The Pennsylvania House of Representatives returned to session Monday with just 10 days left to the start of the new financial year and the budget still a source of disagreement as efforts to close a substantial $1.8 billion deficit gap and fund education projects continued.
Measures to achieve this without increasing state personal tax include a slew of gambling proposals that call for legalising, regulating and taxing online gambling (see previous reports).
Other proposals include allowing bars, truck stops and fraternal clubs to host casino-style games on video terminals, a possibility opposed by existing land casino operators..
The Associated Press news agency reports that on Monday the debate revolved around a budget of between $31.5 billion and $32 billion, according to Democrats, an increase of 5 percent to 6 percent.
No budget vote was scheduled, and determining whether the proposed gambling legislation is sufficiently viable to make a useful financial contribution will be crucial to achieving agreement on whether to include these proposals in the budget, one lawmaker revealed.
Some politicians remain opposed to the expansion of gambling in the state. House Minority Leader Jay Costa told AP that there is “strong sentiment” in his caucus against balancing the budget on gambling revenue that could be unreliable and damage the state’s collections from lottery sales and casino gambling.
Nearly all of the state’s 12 casinos have lobbied against allowing video terminals into bars, while some casinos are asking lawmakers to allow them to bring casino-style gambling to websites and online mobile applications, he said.
The state governor has proposed a 10 percent increase in the Pennsylvania budget to $33.3 billion, funded by a $2.7 billion tax proposal with higher tax on income, sales, tobacco products and natural shale gas drilling.
In general Republican representatives are against increases in tax on income or sales, and want to keep the state budget below $32 billion in the coming year.
The two political parties are discussing how to bridge the gap between expectations and reservations, and a contribution from expanded gambling may help to achieve that as discussions continue this week.