- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The air war over Gov. Tom Wolf’s week-old budget standoff with Republicans who control the Pennsylvania Legislature expanded Wednesday with the launch of a TV ad by a national Democratic group.

The 30-second statewide ad by America Works USA, an affiliate of the Democratic Governors Association, aligns with Wolf’s public relations strategy. It takes on Republicans over the budget bill that Wolf vetoed, saying the GOP plan let the oil and gas industry off the hook, did not adequately fund education and would have deepened the deficit.

“Gov. Wolf is fighting for a middle-class budget that lowers property taxes and makes oil and gas companies pay up to fund our schools,” it finishes. “Tell the Legislature to get serious and pass a real budget.”

The ad comes a day after Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, left a meeting with Wolf and told reporters that the effort to revive talks are stuck on Republican opposition to Wolf’s request for tax increases on sales and income to prop up state spending. Corman did not rule out other kinds of tax increases, and he said Republicans are open to helping Wolf meet his goals, within reason. Wolf did not speak to reporters after the meeting.

A spokesman for the DGA said the group is spending over $500,000 to run the ad for 10 days. America Works USA is organized under a section of the federal tax code that does not require it to disclose its donors.

A spokesman for House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, accused the Wolf administration of running itself like a campaign. Wolf’s gubernatorial campaign has continued to regularly blast out fundraising emails, he has started a new political action committee called Rebuild Pennsylvania, and he has voiced a radio ad paid for by America Works USA that is critical of Republicans.

“They were clearly colluding with the Democratic Governors Association and their own PAC to basically attack Republican members of the House and Senate,” said the spokesman, Stephen Miskin.

Wednesday marked Pennsylvania state government’s eighth day without an enacted budget, meaning that the Wolf administration has lost some authority to pay vendors.

For the time being, there is no slowdown in the state government’s payment activity, since vendor invoices are for work performed in June, when money was appropriated, a treasury official said. However, school districts receive installment payments in August and counties and social service organizations that care for children and run shelters and food panties could start missing reimbursement checks in the second half of July.

Under a 2009 court decision, employees are to remain paid, and the administration can tap ongoing tax collections to continue services involving public health, welfare and safety and those required by law, including unemployment compensation, health care financed through Medicaid and home and community services for seniors and disabled people. Public safety agencies, such as state prisons and the state police, also would function as normal, the administration said.

No talks were scheduled between Wolf and Republican leaders.

Wolf’s proposal for a $31.6 billion budget package raises spending by $2.6 billion, or 9 percent, and is designed to wipe out a long-term deficit and send about $800 million more to public schools, universities and early childhood education programs. To make it balance, Wolf asked for higher taxes on income, sales, Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling, banks and tobacco products.

The $30.2 billion no-new-taxes budget bill that Wolf vetoed passed the Legislature last week after negotiations between the Wolf administration and Republicans stalled. It passed without a single vote from a Democratic lawmaker.

It would have sent about $200 million more to education programs, while relying on well over $1 billion in stopgaps to balance, including postponing payments for school construction aid, child welfare programs and school employees’ Social Security.

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