As Pennsylvania entered its third week without a budget, Gov. Wolf and the Republicans whose support he needs to pass a spending plan were hundreds of miles apart - and not just figuratively.
Wolf spent the day Monday touting his plan in Western Pennsylvania, while Philadelphia-area GOP legislators gathered in Norristown to assail the governor's position on key budget issues - and what they call his unprofessional, take-no-prisoners public relations war against them.
The lawmakers called a news conference to respond directly to what they consider to be misleading television ads and mailers that attack each of them individually. The ads, costing at least $750,000 and paid for by Wolf's allies, claim, among other things, that the Republicans put natural-gas drilling company profits ahead of education, and have denied homeowners property-tax relief.
An interest group affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) is behind the mailers. But the lawmakers directed their ire at Wolf.
"We can't negotiate with a constant campaign barrage aimed at members of our delegation," said State Sen. John Rafferty of Montgomery County. "The campaign has stopped, Governor, and it's time to get to the budget table now."
Wolf batted back by saying: The truth hurts.
"I understand that they would be scared that people actually know what their record is," said his spokesman, Jeff Sheridan. "The Republicans passed a sham budget . . . and that is what they are being called to task for."
The tenor of Monday's verbal volley reflects how tense negotiations have become since Wolf vetoed a Republican-authored budget last month. He said it did not contain adequate funding for public schools or do anything to address rapidly rising property taxes in school districts across the state.
The deadline to pass a new state budget was July 1. Without a spending plan in place, the state loses some of its spending authority. By the end of this month, it will be unable to make payments to contractors or send cash infusions to local governments and social service nonprofit organizations that rely on state aid.
The impasse centers on how much to spend, and whether to raise taxes to do so.
But as talks have become bogged down - they are tentatively scheduled to resume Tuesday in Harrisburg - both sides have taken their message directly to the public.
Earlier this month, the DGA and one of its affiliates launched two ads - one on radio, the other on television - to bolster Wolf's position on the budget.
Around the same time, Americans for Prosperity, a Virginia-based advocacy group founded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, began running a radio ad in Harrisburg and Pittsburgh attacking Wolf as "cooking up schemes to hike your taxes."
The mailers that upset Philadelphia-area lawmakers were sent to constituents in their districts over the last two weeks, and were paid for by America Works, a DGA affiliate formed in 2011. The group is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, commonly known as a "social welfare" organization, that does not have to disclose its donors as long as its political endeavors don't become its primary activity.
This is the group's first foray into Pennsylvania. So far, America Works has spent $750,000 in Pennsylvania - $500,000 of that on television ads, spokesman Jared Leopold said.
The mailers targeted dozens of Republican legislators by name and attacked them for supporting the GOP-backed budget that Wolf vetoed.
The Republican plan contained increases in education spending - although not as much as Wolf wanted - and would have closed the deficit by, among other measures, privatizing the sale of alcohol in Pennsylvania. It did not propose imposing a new tax on drilling in the Marcellus Shale, another key piece of Wolf's budget.
Wolf's $29.9 billion proposal called for hiking the income and sales tax, and using that money to help pull back on the state's reliance on property taxes to fund education. Republicans have assailed his plan as one giant tax hike, and say he has shown no willingness to negotiate.
Rep. Kate Harper of Montgomery County said Monday that Wolf's plan would raise taxes on everything from diapers to assisted care facilities, and would still require more than $3 billion in new revenue.
Rep. Marcy Toepel, also of Montgomery County, said Wolf may have cultured a warm persona but is actually cold and calculating.
Wolf had two appearances Monday morning in Pittsburgh, then visited a school in Darlington, Beaver County, to tout his budget plan. He planned a similar stop in Fayette County on Tuesday.