HARRISBURG, Pa.- Pennsylvania is into its fifth month without a state budget, but now Governor Tom Wolf says there's a light at the end of the tunnel.
Wolf says he's reached an agreement with Republicans on a history-making increase in education funding. His office says Republican leaders have agreed to a $750 million increase over two years, the largest education funding increase in state history.
"After months of obstruction, we've made real progress on a budget deal and for the first time I'm optimistic we can see the light at the end of the tunnel," wrote the governor in a statement.
York County nonprofits recently joined together to write an open letter to lawmakers urging them to come to a budget compromise, including Rev. Aaron Anderson, head of the Logos Academy in York. Many students there rely on scholarships that run through the state. The school is currently relying on donations and its line of credit while funding is held up in the budget impasse.
"Until we have an approved and final budget, we'll all be scrambling until that budget passes," says Anderson.
The budget talks are picking up speed, according to lawmakers. A spokeswoman in Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman's office says Republican leaders are more positive leaving negotiations, but details are still being worked out.
Just before the education funding agreement was announced by Wolf's office on Monday, conservative think tank, the Commonwealth Foundation issued a warning about a rumored $600 million sales tax increase in the budget planning.
"This backdoor, broad-based tax increase proposal isn’t the kind of compromise Pennsylvania families are looking for," Matthew Broulliette, president of the Commonwealth Foundation, says in a statement. "When revenue-generating alternatives like liquor privatization, pension reform, and corporate welfare cuts are still on the table, ideas that include hundreds of millions in new taxes should be out of the question."
Nonprofits applauded the idea that a budget may pass soon.
"I'm really happy to hear it, because education should be our number one priority, particularly early childhood education," says Bob Woods, executive director of the United Way of York County.