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PA Budget Update: Do We Have A Deal? Maybe…

men in suits shaking hands
Let’s be honest. This latest update on the ongoing attempt by the Pennsylvania legislature to balance the budget is just a rumor at this point. Like the dozens of plans that preceded it, this latest one is tenuous at best.

On the other hand though, this might be the one that actually gets the Keystone State fiscally solvent again.

Legislature meeting in Harrisburg this week

Last week ended on a high note. Well, as high a note as this three-month slog can generate these days. According to Penn Live, Gov. Tom Wolf met with House Republican leadership late last week. The result of the meeting was not a resolution. However, it was enough progress to call the Senate back to Harrisburg this week.

Previously the Senate was scheduled to be off until Oct. 16. Calling them back is no guarantee, but it is an indicator that a possible compromise is close to on the table.

No official word on what the compromise might entail. Some of the gossip coming out of the Capitol suggests the Republican House members might bet there way on no new tax increases. Moreover, there is a better sense of what this long-awaited gambling expansion bill might look like.

Gambling expansion rumors keep circling

Part of the progress on Friday was a compromise on the gambling expansion bill. The bill remains in play because it can provide up to $225 million in budget money. It is only a small chunk of the $2.2 billion shortfall. However, it is an element of the budget plan both the House and Senate are willing to move on.

Several elements in the plan are still up for debate though. Most notably whether or not the state will authorize video gambling terminals (VGTs). The current whispers around Harrisburg have some idea what will and will not be included in the bill.

It looks like both online poker and online casinos will be there. The tax rate is what the two versions of the bills disagreed on. No word yet on whether or not they will meet in the middle there.

One tax rate that is getting some play though is land-based table games. The state currently taxes those at 16 percent. With table games revenue on the rise, there is talk of upping that number to 20 percent.

As for VGTs, the current rumor is truck stops will get them, but the mass expansion into every bar and restaurant probably won’t happen. Moreover, the truck stops could include a stipulation that the local or municipal governments have to greenlight VGTs in order for businesses to add them.

Finally, it appears the idea of satellite casinos is getting some traction late in the game. Satellite casinos are smaller venues in some of the smaller cities in the state, like College Station.

Keep in mind none of these elements are oficially on the table because the gambling bill is not officially on the table. So far this week, there is no movement on gambling expanion this week, so it is a matter of just waiting and seeing what happens.

About

Jessica Welman is the managing editor of PlayPennsylvania. A longtime poker media presence, Jess has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for WSOP.com.