Wolf reaching across aisle for budget votes: ‘If I lose, Pennsylvania loses’

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- In what could be the most important week of his young tenure as Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Wolf says he's spent the last few days on the campaign trail. Except, instead of reaching out to the public for support, he's needing to reach across the aisle to get votes from republicans in the state house.

Wolf was given a chance by House GOP leaders to make a one-time individual plea to other republicans to support his broad-based tax increase budget he feels is necessary to prevent Pennsylvania from relapsing into a "two-to-three billion dollar deficit."

On Monday, with a House floor vote less than 48 hours away, Gov. Wolf unveiled a 12-page Power Point presentation to make his case, outlining how the GOP-proposed budget is full of "smoke and mirrors" and "gimmicks".

"The math has to work," the governor said. "Two plus two equals four in the real world. It has to here in budgeting in Harrisburg."

At the forefront of his proposal to House Republicans, Gov. Wolf is attempting to garner support for a $1.8 billion tax increase. He admitted the budget which will be submitted by 2 p.m. Tuesday will be different than the one he proposed in March, but was mum on its details. Gov. Wolf is looking to increase personal income tax and impose a gas on Marcellus Shale for natural gas extraction in order to increase education funding and property tax relief.

"If we don't do anything, at some point in the next year, we're going to have to come up with between two and three billion dollars of cuts," Wolf said at his invite-only press conference Monday. "We have got to get it right this year."

Wolf will need 102 votes in order to clear the House, meaning he would need at least 18 republicans to jump party lines. However, there is no guarantee the governor will be able to keep all the democrat votes, says fellow Democrat Rep. Peter Daley of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

"There are some democrats who may not vote with the governor on this," said Daley (D-Fayette/Washington).

Daley says he and other House democrats met with Governor Wolf in caucus about a week and a half ago to express concern with the governor's plan. As of Monday, Pennsylvania has gone 96 days without a state budget in place; human service agencies are borrowing money across the commonwealth and some school districts are threatening to close due to a lack of funding.

"Nothing is a given; everything is constantly changing," Daley said. "This vote on Wednesday will affect democrats and republicans alike. The public is really sick and a tired of this."

"I am very concerned," Wolf responded, saying how tempting it would be to vote for a budget which doesn't increase taxes. He then retorted, "It would be even more wonderful if it were honest."

According to House GOP spokesperson Steve Miskin, he is unaware the governor has spoken with any individual republican members.

"It's pretty clear they don't support these broad-based tax increases," Miskin said of House Republicans and their constituents. He added he is aware of some GOP members speaking with democrat lobbyists.

Miskin said he expects the governor to unveil a "dramatically changed" budget plan this week for the GOP to vote on.

"This is a once in a generation vote," the governor said. "You do not want to be on the wrong side of history here."

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