Politics

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

After almost four months of false starts and negotiation breakdowns, the state legislature has passed most of a plan to fund Pennsylvania’s budget—almost entirely through borrowing and internal transfers.

Matt Rourke / AP

The legislature is crawling closer to finishing its four-months-late state budget—with the House and Senate both saying they’re aiming to finalize a plan based mostly on borrowing this week.

“It’s been a long three months, so hopefully there’s more optimism than there was for most of the time,” House Republican Leader Dave Reed said.

“But,” he added, “we’ll wait and see.”

So far, the legislature has sent the governor its fiscal code, which implements the overall budget, and which Wolf said he still has to review.

Heather Ainsworth / AP

This week the state Senate is expected to consider a budget proposal that’s already been approved by the House, and leaders say the borrowing-heavy plan might be the only avenue to finding consensus.

But disagreements remain on a key component of the revenue package: how to expand gambling.

Many House members have long wanted to legalize remote video gaming terminals—or VGTs— in bars and taverns. They argue illegal terminals already exist, and should be regulated.

Off-Year Election, Political Frustrations Contribute To Dip In PA Voter Registration

Oct 20, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Less than three weeks until Election Day, voter registration is down by about 2.5 percent in Pennsylvania compared with 2016.

Both major political parties — Democrats and Republicans — have lost members across the commonwealth.

Terry Madonna, director at the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College, said a drop in voter registration after the 2016 presidential election follows a typical pattern.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state House has now sent the Senate most of the revenue components necessary to finish Pennsylvania’s budget—more than three months behind schedule.

Senate leaders say they’ll make a good-faith effort to pass them, despite their flaws.

But the budget’s completion might still hinge on whether the chambers can agree on a gambling expansion.

The main component of the House proposal is a $1.5 billion in borrowing against the state’s Tobacco Settlement fund. That money would be paid back with interest over 20 years.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state House and Senate are back in session after taking time off following the collapse of budget negotiations earlier this month.

There’s no concrete strategy moving forward.

But some lawmakers say they hope opposition to Governor Tom Wolf’s unilateral budget-balancing plan will eventually spur the body into action.

Wolf has announced that he intends to bring the state’s books in line by borrowing against liquor control board revenues, leasing out the state Farm Show complex, and not passing funding for state related universities.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pennsylvania lawmakers might be close to a bipartisan agreement that gets a natural gas severance tax to the House floor.

Similar efforts have failed repeatedly over the last several years—and as recently as this month. But a slightly friendlier committee might make this time different.

Most House severance tax bills end up in the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, which is stacked with conservative Republicans who tend to oppose tax hikes or new taxes.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

This week is Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy’s last in Congress. The embattled politician is resigning with one year left in his term, meaning Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District must hold a special election to fill the vacancy.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

A fifth Democrat, and eighth candidate overall, has announced his run for a southwestern Pennsylvania congressional seat being vacated by GOP Congressman Tim Murphy.

Conor Lamb announced his candidacy Saturday. He recently resigned as an assistant U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh and is the nephew of Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb. This will be the first run for public office by 33-year-old Conor Lamb.

Murphy is resigning effective Oct. 21 after the anti-abortion lawmaker urged his former mistress to get an abortion.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

There are two more people entering the field vying to succeed Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta in 2019.

Former state Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff will seek the Democratic Party's nomination, and U.S. Army veteran Andrew Lewis will seek the Republican nomination.

The 66-year-old Wolff is also a fifth-generation dairy farmer in Columbia County and served on the World Trade Organization's agriculture technical committee. The 30-year-old Lewis helps run a family construction services firm in Dauphin County and ran unsuccessfully for state Senate last year.

Pennsylvania Explores New Territory In Budget Fight

Oct 16, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania's deficit-riddled finances are in new territory, as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf assembles a package to balance the state's budget without involvement from a Republican-controlled Legislature riven by ideological and provincial disputes.

Cliff Owen / AP

 

It’s been less than a week since U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) announced he’s resigning from Congress, and the field for a special election to fill his seat is already highly contested. Murphy was forced to resign amid revelations of an extramarital affair in which the anti-abortion lawmaker allegedly urged his mistress to get an abortion.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

State lawmakers are grappling with the implications of Governor Tom Wolf’s unexpected decision to balance part of the state budget himself by borrowing against the liquor industry.

House and Senate members are currently trying to figure out whether Wolf’s allowed to do that. And meanwhile, the commonwealth’s short-term cash-flow issues still aren’t resolved.

House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said while most of his caucus prefers borrowing $1.2 billion against Liquor Control Board profits over tax increases, they’re still not sold on the idea.

Charles Dharapak / AP Photo

Gov. Tom Wolf is urging the Pennsylvania legislature to make birth control coverage a mandate in the state after the Trump administration pledged to roll back Obama-era requirements that most employers cover birth control for employees through their health insurance.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

In the midst of this week’s budget negotiation meltdown, House Republicans have managed to slide a piece of priority legislation through their chamber and on to Democratic Governor Tom Wolf’s desk.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

An anti-abortion congressman asked a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair to get an abortion when he thought she might be pregnant, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

Daveynin / Flickr

After extensive closed negotiations, a House committee moved a plan to close part of the $2.2 billion gap in Pennsylvania’s overdue budget Tuesday evening.

New Gerrymandering Suit Challenges PA Maps In Federal Court

Oct 4, 2017
govtrack.us

Five Pennsylvania voters challenged the state's Congressional boundaries in federal court Monday, charging they're gerrymandered to favor Republicans.

Pennsylvania's Congressional districts are regarded as some of the most gerrymandered in the nation, giving Republicans 13 of the state's 18 Congressional seats even though there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in the Commonwealth.

Matt Rourke / AP

After a week of closed talks between legislative leaders and Governor Tom Wolf, the House and Senate are back in session together for the first time in months.

Leaders say they have a loose budget structure to work from now, though no one has officially agreed to anything.

The House hasn’t yet held official discussions with members about the framework, but the Senate did Monday afternoon.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A spokesman for Pennsylvania House Republicans says recent talks to resolve the state's three-month-old budget stalemate have been productive, and there could be a breakthrough next week.

Caucus spokesman Steve Miskin said Thursday that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's engagement has been helpful.

He says details are still being worked out, but House GOP leaders hope to have a plan to present to their members next week.

The state Senate is also coming back to session in Harrisburg on Monday, another promising sign.

Keith Srakocic / AP

While Harrisburg is mired in balancing its overdue budget, employees in the state’s Unemployment Compensation program are getting concerned that a planned fix to their funding won’t come on time.

Hundreds of UC employees were laid off last year ago after funding wasn’t renewed over fears the program was ill-managed and cost too much.

It caused mass delays for people trying to claim unemployment benefits.

Matt Rourke / AP

As Pennsylvania lawmakers fight over the details of a long-overdue budget funding plan, the commonwealth is having trouble covering short-term costs.

Pennsylvania Loses Billions Under GOP Bill, Analysts Say

Sep 22, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Independent analysts say Pennsylvania would be one of the hardest-hit states under Senate legislation that would take federal health care subsidies provided under President Barack Obama's 2010 law and redistribute it among states.

On Friday, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf urged Pennsylvania's U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey to reject the bill that's scheduled for a vote next week. Analysts including the Kaiser Family Foundation and Avalere Health say Pennsylvania would lose billions of federal health care dollars, while some other states would get billions in new federal dollars.

Fred Vuich / AP

Federal prosecutors have taken over the case of a National Guardsman who allegedly threatened Vice President Mike Pence before his visit to Pennsylvania for the annual observance of the Flight 93 crash on Sept. 11.

State prosecutors have dropped terroristic threat and disorderly conduct charges now that prosecutors in Johnstown have charged 22-year-old William Robert Dunbar with threats against the vice president. The charge against the Berlin man carries up to five years in prison.

Pennsylvania Takes Credit Ratings Hit Amid Budget Fight

Sep 20, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania's credit rating took its latest hit Wednesday, another black eye in a nearly three-month budget stalemate that has pitted Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Senate against the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

The credit rating agency Standard and Poor's lowered its rating on Pennsylvania's debt, citing the state's stubborn post-recession deficit and its history of late budgets, as well as Standard and Poor's belief that the pattern could continue.

Pennsylvania On Edge Of Missing Payments In Budget Stalemate

Sep 15, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state government appeared on the edge, for the first known time, of missing a payment as a result of not having enough cash on hand amid a feud over how to patch a $2.2 billion budget gap.

Gov. Tom Wolf's office has not revealed how the Democrat will manage through a cash crunch that he has said will leave his administration unable to pay every bill on time, three months into the fiscal year. Beginning Friday, the state's main bank account was projected to go below zero.

Matt Rourke / AP

The Pennsylvania Senate's Republican majority leader is pledging fast action following the House's passage of a plan to help plug state government's $2.2 billion budget gap almost three months into the fiscal year.

Sen. Jake Corman said in a statement late Wednesday night that senators recognize the situation's urgency. Thursday is the last day that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says his administration has enough cash to pay bills on time until the spring.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state House of Representatives has narrowly voted to move a budget plan built largely on one-time fund transfers.

Although it represents the first action on the overdue budget in well over a month, it’s unclear how much it’ll move the needle toward a resolution.

The Senate and the administration of Governor Tom Wolf both support a very different plan that raises several taxes—something the House majority wants to avoid completely.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

According to the state constitution, congressional districts should be compact, contiguous and respect county lines. But that isn’t exactly the case for Pennsylvania’s 12th.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

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

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