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Takes two to make a budget, Hughes tells GOP

"One of the problems is ... that there is a new Republican party operating in Pennsylvania," State Sen. Vincent Hughes said at a news conference Thursday. (Ben Mikesell/Staff Photographer/File)

One day after the state House torpedoed Gov. Wolf's plan to increase school funding through tax hikes, State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.) said it takes two sides to compromise in order to pass a state budget.

And the minority chair of the Appropriations Committee suggested that Republicans - who control both the House and Senate - are trying to ensure that Wolf is a one-term governor.

"One of the problems is . . . that there is a new Republican Party operating in Pennsylvania," Hughes said at a news conference Thursday.

He said the hard-line branch has "now infiltrated the Republican Party and driven it to the right. It makes it much more difficult to get a commonsense agreement so we can move the state forward."

On Wednesday, the House rejected the Democratic governor's proposal to raise the personal income tax and impose a new levy on natural gas drilling by a vote of 127-73. Nine Democrats joined Republicans in scuttling the measure. The proposal needed 102 votes to pass.

Stephen Miskin, spokesman for the House Republicans, dismissed Hughes' comments.

He said by email there "is not full Democratic support for what the governor is pushing. In the House, there is not 102 votes for what the governor wants, and if the administration wants to have an honest discussion, we know the Republicans are more than willing to talk about closing any known deficits."

Miskin added: "The problem is, that isn't where the governor stops; he has pushed for $400 million in education dollars, and when we offered a deal for that, he upped it to more than $1 billion for education."

Hughes said the offer of $400 million did not include details about how the money would be used or provide assurances that it would go to districts to help make up for funding cuts carried out when Republican Tom Corbett was governor.

Wolf has said the state needs new revenues to restore those cuts and close what he has called a $2 billion structural deficit. The state budget was due July 1.

The length of the stalemate is inching toward the record 101 days set when Gov. Ed Rendell finally signed a spending plan for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2010.

In this go-round, school districts and social services agencies across the state have said that without an infusion of state money, they soon may exhaust their financial options and be forced to close.

Hughes said that Wolf has scaled back the size of the sales tax and shale tax he was seeking, modified his pension proposal, and offered a compromise to the total privatization of state liquor stores sought by Republicans.

State Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione (D., Phila.), who has been in Harrisburg for more than two decades, said that during the current budget negotiations, Republicans keep changing their objectives.

"Every time they come to the table, they want something different," said Tartaglione, who joined Hughes at the news conference at Philadelphia School District headquarters.

She said both sides need to sit down, negotiate, and not get up from their seats until a budget deal has been reached.

As Hughes left the news conference, he was embraced by some of the 75 student demonstrators who were outside, calling for more money for schools.

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