Budget to set historic milestones in education, sales tax increase

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HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Governor, Senate Majority leader Jake Corman (R-34th) and House Majority leader Dave Reed (R-62nd) came out of a closed-door meeting to update the public on the latest budget agreement, with the $30 billion 'basic framework' in place.
On Monday, Governor Tom Wolf announced they'd agreed on a $750 million education funding increase over two years. But Senator Corman later denied that.
"The short answer is no, but we can focus on that, or we can focus on what we're agreeing on today," says Corman.
What they're agreeing on, as of Tuesday, is a one-year, $400 million education funding increase. But there may be more.
"Obviously the governor is going to advocate strongly for what he wants, and he certainly has the right to do that, but that's where our commitment lies right now," says Corman.
Wolf and the GOP leaders highlighted their comprehensive pension reform bill, for a side-by-side pension with a defined contribution plan "from dollar one."
"Very pleased that all the leaders are together, and we're working together with this framework," says Wolf. "Our hope is, and this is ambitious that we will actually have a budget by Thanksgiving."
"This is not done almost anywhere in the country, this will be one of the most thorough, comprehensive pension reform bills," says Corman. "We'll be able to say that we reduced the risk dramatically, if not completely, and still provide a significant retirement for our employees, so this is something we're very happy to get an agreement on."
There is also an increase in the state sales tax, from 6% to 7.25%. Analysts from the Commonwealth Foundation say that's the first increase in more than 50 years and and the second-highest increase in state history. It would put Pennsylvania's sales tax as the second highest in the nation behind California.
Lawmakers say this will raise $2 billion for property tax relief but they haven't worked out how that will be distributed yet.
The governor says he's working on a plan to modernize liquor with the House.
"We appreciate the governor's commitment to work towards a bill that the house is accepting of, to get us into the free-market system," says Rep. Dave Reed.
Lawmakers say they're working to get a budget vote before Thanksgiving. It's been more than four months without a budget.
"This package has checks and Xs for both," says Corman. "There's a lot of things the governor has given in to make this happen, there's a lot of things we've given in to make this happen."