By Associated Press - Thursday, December 24, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Efforts to resolve Pennsylvania’s 6-month-old budget stalemate hit a holiday pause Thursday after several days of fast-paced developments, with lawmakers waiting to hear whether Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will sign a Republican spending plan or veto it and send negotiators back to work.

The Capitol was sparsely populated one day after a divided Senate passed a pared-down budget and lawmakers left town for the holidays.

The main budget bill, part of a $30.3 billion package but without key pieces that fund colleges and universities, was sent to Wolf’s desk after it was signed by House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny.

Wolf’s spokesman said the first-term governor wouldn’t reveal a decision Thursday and probably would wait until next week. He could sign it, let it become law after 10 days without his signature, veto it or eliminate spending lines individually.

Although Wolf isn’t talking about his plans, he took to Facebook on Thursday to blast “extremist Republicans” and urge supporters to “continue our fight for historic education funding.”

“It is deeply disappointing that the Legislature wants to continue the failed status quo and harm our schools and children by denying them critical funds,” the post said.

Republicans hope Wolf will sign it, putting an end to borrowing, layoffs or service delays by school districts, counties and social services agencies forced to get by without state aid.

Pennsylvania has gone six months into its fiscal year without a legal spending plan in place, a dubious distinction it shares with only one other state, Illinois.

Budget talks that have seemed to go on endlessly had at one point drawn in a number of other issues, including privatizing the state liquor stores, forcing newly hired teachers and state workers into a combination of a traditional pension and a 401(k)-type benefit, and cutting the much-hated property taxes that fund public schools.

One by one, those other issues fell by the wayside in the Capitol, which has strong Republican majorities in both chambers and a spotty recent record of bipartisanship. The Senate would not agree to the House’s approach on liquor privatization. The House couldn’t pass the Senate pension bill. A property tax cut measure was defeated by a single vote in the Senate and was immediately declared dead.

The budget bill does not provide schools, counties and human services agencies with money to pay for the millions it has cost them to borrow money while the stalemate has persisted.

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