said Republicans told him Friday that they could not secure enough rank-and-file support for a 21 percent sales tax increase that they had proposed as the linchpin to a budget deal and school property-tax package. The sales tax increase — from 6 percent to 7.25 percent — was designed to underwrite $1.4 billion in school property tax rebates, plus hundreds of millions to boost public school aid and help close a long-term budget deficit.

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, insisted Monday that the sides were entrenched over dueling plans on which school districts should benefit the most from the distribution of the school property tax rebates. So Corman said he had urged Wolf to concentrate on passing a budget at such a late date.

Assembling a budget plan without school property tax rebates attached would require developing a new package of revenue sources of about $600 million-plus or more, Corman said.

Wolf countered Tuesday that discussions over the distribution formula had not finished before Republicans called him Friday. Wolf noted that Republican majority leaders had worked in good faith to secure votes for the sales tax increase, and that many rank-and-file Republican lawmakers "still want to make Democracy work."

Only Pennsylvania and Illinois are operating without state budgets.

To get by without state aid, school districts, counties and social services organizations have laid off employees, delayed services, put off paying bills or taken out loans.

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