Capitol grinds to a lull as PA concludes second week of new fiscal year without a state budget

Wednesday marked the two week anniversary of the start of the 2015-2016 fiscal year, while lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf have yet to agree on a state budget.

July 15 is the traditional calendar date on which the state sends its first round of checks to school districts, but the Commonwealth is not authorized to spend the money without the enactment of a state budget.

Meanwhile, activity in the Capitol was at a notable lull Wednesday as tourists once again claimed the Rotunda and staff roamed about from meeting-to-meeting.

While some legislative leaders and the governor were in the Capitol, no face-to-face meetings between legislative leadership and Gov. Wolf were reported or observed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views

As liquor bill moves forward, debate continues over value of privatization vs. modernization

As House Bill 466 continues to work its way through the Senate on its way to final passage and eventually Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk by end of legislative business Tuesday, debate in the Senate Appropriations Committee moved somewhat away from the cause of displaced workers and centered around whether Pennsylvania is undervaluing the current system by selling the asset without first working toward modernization.

Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny) said now is not the time to sell off the state-owned system.

“We do not have to sell off this asset,” he said. “It’s one of the few we have left.”

He said while changes to the system have to be made to increase profitability, it’s not the time to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

Monday, June 29, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views

Property tax reform remains a bright spot among budget-related negotiations

While it may not be at the very forefront of the topics being discussed around the budget in the waning days of June, negotiations around getting an agreed-to property tax reduction bill between the House, Senate, and governor’s office remain productive.

One such negotiation session was held Friday afternoon and included advocates for Senate Bill 76—Sen. Dave Argall (R-Schuylkill) and Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon)—as well as others including Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York), Rep. Mike Hanna (D-Centre), and Wolf administration proxies.

Upon leaving the meeting, negotiators remained upbeat in their belief that property tax reduction or elimination will remain a significant source of bipartisan agreement in ongoing budget negotiations.

“I think all five groups—the four caucuses and the administration—are all interested in making this part of a final package,” Rep. Hanna told reporters following the meeting. 

Friday, June 26, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
Sen. Wagner enters budget negotiations

Sen. Wagner enters budget negotiations

Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) was involved in budget-related negotiations Thursday, partaking in a closed-door meeting with Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) and Wolf administration proxies on property tax relief.

Upon leaving the meeting, Sen. Wagner was coy to discuss with reporters what was detailed in the meeting—calling it his Sgt. Schultz moment—he did note the importance of providing property tax relief to homeowners.

“The school tax issue, that’s the largest issue we have in Pennsylvania,” he said. “It’s driven pensions; there are a lot of issues.”

He said those in his district “are begging for relief.”

Thursday, June 25, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
Sen. Wagner: “Tom Wolf is trying to play the CEO of the Pennsylvania Corporation”

Sen. Wagner: “Tom Wolf is trying to play the CEO of the Pennsylvania Corporation”

Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) sounded off on a number of issues at Monday’s Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon including his views on public pension reform, liquor privatization, education funding, and special interests.

Sen. Wagner also had some very pointed remarks about Gov. Tom Wolf, a fellow York County businessman whom he has known for a number of years.

Asked if Gov. Wolf is governing as he would expect, Sen. Wagner said he is not.

“Tom Wolf is a nice guy. Tom Wolf I believe is trying to play CEO of the Pennsylvania Corporation,” he said. “It’s almost like: ‘If you need me come get me.’”

Monday, June 22, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views