In a rare appearance since budget negotiations have hit their final stride, Gov. Tom Corbett spoke this morning at a gathering of state township commissioners in Lancaster, in an effort to state his case on state spending and Marcellus Shale policy.
He was sparse with the new details, but reiterated a couple of points he's been making in an even stronger tone: abide by my spending limit, and don't send me a drilling impact fee.
There's some question, though, as to whether that spending limit could be bypassed by paying for certain programs through other funds.
One key example are the tobacco settlement funds that the state receives annually. In the past, those have gone to a fund separate from the state's operating budget, but his proposed plan would include them in the General Fund. Removing them, which many lawmaker favor, would make the overall spending plan closer to $27 billion, and some of the $500 million that state has received above its revenue estimates could be spent for the "$27.3 billion" budget.
Asked about that possibility after his remarks, Corbett only would say they're "working on" that idea, and that he could support it "if we see movement in other" line-items.
And as we noted on Sunday, his continued pushback against a drilling fee is being met with resistance from impatient legislative proponents.
Here's a first look at his comments, from our main site:
If state lawmakers send Gov. Tom Corbett a budget that spends more than the $27.3 billion limit that he's set, those negotiations will drag on past the June 30 deadline, the governor said this morning.
"We will get a budget done on time as long as they don't want to spend more money than I do," Mr. Corbett told a gathering of township commissioners here. "If they come in with $27.35 [billion], then we'll be there until July 1 or 2 or 3 or 4."
Noting that he lives in the Governor's Residence, he added that he "can be in Harrisburg as long as it takes to do this what I think is the right way."
The governor and legislative leaders will be continuing their budget talks later today, in the hopes of ironing out final details of that spending plan to vote in the state Senate later this week. The state House approved a $27.3 billion budget in late May, and lawmakers have been negotiating tweaks to some education and health care funding in particular.
Mr. Corbett also was critical of potential plans to include a fee on natural gas drillers in those budget bills. He has said repeatedly that he would like lawmakers to wait to act on any shale fee, so his Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission can first issue its report late next month.
Asked whether he would veto a budget measure that includes a new fee on drillers, he replied: "I would certainly lean that way right now." He added that he would have to take a look at the proposal, and declined to comment on the tax and fee proposals that have been introduced so far.