Katie Meyer

Matt Rourke / AP

 Retail and manufacturing jobs are on the decline--both in Pennsylvania, and around the country.

So a state lawmaker is looking for ways to pinpoint exactly where those jobs are going--and how to stop the bleeding.

Pennsylvania Senate / state.pa.gov

A longtime Republican state lawmaker is seriously exploring a bid for Lieutenant Governor.

Senator David Argall of, Schuylkill County, said controversies surrounding current Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack’s behavior strongly influenced his decision to run.

In Pennsylvania, candidates for Lieutenant Governor and Governor run separately in party primaries, and together in the general election.

Argall has previously criticized Stack and Wolf’s partnership—which has, at times, been troubled.

Regina Garcia Cano / AP

After a painstaking exhumation in Cumberland County, the remains of two Native American boys who died in the 1880s have been returned to their next-of kin in Wyoming.  

But all did not go as planned.

Remains of a third boy were also supposed to make the journey back west, but couldn’t be uncovered due to a mismarked grave. 

Little Chief, Horse, and Little Plume arrived together at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School aged fourteen, eleven, and nine.

Evan Vucci / AP

Over the last week, President Donald Trump has vacillated about how to handle the opioid epidemic that has wracked much of the U.S., including Pennsylvania.

Matt Rourke / AP

Two lawmakers are looking to introduce legislation that would force Pennsylvania to reevaluate its constitution.

The process is known as a constitutional convention.

Such initiatives crop up every few years in the legislature—typically after some form of public outcry. This effort was largely prompted by the commonwealth’s stalled budget.

Senator John Eichelberger of Blair County and Representative Stephen Bloom of Cumberland County—both Republicans—submitted proposals for the convention in their respective chambers.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The Auditor General’s office has released a report detailing how Pennsylvania’s pension system for state employees can cut costs.

The system, known as SERS, is grappling with roughly $20 billion in unfunded liabilities, and has been making concerted efforts to streamline spending.

Since 2007, the fund has reduced the fees it pays to investment managers by more than half.

But in his report, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said there’s room to cut even more of those expenses, noting he doesn’t think SERS’s returns justify its expenditures.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state House has no official plans to resume negotiations on balancing the state budget.

In a rare update, House Majority Leader Dave Reed said while members continue to discuss a proposal passed by the Senate last month, they’re not ready to introduce a counter-offer of their own.

Key components of the Senate plan include a severance tax on Marcellus Shale drilling, sales tax expansions, and consumer taxes on natural gas, electricity, and phone service.

Reed said the consumer gas tax—known as a gross receipts tax—is particularly hard to swallow.

Carlisle Historical Society

A team of Army officials and anthropologists is working in Cumberland County to exhume the remains of three Native American boys from the Northern Arapaho Native American Tribe.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A group of state lawmakers are introducing a bill they say would give students in Pennsylvania’s lowest-performing schools more options for their education.

The plan would create school savings accounts, which would allow parents to take control of the money that would be spent on their kids in the public school system, and enable them to use it for alternative education options.

Republican Senator John DiSanto of Dauphin County described the savings accounts as being about giving kids and their parents more agency.

Heather Ainsworth / AP

As lawmakers try to negotiate a budget that’ll pass the House, Senate, and Governor, plus fill a $2 billion funding gap, they’re also grappling with another issue.

Nearly a year ago, the State Supreme Court declared that a law governing how casinos pay fees to their host municipalities was unconstitutional, and gave lawmakers an ultimatum: fix the law, or it’ll be invalidated.

Today, it’s still not fixed. And that’s losing some towns money.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

One of the state’s two largest pension funds has released its financial report for 2016.

The State Employees Retirement System—or SERS—continued a longstanding pattern last year of coming up short of projected long-term earnings.

It brought in $1.6 billion in 2016. That constitutes a 6.5 percent return, and spokeswoman Pamela Hile said that “when talking about an underfunded pension system, that is very good news.”

Kevin McCorry / WHYY

State Treasurer Joe Torsella has extended a temporary, $750 million line of credit to keep Pennsylvania’s general fund balance from running dry this month.

He’s calling the situation “extraordinary and without precedent.”

That doesn’t quite square with the way Governor Tom Wolf has appeared to downplay the impact of the state budget still being unbalanced, over a month into the fiscal year.

Tom Downing / WITF

A month past the due date, negotiations on how to fund Pennsylvania's $32 billion spending plan are effectively stalled.

With the state House in indefinite recess as lawmakers consider how to respond to a revenue proposal from the Senate, Governor Tom Wolf is seeking to allay fears about what an unbalanced budget means for the commonwealth.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The revenue component of the state budget still isn’t done, more than a month past its due date.

But that doesn’t mean Pennsylvania has stopped doing business. It’s still spending and taking in money, and it’s still releasing monthly reports on how state collections are stacking up against projections.

The only problem? Because there’s no revenue plan, analysts can’t estimate exactly how much the state should be taking in.

Katie Meyer / WITF

Protesters around Pennsylvania spent Wednesday urging the commonwealth’s Republican US senators and congressional representatives not to support a budget bill that routes significant dollars toward enforcing immigration laws—including $1.6 billion to build a wall on the Mexican border.

One group braved torrential rain to bring the message to Congressman Lou Barletta’s office in Harrisburg—and they even brought props.

Matt Rourke / AP

A fund transfer lawmakers are proposing to help balance the state budget is causing some legal headaches.

The Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association—a group created in 1976 to insure healthcare providers—is saying the state is not authorized to take $200 million from its account.

It’s a conflict that first cropped up last year, when the cash-strapped legislature decided to move $200 million dollars from the JUA's surplus to the general fund.

The group said it was inappropriate, and filed suit.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

A portion of the state Senate’s latest, tax-heavy plan to balance the commonwealth's budget is likely to prompt some legal entanglement.

Senators’ proposal to expand how the commonwealth’s sales tax is applied to online transactions is modeled on similar attempts by other states.

Those states are already facing lawsuits.

If the measure passes the House and governor, it would require online marketplaces—like Amazon—to charge sales tax on items they sell via third-party vendors.

The move is expected to net more than $40 million annually.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state Senate has taken a step toward finishing Pennsylvania’s unbalanced budget, which was supposed to be done nearly a month ago.

The revenue proposal the chamber passed Thursday relies on a hodgepodge of new taxes, plus borrowing to fill a $2.2 billion funding gap.

However, it’s likely setting up a battle between the Republican majorities in the House and Senate. With the ball now back in the House’s court, it’s unclear what it'll do with it.

Senators turned the new proposal around quickly.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

In hopes of finally finishing the budget that was due at the end of June, the GOP-led state Senate is pushing a revenue package that departs significantly from previous tax-averse attempts.

Republicans have repeatedly clashed with Governor Tom Wolf over the amount of recurring dollars necessary to fill a $2 billion hole in the $32 billion budget.

This new proposal boosts revenue to a level a Wolf spokesman calls “responsible,” and it does so, in part, by raising taxes.

perzsonseo.com / Flickr

The way people buy things—both in Pennsylvania, and around the country—is changing.

Online shopping is on the rise, and sales in physical stores have correspondingly declined. But what hasn’t changed much in Pennsylvania is how it taxes sales. And that’s losing the commonwealth money.

Pennsylvania ended the last fiscal year with revenue from its 6 percent tax around 2 percent below projections—a blow that contributed to its substantial budget shortfall.

Matt Rourke / AP

State Senators are scheduled to return to session Wednesday for a two-day stint, in an effort to iron out differences in a budget that’s nearly a month overdue.

The chamber plans to pick up where it left negotiations two weeks ago, and appears to be largely disregarding last week’s House session.

The major options being considered to fill a $2 billion gap in the $32 billion budget have been borrowing against a state fund to plug last year’s significant shortfall, select fund transfers, and a gambling expansion.

Leaders have also floated some form of tax increase.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania union leaders are attempting to chart a new course after decades of declining membership.

As members have dwindled, unions' once-strong political sway toward the Democratic party has also shifted.

The change was especially apparent last year, when an overwhelming number of white, union or former union members voted for Donald Trump.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania's one of only four states that still hasn't passed a budget for the fiscal year that ended in June.

Matt Rourke / AP

Nearly two weeks after the state budget deadline, House and Senate members and Governor Tom Wolf do not have an agreement on a revenue plan to fund for it. 

Wolf let the unbalanced spending plan become law Monday night, a decision that puts Pennsylvania in a sort of constitutional no-man’s-land for the second year in a row.

Around the Capitol there’s no clear consensus on whether the state’s allowed to handle its budget this way—or if there are any consequences for doing so.

Matt Rourke / AP

Governor Tom Wolf has allowed an incomplete state budget to become law without his signature after a marathon negotiating session yielded no agreements between his administration and GOP leaders.

Mark Lennihan / AP

Lawmakers are still struggling to reach consensus on how to pay for the state budget. One of the most likely ways they’ll get money to fill a more than $2 billion hole is by borrowing against a state fund created by a 1998 multi-state settlement with tobacco companies.

But the American Lung Association is up in arms against the proposal—saying it’ll probably divert vital resources away from state anti-smoking programs.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

The last month of the fiscal year was a decent one for Pennsylvania, revenue-wise, with returns coming in slightly higher than expected. But it comes at the end of a year of unexpectedly dismal earnings.

The commonwealth ended 2016-17 with its revenues over a billion dollars below projections. Its expectations for the new fiscal year are more modest.

Katie Meyer / WITF

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey’s live TV town hall got off to a raucous start Wednesday, with advocacy groups from across the state showing up outside the Harrisburg studio to criticize the Republican for his support of the Senate GOP’s Affordable Care Act replacement bill.

Toomey spent much of the hour-long event defending the bill, which he helped author.

Matt Rourke / AP

You can tell it’s budget week in Pennsylvania because, on any given day, you’ll find the Capitol packed with lobbyists and advocates from around the commonwealth, pushing for a piece of the pie.

They mill around the rotunda, waiting for news from lawmakers deliberating in chambers upstairs.

This year, there’s been precious little information getting out.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

State budgets have two basic parts: one outlines how much government will spend on its programs and expenses, and the other details where lawmakers are getting the money to pay for it.

Last year, the GOP-controlled legislature compromised on a $31.5 billion spending plan, and then took two more weeks to come up with a revenue framework to fit it.

Democratic Governor Tom Wolf let it become law without his signature, declaring at the time that “our budget is balanced this year, and we have greatly reduced the commonwealth’s structural budget deficit.”

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