The Senate wasn’t scheduled to return to session until Monday, Oct. 16, unless any real progress had been made on negotiations to finalize the $32 billion 2017-18 state budget with a revenue plan that will pay for it. It now appears that is the case, as the Senate has announced its return to session today to join the House in hopefully closing out a deal on the months-late spending plan.
While details remain limited, it appears that the plan will include fund transfers, video gaming terminals at truck stops and borrowing against the state’s Tobacco Settlement Fund. It is also said to include a commercial storage tax that will impact companies that lease commercial space. The governor has emphasized that he is only interested in signing a budget with recurring revenue. Last week, it was rumored that completion of the deal was hinging in part on whether it would include another tax on the natural gas industry – a proposal that the PA Chamber continues to lead a coalition against due to the hardships it would place on one of the state’s most promising industries. Early last week, House Democrats were planning to bring up a discharge resolution to force a natural gas severance tax proposal (H.B. 113) to the House floor – a plan that ended up falling through due to lack of support to get 102 votes in favor of the resolution. Before the decision was made to shelve the proposal, the PA Chamber sent a memo urging House lawmakers to vote “no” on the discharge resolution to H.B. 113, along with any other proposal that would result in higher energy taxes on our state’s businesses, consumers and industries.
If the new revenue plan earns enough support in the House and Senate, it could be voted on as early as this week – a situation that we are closely monitoring as we continue to advocate for a budget that doesn’t put undue burdens on the state’s business community.