The first round of state budget talks for today has wrapped up, and temperatures appear to be cooler -- and optimism higher -- this morning compared to yesterday evening.
"We do not have an agreement yet" on a spending figure, "but we're very, very close," said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi as he exited the governor's office suite. "We're getting much closer to a framework for a general fund budget."
Gov. Tom Corbett offered the gaggle of reporters a similar sentiment: "I would like to see us at least have a number of the budget, for revenues, by the end of the day. There will be discussions after that obviously, but I think we're getting closer."
Top Republican lawmakers and the governor's staff will be meeting again around 12:30 p.m., after using the break to do some internal number-crunching.
One related issue where negotiators appear to be nearing consensus is on a new approach for special-education and charter school funding. Sen. Pat Browne, who has sponsored a bill to create a special-education funding commission, said the House will be considering whether to include a provision that would create another commission to review overall funding to charter schools and cyber-charters.
Those two commissions could be created within his bill, while the other education reform items circulating in discussions -- such as the overhaul to teacher evaluations that the governor has sought and other charter-school reforms -- could still find a home in the education code that must be passed with the state budget.
"From my standpoint, the special education component, both within the basic education system and charter system is broken and it has been for some time, so focusing on that in and of itself is of tremendous value," Browne said. "Hopefully we get it done."