Pennsylvania Budget

Erie Legislator Offers Budget Compromise Proposal

Jul 23, 2015
Sean Wiley / Facebook Page

While it appears that Governor Wolf and Republican legislators in Harrisburg are entrenched in their positions on the budget with no end to the impasse in sight, there are some legislators offering up compromise proposals. We talk with one of them; State Senator Sean Wiley of Erie.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The political debate over the state budget has hit a lull within the walls of the state Capitol, but it's very much alive on roadside billboards, radio ads, and in mailboxes.

"We're in a messaging war, but that's on both sides," said Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna) this week.

GOP ally Americans for Prosperity has radio ads and billboards blasting the governor for trying to raise taxes.

A state House Republican with a reputation for bucking party leaders is trying to loosen up the deadlock that has gripped budget negotiations for weeks.

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) is offering his own attempt at a compromise state spending plan. It includes a new tax on natural gas drillers and a higher personal income tax — more than the GOP supported in new spending, but less than Gov. Tom Wolf proposed.

AP Photo/Chris Knight

Some see the state Capitol deadlock over a state budget as political dysfunction or theatre. But it's also a social experiment: this is the year Pennsylvanians will see how a court decision ending "payless paydays" affects the budget negotiations.

One week after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a GOP budget curtailing the state’s authority to spend money, negotiations over a new plan are at a standstill.

A Tuesday meeting between Republicans and the governor appeared to yield no progress toward the middle on a mix of tax proposals offered by Wolf and opposed by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

William Del Toro is a natural lobbyist. He doesn't like noise or distractions, but in a loud, busy part of the Capitol one morning, he enthusiastically answered questions about job opportunities for people with disabilities.

"I'm going to tell you the truth," said Del Toro, pushing his glasses up. "I don't believe in the word, a disability. I think it's just we're all unique. We think a different way."

Late budgets aren’t the statewide shock they used to be.

Sure, the commonwealth loses the authority to make certain payments. Standoffs in the '70s, '80s and '90s meant thousands of state workers went unpaid. But recent court rulings say the state has to pay its employees’ salaries. Other critical services will have to be funded as well.

“I don’t think people should be terribly panicked or concerned,” said Christopher Craig, chief counsel to the state Treasurer. “It will take quite some for any real impact to be noticeable.”

Courtesy Good Jobs Healthy Communities

Public education advocates with the group Good Jobs Healthy Communities gathered outside the former William Penn School in Harrisburg Wednesday morning, as part of a week-long “occupation” of Pennsylvania’s capital city.

The vocational and alternative high school was closed by the school district in 2010 due to a lack of funds to upgrade the deteriorating structure. Classes were relocated to other buildings in the district.

AP Photo/Chris Knight

Pennsylvania's Democratic governor is inviting legislative leaders to meet in his Capitol offices, a day after the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a state budget he vetoed.

Gov. Tom Wolf said he hopes the Wednesday afternoon meeting will restart negotiations over a spending plan for the fiscal year that has just begun.

AP Photo/Chris Knight

Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed the entire GOP-crafted budget package sent to him Tuesday.

The governor announced his plans shortly after the bill passed the Republican-controlled Legislature Friday night. He has pointed out that the spending blueprint lacks his top priorities — a new tax on the natural gas industry, for starters. On Tuesday, Wolf said the budget also lacks basic fiscal integrity.

Counties, school districts and other groups that rely on state funding are preparing themselves for a late commonwealth budget, as Gov. Tom Wolf has all but promised to veto a GOP-crafted spending plan expected to land on his desk Tuesday.

A budget deal between the Republican-controlled Legislature and the Democratic Wolf administration could be elusive. That would not stop commonwealth employees from being paid, due to a 2009 court ruling. The commonwealth would also have authority to pay for critical functions, like state prison meals and human services.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Republican majorities in the Pennsylvania House and Senate are expected to send budget legislation today to Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, along with bills to completely change how wine and liquor are sold and to squeeze billions in savings from public sector pensions.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The tentative optimism about a timely state budget is giving way to partisan backbiting as lawmakers enter the last week before their deadline to approve a state spending plan.

Gov. Tom Wolf and the GOP-controlled Legislature appear to be stuck, both sides unwilling to compromise major priorities tied up with the state’s spending plan due June 30.

The state’s Independent Fiscal Office is not revising its estimated commonwealth spending gap of $1.6 billion for the current and upcoming fiscal years.

That’s in spite of a spike in revenues observed in the IFO’s latest report.

Tax collections have yielded $594 million more than the agency expected, but the lion’s share of that money is from corporate net income taxes, and it’s still a mystery why the haul is so large.

AP Photo/Marc Levy

The Independent Fiscal Office was created five years ago to provide number-crunching with no spin, but it isn't getting the last word in the state budget debate.

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration has vigorously disputed the IFO finding that the governor's spending plan would stick even the poorest Pennsylvanians with a tax increase.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Gov. Tom Wolf has asked various groups to start planning on increases in state funding for education, and the move is prompting criticism from Republican state lawmakers who oppose the governor's spending plan.

Tax Calculator: How Gov. Wolf's Budget Would Affect You In Allegheny County

Apr 13, 2015
governortomwolf / flickr

Since Gov. Tom Wolf announced his ambitious budget proposal that would rework Pennsylvania’s tax structure, you may have simultaneously heard you will be better off and worse off under his proposal.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget increases spending for education, among other things, but with a looming deficit, that means finding new revenue sources.

Wolf has proposed reducing the types of industries who are currently tax-exempt, among them – the arts. Under the proposal, admissions to the performing arts, museums and historical sites would be taxed at 6.6 percent. While they haven’t taken an official stance on the proposal, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (GPAC) said there are some questions.

A top Republican in the state Senate said Monday that he's prepared for a late budget.

The commonwealth's spending plan is due June 30, and in recent years the GOP caucuses followed the lead of former Gov. Tom Corbett and his priority to meet that deadline.

This year, Senate Republicans have insisted their top priority is passing a public pension overhaul that reaps short-term and long-term savings for the state's deeply indebted retirement systems.

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said if pension talks stretch into the fall, so will the budget process.

Creative Commons Lauri Rantala

In his first budget proposal, Gov. Tom Wolf called for a series of tax changes—increases and decreases—most notably hikes in the personal income tax from 3.07 to 3.7 percent and the state sales tax from the current 6 percent up to 6.6 percent.

But another tax proposal has angered a growing industry in the commonwealth and at least one anti-smoking organization.

Wolf wants a 40 percent tax on the wholesale price of vapor products such as electronic cigarettes as well as on cigars and loose and smokeless tobacco.

Wolf Seeks Billions in Higher Taxes for Schools, Tax Revamp

Mar 3, 2015
Matt Rourke / Associated Press

In an ambitious first budget plan, Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday proposed more than $4 billion in higher taxes on income, sales and natural gas drilling to support new spending on schools and to cut property taxes as part of an effort to overhaul the way public education is funded.

Wolf, a Democrat, is also asking the Republican-controlled Legislature to cut corporate taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars, borrow more than $4 billion to refinance pension debt and inject new money into business loans, clean energy subsidies and water and sewer system projects.

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf’s transition team says Pennsylvania is in the throes of an all-out budget crisis.

Pennsylvania is facing a $2.3 billion shortfall for the fiscal year beginning in July, according to a report by the governor-elect’s transition team.

The projected shortfall is even bigger than they expected — big enough to sink existing state programs, not to mention all of the additional spending Wolf proposed during his campaign.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget secretary has started three weeks of budget hearings by defending the use of revenue predictions built into a proposed $29.4 billion spending plan.

Charles Zogby acknowledges the budget proposal rests, in part, on reducing the state’s payments into the two public pension systems — something that still requires action by the Legislature.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Less than one week before Gov. Tom Corbett delivers his annual budget address, Pennsylvania Democrats fanned out across the commonwealth announcing their spending priorities.

They are calling on Corbett to focus on five main areas: education, Medicaid expansion, human service programs, jobs and development, and increasing the minimum wage.

The governor’s budget secretary is warning if the current financial picture holds, the commonwealth could face up to a $1.4 billion shortfall in the next fiscal year.

Charles Zogby said the budget deficit is due largely to rising personnel costs like health care and pensions.

But a reduction in federal funds for medical assistance and cost increases in the state’s prisons system are also contributing to the gap.

Zogby said the Corbett administration is still trying to avoid cuts.

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.

As the budget battle comes to a boil in Harrisburg, the fight over Medicaid expansion is heating up right along side it.  

Lawmakers for the most part are split along party lines with Republicans supporting Gov. Tom Corbett’s decision to not opt into the federal government’s offer, while Democrats are calling for the state to expand the program as soon as possible.

As lawmakers in the state House teed up the legislative vehicle for a state budget Monday morning, Senate Democrats offered their view on what the final spending plan should look like.

The Senate Democrats' plan amounts to about $28.4 billion — roughly $56 million above what the governor proposed. It depends on the so-called modernization of the state's liquor system, keeping a business tax the governor wants to eliminate, and the state's participation in a federally authorized expansion of the Medicaid program.

On the heels of news that Pennsylvania ranks 42nd in the nation for best places to do business, the CompetePA Coalition is calling on lawmakers to change the corporate tax structure. In particular, the group is asking that the $3 million cap on net operating loss (NOL) carryforwards be eliminated.

IUP Inaugurates Driscoll as New President

Apr 26, 2013
Indiana University of Pennsylvania

With nine months already on the job, Mike Driscoll will be officially inaugurated Friday afternoon as president of Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Driscoll, who began his duties last July, came to IUP from the University of Alaska-Anchorage, where he was provost and executive vice chancellor.

Driscoll said he came to IUP because of what makes it a great campus.

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