HARRISBURG - After a day of jockeying - both in public and behind closed doors - Gov. Wolf and Republican leaders clung Tuesday night to their tenuous state budget agreement, and said they would work through the weekend to fortify the deal.
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre) emerged from Wolf's office in the evening to declare the so-called framework still on track, hours after Republicans had threatened a vote to override Wolf's veto of their temporary spending plan.
"We're very comfortable and optimistic that we can have this done in short order next week," said Corman, flanked by leaders from both parties.
He declined to offer specifics about their accord or say if any pieces - including a proposed sales tax increase and property tax relief - had changed in the wake of the override threat. Nor would he discuss why the agreement appeared so close to falling apart in the first place.
Corman simply said negotiators would work to sort out the final details for a vote. "We're now at the minor level of the sort of things we need to iron out," he said.
The scrambling came a day after Wolf had declared the $30 billion budget deal he struck with GOP leaders this month in "deep peril" and challenged lawmakers to craft a budget that both sides could accept.
One plan being floated by Republicans, according to a source close to the talks, called for expanding the state sales tax to apply to previously exempt items, or at least enough to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue that Wolf wants for education.
Gone, at least for the moment, the source said, was a proposed hike in the sales tax, from 6 to 7.25 percent, that would generate $2 billion and help lower property taxes statewide.
That plank had been central to the agreement Wolf and GOP leaders announced weeks ago to end their impasse, one the first-term governor had promised would be "transformational" for the state. Both issues also played a role in the deal's near-collapse in recent days.
But Republicans had said they could not muster the votes to pass the plan, citing in part a disagreement about how property tax relief would be parceled out statewide.
In a Tuesday morning radio interview, Wolf said GOP leaders simply could not close on the deal.
"They were the ones who proposed the sales tax increase; that isn't what I wanted," the governor told KDKA-AM in Pittsburgh. "What [GOP leaders] told me is that they couldn't get the vote for the sales tax. . . . We didn't even agree on a property tax formula, we were still in conversation on that."
Without naming names, Wolf blamed a faction of the opposing party for sabotaging the deal. "There are a lot of Republican members who still want to make democracy work . . . but there are apparently too many in their caucus who just want to blow things up," he said.
Corman cast the disagreements as part of the negotiating process.
"These things break down. It happens every budget cycle," he said. "You have those meetings where it all blows up, and you walk away and it comes back together."
As negotiators scrambled in the Capitol, fallout was building across the state. Bucks County officials announced that they would immediately halt any payments to the state until a budget was passed.
Robert G. Loughery, chairman of the board of commissioners, said that without its state aid, the county was poised to run out of money by the end of the year.
"We know other counties already have run out of funds," he said in a statement. "Bucks County will take the lead with this action, and we strongly encourage other counties to follow suit."
Delaware County officials scheduled a Wednesday morning news conference to outline "how dire the situation is" and steps they would take.
In his radio interview, Wolf said he had no plans to leave town for Thanksgiving.
"I need something, the people of Pennsylvania need something, and we need it quickly. . . . I'm happy to be locked in a room and get this done," he said.