Jay Costa

Governor Tom Wolf / flickr

The deadline for the Pennsylvania state budget is fast approaching. Governor Wolf’s administration is assuring tax payers and state workers failure to meet the deadline will not affect them. Will the governor and state lawmakers be able to agree on a budget on time? State Senator Jay Costa provides his insight on the future of budget discussions. 

Costa believes some of his colleagues are responsible for the delay:

"I am anticipating a late budget and it is largely because the party on the other side has refused to allow the governor to dissipate and to respect and honor the concessions that he's made in this process. They've been significant and they've moved the ball forward but unfortunately you've got some leaders who are simply hell bent on trying to force the governor to veto his budget." - State Senator Jay Costa

Also in the program, Promised Beginnings is an offshoot of Safer Tougher Pittsburgh, aiming to educate parents of young children on public safety.

Governor Tom Wolf's plans to reduce corporate taxes are getting a cool reception from Republican legislative leaders who are waiting for more details.

On Wednesday, Wolf pulled back the curtain on a few of the "nice surprises" for pro-business groups in his budget proposal. He wants to bring the state's much-maligned 9.99 percent corporate net income tax down to 4.99 percent over two years.

Flickr user Ronald Woan

State Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) said when he was a kid, people often warned him not to get to close to Pittsburgh’s three rivers. But the polluted industrial riverfronts of generations past have slowly been replaced by family-friendly recreational opportunities and big-ticket development projects such as PNC Park and South Side Works.

Senate leaders have postponed a vote on a proposed amendment to the state constitution, after calls for a hearing on the matter.   

The proposed amendment would restore the Legislature’s power to define non-profits known as purely public charities, which don’t have to pay local taxes. Right now, a court ruling establishes rules for the tax-exempt entities.

The amendment was poised for swift passage, but senators like Democratic Minority Leader Jay Costa voiced concern that it had never received a hearing in their chamber.

Republicans in Harrisburg are still floating the idea of trying to take advantage of a quirk in the state constitution that separates the swearing in of the Legislature and the governor by more than two weeks. 

Allegheny County could face losing one of its unique features, depending on the outcome of a hearing Tuesday about the Allegheny County crime lab.

Allegheny is the only county in Pennsylvania to fund and run its own crime lab. However, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the lab cannot continue with its current funding system.

More than 200 students and faculty lobbied Tuesday for an increase in community college funding in the 2014-15 state budget.

The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges wants a $12 million increase for the 14 community colleges throughout the commonwealth.  

Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D - Allegheny), who is also a member of the Community College of Allegheny County’s Board of Trustees, joined them at the State Capitol rally.

Before the holidays, Gov. Tom Corbett is expected to deliver his mid-fiscal year budget update. 

Citing a November report by the Independent Fiscal Office that the commonwealth faces a projected structural budget deficit of $839 million, Senate Democrats Tuesday unveiled a savings and investment plan.

About 995,000 veterans live in Pennsylvania, many of whom face homelessness, unemployment and traumatic disorders when they come home.

Senate Democrats introduced a package of bills last Tuesday intended to help veterans and their families make the transition from serving in the military.

The Saluting Pennsylvania Veterans plan consists of 23 bills and targets veteran education, housing and jobs.

Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa said they were surprised when they heard some of the issues vets face.

A transportation funding bill for Pennsylvania is still stuck in park.

But while negotiations continue, the fate of one of its more controversial mechanisms for generating revenue is still unsettled.

The state Senate’s plan to fund infrastructure includes tacking a 100 dollar surcharge onto certain traffic violations, like speeding tickets.  Most of the money would go toward mass transit. The Senate projected the surcharge would raise as much as 75 million dollars in the first year of implementation.

Two Pennsylvania senators, one Democrat and one Republican, are trying to dig up some new funding for local museums across the commonwealth.

Over the last eight years, state aid to the museums has dropped from $29 million to $2 million for fiscal year 2013-14.

Senators Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) have authored legislation to dedicate 3 percent of the state’s Realty Transfer Tax, about $8 million to $9 million.   

Nearly eight months ago, then state Auditor General Jack Wagner issued a long list of recommendations that he thought would provide for more oversight of the operation of Penn State University. Most of those recommendations have not been adopted, but Democrats in the state Senate are pushing to change that.

“We are calling upon our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to have that conversation with us over the course summer and the fall,” said Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny).

State Senate Republicans are expected to offer their own counter-proposal to the House's plan to phase out state wine and spirits stores and privatize the state's wholesale operation.

But details of the proposal are still under wraps. When asked for a status update on the bill, Senate Appropriations Chairman Jake Corman (R-Centre) said, with a laugh, "That's a great question."

Senator Jay Costa on Adopting Medicaid Expansion

Jun 5, 2013
Flickr

When the Supreme Court's ruled in favor of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) last year, they gave states the option to opt out of the law's Medicaid expansion. This left the decision of whether or not to participate in the hands of our governors and state lawmakers.

If adopted in Pennsylvania, the Medicaid expansion would cover people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $15,400 for a single person and $31,800 for a family of four. And the federal government  would pay 100 percent of the cost of the expansion for the first three years, with the federal share dropping to 90 percent by 2021 and remaining 90 percent thereafter.

Governor Corbett has said he does not want to adopt the expansion because it would "add to a budget burden that's unsustainable. "

Rumblings of horse trading, linking issues and leverage have the Senate's minority leader up in arms. Democrat Jay Costa said recently he's worried the Pennsylvania House will hold transportation funding hostage.

It's not the first time Senate Democrats have voiced such a concern. But Costa was especially emphatic discussing it during a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon in Harrisburg last week.

Corbett & Sen. Dems in War Over His Words

May 7, 2013

A week has passed since Gov. Tom Corbett's ill-received comment tying Pennsylvania's  7.9 percent unemployment rate to job applicants unable to pass drug tests.  But Senate Democrats are revisiting earlier comments that they say are reflective of Corbett's policies.  The governor insists it’s much ado about words.

The Senate’s top Democrat says clumsy statements by the governor are significant not because they make easy hay for political opponents, but because of what they reveal about Corbett himself.