budget

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

After several years of shaky finances, Governor Tom Wolf’s administration says Pennsylvania’s fiscal health is now the best it has been since the Great Recession.

In his annual mid-year briefing, Budget Secretary Randy Albright said his office is predicting a roughly $30 million surplus at the end of this fiscal year—enough to start putting some money back into the commonwealth’s long-neglected rainy-day fund.

Matt Rourke / AP

This is the last scheduled session week for state lawmakers this year, and they’re working long days to try and push through several bills that are either time-sensitive, or political priorities.

A few of the measures on the agenda have been a long time coming.

A compromise bill to restore a temporary cash stream to the state unemployment compensation program has been in the works since nearly 500 workers were laid off a year ago over funding concerns.

It has passed the House, and is now on its way through the Senate.

Matt Rourke / AP

Several Republican state senators plan to introduce legislation that would require Pennsylvania to use zero-based budgeting—a standard specifically designed to save money.

Matt Rourke / AP

A judge has issued an injunction that will at least delay state lawmakers from getting some of the money they planned for in the revenue plan they finished last month.

The cash is tied to a pending case about whether the state can constitutionally force the Joint Underwriting Association—a medical malpractice insurer—to give up $200 million.

This is the second year lawmakers have tried to take surplus money from the JUA to help balance perennial budget gaps.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania is already on track to have a significant budget gap to fill next year.

A study from the Independent Fiscal Office shows lawmakers will likely need to come up with about a billion dollars to keep the books balanced.

They only just finished this year’s budget, four months behind schedule.

It was mostly filled with borrowing, expected revenue from a gambling expansion and a number of internal fund transfers.

Much of the money isn’t recurring, and that’s a big reason why the IFO is predicting the state will have to find more cash next year.

Matt Rourke / AP

After a tumultuous budget process that saw state lawmakers pass a plan they couldn’t fully pay for, many are looking into changing how the system works entirely.

Jake Savitz / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald presented his 2018 budget proposal to County Council on Tuesday, totaling $905.7 million, a 2.8 percent growth from the year before.

Matt Rourke / AP

Heated speeches could be heard from the House GOP’s closed caucus room Monday night, as a conservative faction attempted—for several hours—to rally support for a budget funding plan that wouldn’t raise taxes.

They’ll probably vote on the proposal sometime Tuesday—whether or not it’ll actually pass.

House GOP leaders largely avoided commenting on the situation.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

With talk swirling of possible spending freezes over the unbalanced state budget, counties are trying to figure out how they may be impacted.

County commissioners are beginning to put together contingency plans in case any of their state funds get cut off.

Governor Tom Wolf has already stopped some spending to put it into budgetary reserves, and indicated this week that more could be coming.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A few dozen protesters gathered outside of Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai’s McCandless office Tuesday, calling on the Republican representative to balance the budget by taxing natural gas and corporations.

Pine Township resident Linda Bishop led a small group of constituents into the office with a list of concerns. Others representing SEIU unions, the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network and Fight for $15, stayed outside chanting for more funding for education and fewer tax cuts to corporations.

Susan Walsh / AP

Somerset County Commission Chair Gerald Walker said when he got a call from the White House saying he and all the other county commissioners in the state would be invited to a July 13 meeting at the White House, he thought it might be a joke.

“You have to wonder if that’s the real deal when you just get a phone call like that out of the blue,” Walker said.

When the printed invitation arrived in the mail a few days later, he knew it was real.

Erika Beras

Grapes are big business in Erie — mostly concord grapes. And they're especially important to the economy of northeast Erie, aka Welch's country. Mario Mazza’s family has run a winery here since the '70s. Back then it was pretty lonely for vintners. But things have changed. In the past decade or so, Mazza said not only has his production gone up, visitation to the taprooms has also climbed.

Bill To Rein In Pennsylvania Pension Benefits On Fast Track

Jun 5, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Most rookie teachers and newly minted Pennsylvania government employees would see a smaller retirement benefit in the coming decades through the state's two big debt-plagued pension systems, under legislation that passed the Senate on Monday and has the backing of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

The Republican-controlled Senate's 40-9 vote could be followed by swift House action this week to send the just-unveiled bill to Wolf's desk.

PA House of Representatives / YouTube

Pennsylvania  Rep. Tony DeLuca is calling on the state’s Department of Education to step in and oversee the Penn Hills School District’s finances.

Last week, the school board approved increasing property taxes for the second year in a row, just months after Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released an audit that found the district had accumulated more than $170 million dollars of debt.

Tourism, Training And Tax Incentives: DCED's 2017 Budget

Mar 8, 2017
J. Scott Applewhite / AP

The Department of Community and Economic Development oversees a wide array of state programs, from business and workforce development to tourism to Main Street improvements. DCED is also responsible for Act 47, the state's distressed cities program. 

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A group of 75 teachers, parents and administrators have finished reviewing options for a new literacy curriculum for Pittsburgh Public School Kindergarten through fifth grade students.

Matt Rourke / AP

The 2017 legislative session has yet to begin, but some lawmakers are already making plans for the new year, and casino-related laws are among those at the top of the list.

A closed-door meeting on Jan. 3 has been planned between lawmakers and representatives from all of the state’s 12 casinos.

When it was passed this summer, the state’s operating budget included $100 million in new gambling revenue, but no bill was ever passed to provide the money.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

For the third straight year, the Pittsburgh Public School’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a general budget without a tax increase.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Though Pennsylvania’s revenues are lagging to meet the $31.5 billion budget, Gov. Tom Wolf said seven months is plenty of time to make up the difference. 

The state Department of Revenue has taken in $262 million less than anticipated since July, a deficit of about 2.4 percent.

“If that (negative five-month trend) continues and the big months are also down 2 percent, that’s a real problem,” Wolf said. 

Matt Rourke / AP Images

Despite a Wednesday deadline, Pennsylvania is still without a budget. The State House and Senate have agreed to a $31.6 billion spending plan, but Gov.Tom Wolf has refused to sign it without an accompanying revenue plan.  

 

 

Matt Rourke / AP Images

In contrast to last year’s lengthy impasse, Pennsylvania lawmakers and Governor Tom Wolf appear to be close to an on-schedule budget deal. State Senator Jay Costa says neither party wants a repeat of 2015 and joins us to talk about what can be found in this recent budget, including pension reform, gambling tax changes and education funding formula changes.

Governor Wolf Previews 2016-17 Budget Address Despite Impasse

Feb 5, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP Images

With his 2016-2017 budget address due on February 9th, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf joins us to talk about some of what he's planning to propose including more funding for education. But does it make sense for Governor Wolf to give a budget address without having one now? And can revenue come from somewhere other than taxes which Republican legislators are opposed to raising

Deciphering The Befuddling Budget Situation

Feb 1, 2016
Matt Rourke / AP Images

90.5 WESA Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer spoke with  House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) and  Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) about their concerns and the public’s perception that lawmakers can’t get along.  

Costa blamed lawmakers' philosophical differences.

“At the end of the day, we recognize that we want to do many similar things, investing in education, human service programs, economic development (and) job growth,” he said. “The question becomes about how we go about doing that.”

Matt Rourke / AP

As House and Senate leaders move toward a state budget agreement in fits and starts, one piece of the compromise appears to have fallen by the wayside: changes to the state’s wine and spirits stores.

It happened gradually.

For the past year, House Republicans insisted that revamping the system should be part of a budget compromise. But earlier this month, the lawmaker trying to draft the proposal said he didn’t see a “path forward right now.” 

Matt Rourke / AP

 

There are signs of a potential breakthrough in Pennsylvania's budget stalemate just three days before Christmas.

House GOP, On An Island, Readies Stopgap Budget

Dec 21, 2015
Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

 

Governor Tom Wolf warned House Republicans on Monday not to bother with a short-term budget, saying such a measure would receive his veto.  

The House GOP is charging ahead anyway, positioning an 11-month interim budget for a final vote this week before the Christmas holiday.  

The Senate is signaling it won’t approve the plan, and Governor Wolf removed any shadow of a doubt about his intentions when he wrote to House members and told them a partial budget plan would be swiftly rejected if it landed on his desk.  

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

The governor’s office says it has the votes in the state House to pass a tax package that could be the key to ending the state’s five-and-a-half-month budget impasse.

“We are confident that we have the votes to pass a final budget,” said spokesman Jeff Sheridan, “and we are hopeful that this is over soon.”

The announcement signals a major development for budget talks in the Republican-controlled House, where anti-tax sentiment threatened to take negotiations back to square one earlier this month.

House & Senate Tussle Over Pension Payments

Dec 16, 2015
Jim Bowen / Flickr

State House and Senate Republicans are at odds over what the commonwealth should pay into its retirement systems.

Tight finances compelled the Senate to approve a plan last week that would cut roughly $170 million from scheduled state payments to its pension funds.

House Republicans have always said they would fight such a move, since the commonwealth’s pension systems are already so underfunded. On Tuesday morning, a House committee reversed the Senate’s proposed payment reductions (or “collars,” in pension-speak).

Senate Republicans were irked by the change.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Enough is enough. That was the message from Pittsburgh leaders gathered Friday in the Strip District rallying against the state budget stalemate.

Organizations that rely on state funding have spoken out during the five-month budget delay, bringing in citizens and experts alike to describe the damaging effects they've endured, from minimizing services and prompting layoffs to temporarily shutting down.

Democrats Turn Their Fire On Turzai

Dec 11, 2015
Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

Something changed in the past week for Democrats watching the state’s budget impasse drag on.

They found a villain in House Speaker Mike Turzai.

It began last Saturday, when House Republicans said they would withdraw their support for the tentative budget agreement reached with Governor Tom Wolf and the Senate. And it intensified in the days that followed, as Turzai repeated his concerns about the 6 percent spending increase included in the spending plan approved by the Senate with the governor’s blessing on Monday.

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