HARRISBURG - Gov. Wolf's office said Friday that it had lined up support for a tax bill to fund the $30.8 billion spending plan he and Senate leaders have touted, a significant step that might finally resolve the state's five-month-old budget crisis.
As soon as Saturday, legislators were expected to vote on a package calling for an additional $700 million in revenue this fiscal year - half of which would go to public schools - and more than $1.5 billion in the year that starts next July.
But as they have done for weeks, Wolf and legislative leaders declined to say yet just where the money will come from.
Privately, some lawmakers said that discussions in recent days had centered on an increase to the state's 3.07 percent personal income tax, rather than expanding the sales tax to include items that are currently exempt. All sides cautioned Friday that talks remained fluid, and no one would predict which revenue sources would end up in the deal.
"The governor will continue meeting and talking with people all throughout today and tomorrow," said spokesman Jeff Sheridan.
The issue of raising or imposing taxes has been a central impediment to sealing a final deal during the 170-day budget stalemate, which is days from tying a modern record.
The Republican-controlled legislature has so far rejected proposals from Wolf, a Democrat, to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from new taxes, while the governor has insisted that new revenue is essential to improving the state's fiscal health. Wolf also wants to increase funding to public schools, an issue he emphasized during his run for office last year.
The House, which has a sizable GOP majority, has been especially opposed to tax increases.
Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) and Majority Leader Dave Reed (R., Indiana) - who had been involved in budget negotiations with Wolf - this week challenged the governor to find enough votes in their chamber to pass new levies.
Wolf needs 102 of the 203 House members to pass the tax plan, which means he would have to recruit about two dozen Republicans if he doesn't get unanimous support from his own party.
All but four of the 119 House Republicans this month voted for a less expensive spending plan that Wolf opposed. The plan was effectively gutted by the Senate.
Instead, it has passed almost every piece of the $30.8 billion plan, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle there have said they are optimistic a revenue agreement could pass.
Both chambers must agree on all parts before the governor can sign.
The weekend votes on a revenue package are likely to start in the House. If an initial vote succeeds there Saturday, that bill and the rest of the budget package could hit Wolf's desk by Sunday evening.
But the House could also delay introducing the tax bill until Sunday, and - as they have throughout the fall - new disagreements could emerge between the chambers on other elements of the budget plan, such as the accompanying bills to change the state's pension and liquor systems.
The state has been without a budget since July 1, forcing schools and nonprofits to borrow or cut to stay afloat without state aid.