Pennsylvania Politics

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The GOP-controlled state Senate has formally rejected a conservative budget plan passed by the House—essentially resetting negotiations nearly three months past the deadline.

Now, Republicans in the House and Senate will attempt to work with Governor Tom Wolf to figure out a compromise.

Wolf has said he wants to get the budget done by October first.

But the general consensus from the House and Senate has been that that’s a stretch.

Matt Rourke / AP

Senators are trying to figure out how to move forward on the stalled state budget.

They’re planning to formally vote against a conservative House funding plan Wednesday in hopes of kick-starting an expedited process known as a conference committee.

However, there’s no guarantee that will happen.

After receiving it last week, Senate leaders quickly made it clear they don’t support a House proposal that would close the $2.2 billion budget gap primarily with one-time fund transfers instead of taxes.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state Senate is back in session, and is gearing up to respond to a budget package the House passed last week.

Senate leaders aren’t revealing much about their plans—though they indicate they have fundamental disagreements with House leaders.

Meanwhile, the standoff is prompting credit rating agencies and budget experts to put the commonwealth on their watch lists.

Senate To Confront No-Tax Package In 80-Day Budget Fight

Sep 18, 2017
Carolyn Kaster / AP

The Pennsylvania Senate is due to reconvene in Harrisburg on day 80 of an increasingly ugly budget fight.

The Senate's chief piece of business Monday is sorting through the House's no-new-taxes plan approved last week amid a three-month stalemate over plugging a projected $2.2 billion budget hole.

Sen. Pat Toomey A Key Player In Trump Tax Overhaul Effort

Sep 18, 2017
Emma Lee / WHYY

As President Donald Trump and Congress undertake an overhaul of the U.S. tax code this fall, Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is likely to be a key player in the effort.

Toomey brings a passion for tax policy and years of experience as president of the conservative group, Club for Growth.

Pennsylvania's Ugly Budget Fight Gets Personal And Regional

Sep 18, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The feel-good bipartisan spirit that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf tried to instill last year in Pennsylvania's Capitol is gone, stomped to bits in an increasingly ugly budget stalemate.

Matt Rourke / AP

The commonwealth is putting off paying over a billion dollars to insurers who administer Medicaid benefits, because its main bank account is almost out of money.

It will be at least a week before the state can afford to pay, and the delay will probably mean the insurers will charge interest.

In some ways, this is a recurring problem for the commonwealth: bills come due at the beginning of the fiscal year, but revenue doesn’t come in until later.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state House is still working on a plan to fill a $2.2 billion dollar gap in a budget that is almost three months late.

But negotiations took an unexpected turn Tuesday when the chamber adjourned suddenly without holding an expected vote on a plan from a conservative faction of members.

On Monday, House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin had appeared fairly sure a vote would happen the next day.

But something happened in the hours since then that stalled the process.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

Advocates for overhauling the redistricting process packed the Capitol rotunda Tuesday hoping to persuade lawmakers to take their quest seriously.

Pennsylvania's congressional districts are considered among the most unfair in the country.

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.

House GOP To Test Budget-Balancing Plan In Growing Stalemate

Sep 11, 2017
Carolyn Kaster / AP

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives will return to session Monday for the first time in seven weeks as a lengthening budget stalemate is drawing warnings by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf that he is out of options to make payments on time.

Hanging in the balance is $2.2 billion in program funding — about 7 percent of approved spending — and another downgrade to Pennsylvania's battered credit rating.

Matt Rourke / AP

Agencies are raising alarms over a GOP-backed House plan to redirect billions of dollars to fill gaps in the state’s badly unbalanced budget.

The proposal comes from a conservative faction of the House.

Supporters say it wouldn’t impact state departments, because the money to be transferred is all surplus that has increased over the last few years without being spent.

But a number of agencies say they’d be profoundly affected.

PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt said the funds identified as “surplus” are virtually all committed for future projects.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP, file

One of Congress’s most vocal moderates has announced he’s stepping down.

Pennsylvania’s 15th District representative, Republican Charlie Dent, announced late on Thursday that he won’t seek reelection next year—a decision he said he came to in mid-summer.

Dent has cut a distinct path over the course of his seven terms in Congress.

Recently, he opposed a GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act—a move that reportedly led President Donald Trump to tell Dent he was “destroying the Republican Party.”

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says a plan assembled by a group of House Republicans to balance Pennsylvania's budget is "nonsense" and urged House members to approve a $2.2 billion bipartisan plan that passed the state Senate in July.

Wolf said Wednesday the House GOP plan would divert aid from other programs, such as volunteer fire companies, highways and county emergency response agencies.

Wolf also repeated an earlier warning that he'll have to start freezing some spending on Sept. 15 to prevent the state's main bank account from going below zero.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A group of House Republicans has unveiled a plan to balance the more than $2 billion budget deficit by, primarily, raiding dozens of state funds.

Eighteen rank and file House Republicans said they spent most of the summer working on the plan, which they named “The Taxpayers’ Budget.”

It would transfer cash from the so-called “special” funds that help pay for a number of state programs and services. Supporters of the plan said they limited the transfers to funds with “inordinately high” balances.

Matt Rourke / AP

Election officials across the country are trying to make sure voting infrastructure is up to date, after concerns over potential hacking in the 2016 election.

Pennsylvania is no exception.

In 2002, the federal government handed down almost $4 billion for states to update their voting machines and other election equipment. Most states—including Pennsylvania—have long since drained their share.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

In Southwestern Pennsylvania, there’s a congressional district that looks like a hammer.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

For several months, the state Health Department has been refusing to disclose who is on the panels that scored applications for medical marijuana licenses.

But now, the Department of Open Records is ordering the agency to release the information. 

The Open Records decision comes after protracted back-and-forth between the DOH and PennLive.

After releasing permits to grow, process and sell medical marijuana to select applicants, the department wouldn’t name the panelists who had made those decisions.

Wolf: Pennsylvanians Will 'Get Hurt' If Budget Isn't Funded

Sep 5, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is warning that Pennsylvanians will "get hurt" if state lawmakers don't pass a revenue package to balance a nearly $32 billion budget bill they approved more than two months ago.

Wolf also told interviewers on KDKA-AM radio in Pittsburgh on Tuesday that his decision day is Sept. 15, when he'll have to start freezing some spending to prevent the state's main bank account from going below zero.

Wolf says freezing spending could affect roads, schools and emergency response systems.

No House votes are scheduled this week.

casey.senate.gov

Statewide political party leaders are starting to hone their messaging for—and against—candidates, more than a year before the midterm elections

Particular attention is already being paid to Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate race, between incumbent Democrat Bob Casey and one of several Republican challengers.

The emails have been coming steadily for a few months now.

Salvos from the state Republican Party criticize Casey’s votes against cutting funds to sanctuary cities, or his shifts to the left on abortion and gun control.

Messages from the Democrats are similar.

PA Court To Mull Hearing Partisan Gerrymandering Suit Similar To Case Before SCOTUS

Sep 1, 2017
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Tom Rentschler, an attorney and former high school teacher, has lived in Berks County for most of his life. He remembers as a young adult going to the grocery store and bumping into his local congressman.

But Rentschler, 53, says over time he and other voters in Berks County have lost their voice.

"I just don't think we have anyone speaking for our county," he says.

Few Surprises At Small Toomey Town Hall

Sep 1, 2017
Emma Lee / WHYY

In a much-anticipated town hall held Thursday night in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Pat Toomey said little that would surprise his constituents.

Alex Brandon / AP

Pennsylvania's Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is set to face voters in a televised town hall.

Toomey will take questions at the PBS station in Bethlehem on Thursday night. It's his second televised town hall since President Donald Trump took office.

Toomey, a conservative, was considered to be one of the nation's most vulnerable incumbents heading into last November's election but won a narrow victory for his second term.

Wolf To GOP: State's Finances Will Soon Be 'Much More Dire'

Aug 29, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf warned House Republican leaders Tuesday that failing to fully fund the state budget will put Pennsylvania in "a much more dire financial situation" in the coming weeks.

Wolf's letter to Speaker Mike Turzai, Majority Leader Dave Reed and six other House GOP leaders urged them to act quickly to fill the budget's $2.2 billion revenue gap.

What Will The House Do? It’s Pennsylvania’s $2B Question

Aug 28, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

The question of what Pennsylvania's House Republican majority will do about a $2.2 billion hole in the state budget is sending ripples of worry through some quarters.

Kalim Bhatti / AP

A new law going into effect Friday aims to cut down on drunk driving.

It requires first-time offenders to have breathalyzers installed in their cars—something 48 other states already do.

Car breathalyzers—officially called Ignition Interlock Systems—require drivers to blow into a device to start their vehicle. If the device detects any alcohol, the car won’t start, and it’ll also register the attempt.

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.

Emma Lee / WHYY

Lt. Governor Mike Stack, a Democrat, has been facing scrutiny for several months—ever since he was stripped of his police detail and personal staff for verbally abusing them.

Google Maps

Less than two months into a new budget year, the state seems to be engaged in a loop of borrowing and paying itself back. 

On Aug. 16, the Pennsylvania Treasury provided a $750 million loan to the General Fund to pay its bills.

“It’s always a problem when you’re having to borrow money to pay your daily living expenses,” said Deputy Treasurer Jack Stollsteimer.

The state is scheduled to repay that loan Wednesday, as August revenues come into commonwealth coffers, but then ask for another loan at the end of the month from the Treasury’s Short Term Investment Pool.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

If Pennsylvania’s $2.2 billion budget gap isn’t filled soon, Governor Tom Wolf is indicating the commonwealth could be heading for major spending freezes.

Wolf said Tuesday that the situation could be resolved if House Republicans would just agree to a Senate revenue plan that includes several new taxes.

Caucus leaders are, for the most part, staying mum on how their negotiations are progressing.

By Sept. 15, the governor said he either has to put spending for certain state programs on hold, or borrow more money from the Treasury.

Pages