Tom Wolf

Republicans Eye Revenue Assumptions In Wolf's Budget

1 hour ago
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Republican lawmakers are using budget hearings to question Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's assumptions for revenue from a minimum wage increase and a new tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production.

Tuesday's start of House and Senate hearings featured the nonpartisan Independent Fiscal Office and the Department of Revenue.

Wolf's $32.3 billion budget plan has won praise from Republicans for its modest spending increase and efforts to save money. But they're criticizing its reliance on $1 billion in tax increases to help fill Pennsylvania's stubborn post-recession deficit.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The Confluence – where the news comes together is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist, and host, Kevin Gavin. They’ll go behind the headlines taking an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

This week's topics include the unveiling of Gov. Tom Wolf's 2017-18 budget, political challengers to Mayor Peduto in the May primary and the investigation of cheating and misconduct at the Pennsylvania State Police Academy.

Chris Knight / AP

The top-ranking Republican in the Pennsylvania House says he's encouraged by aspects of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's budget proposal, but says there's a lot in the details that needs to be closely examined.

House Speaker Mike Turzai said Tuesday that Wolf took a few pages from the GOP playbook in crafting a $32.3 billion spending plan that does not raise income or sales tax rates.

Still, Turzai says he'd like to see more emphasis on privatizing government functions, encouraging school choice and reducing state debt.

Wolf Seeks Cuts, Revenues To Plug $3B Budget Gap

Feb 7, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf asked lawmakers Tuesday to help fill a $3 billion projected deficit by imposing a tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production and signing off on potentially touchy cuts in spending, including transportation aid to schools.

Katie Meyer

Pennsylvania's Senate Democrats are calling for reforms to the commonwealth's long-standing system of using property taxes to pay for public schools.

It's an initiative that's renewed nearly every session. But now, the group is calling for a special legislative session.

School property tax collections this fiscal year are in the range of $14 billion.

The system has long been criticized for allowing the state's wealthiest school systems to collect far more tax money than their lower-income peers.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Less than a week before he presents his 2017-18 budget, Gov. Tom Wolf is revealing few hints about his spending plan other than it will be streamlined and won't include any “broad-based tax increases."

Wolf hasn't said if the new budget will be less, the same or more than the current $31.5 billion one.

“You’ll have to wait and see,” Wolf said. “I think this has to be living within our means and not fudging the numbers. Not smoke and mirrors, not making stuff up.”

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf will ask lawmakers for another $10 million to help save the lives of people overdosing on heroin or prescription drugs.

The Wolf administration said Tuesday that the Democratic governor wants the money to help law enforcement agencies and first responders buy the overdose antidote naloxone.

Grants would be available through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Wolf will make the request in the budget proposal he submits to the Legislature next week for the fiscal year starting July 1.

Merging 4 Agencies Seen As Way To Cut Red Tape, Not Programs

Jan 30, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration says consolidating four state public health agencies into a single department will improve efficiency, eliminate red tape and keep benefits programs intact. But it's not giving a projection on how much money it could save and a spokesman says any layoffs will be minimal since the administration's already pared back employee complements.

The Wolf administration made its first public comments on the plan Monday. The administration notified agency employees Friday, but gave no details.

Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

Protesters have gathered at Philadelphia International Airport to protest President Donald Trump's travel ban.

The protesters began waving signs and chanting "Let them in!" and other slogans Sunday afternoon. 

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) announced Thursday that State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh will shut down by June 30, 2017.

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

In a surprise announcement last week, the state said it would close two of its prisons.

And while lawmakers and local leaders have begun discussing how the closures could affect their economies, civil rights groups have turned their attention to the conditions inside the prisons.

The state still hasn’t decided which two prisons will close, but the changes will push several thousand inmates into other facilities across the state.

Andy Hoover, with the American Civil Liberties Union, said it’s hard to know exactly how to interpret this.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Though Republicans boosted their stronghold in the state legislature as they were sworn into office Tuesday, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said he's used to working in a bi-partisan manner. 

Republicans now have a veto proof majority in the Senate, 34-16, and increased their margin to 39 seats in the House, 121-82.

Wolf said he doesn’t believe the stronger GOP grip on the legislature will affect his upcoming budget, nor has it forced him to adjust his priorities.

Mel Evans / AP

Pennsylvania is throttling back on one of its signature economic development programs.

The Philadelphia Inquirer  reports the administration of Governor Tom Wolf has sent rejection letters to Philadelphia, Coatesville and other municipalities that submitted applications to the Keystone Opportunity Zone program.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Sure, everyone in the family bundles up, squishes into the family car and drives to the one street with the good Christmas lights each year. 

Gov. Tom Wolf / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania’s mid-fiscal year budget report has confirmed what the Independent Fiscal Office has been warning for well over a month: underperforming revenues are putting the commonwealth on track for a shortfall of around $600 million.

So how bad is that?

By all accounts, it’s a tenuous place for the state’s bank account to be. But it’s not without precedent.

Gov. Wolf Eliminating 'Thousands' Of Unfilled State Jobs

Dec 16, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

 

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf says he's eliminating thousands of unfilled positions in state government as the state faces a large budget deficit.

The Wolf administration told cabinet agencies in a Friday memo obtained by The Associated Press that it is effectively limiting the size of the state workforce to the number of positions now filled.

Wolf's press secretary, Jeff Sheridan, says the decision will affect thousands of positions. But he says he doesn't have a precise number or know how much money will be saved.

GOP Eyes Big State Government Changes In Lean Budget Year

Dec 14, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

State officials warned Wednesday Pennsylvania faces a projected $600 million shortfall for its current budget year, while one of the Legislature's top Republicans suggested sweeping structural changes to state government may be needed to solve the latest fiscal jam.

The projected shortfall in the state government's $31.5 billion budget is very bad fiscal news for budget makers who have struggled to address a persistent post-recession deficit that has damaged the state's credit rating.

Matt Rourke / AP

As the state legislature and governor contend with a mounting structural state deficit of more than two billion dollars, the topic of government spending—and the need to make it more efficient—has become inescapable around the Capitol.

Law Insuring 1 Million Pennsylvanians Faces Uncertain Future

Dec 12, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

 

 

About 1 million people in Pennsylvania are receiving government-subsidized health insurance under Democrats' 2010 health care law that is facing an uncertain future as Republican President-elect Donald Trump takes office next month with a pledge to repeal it.

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. 

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania's governor is cleaning up dozens of what he calls outdated and unneeded executive orders that he inherited from seven previous governors.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday announced he was rescinding 46 of them, some that were established about three decades ago. Six were signed in the past decade.

Wolf says many of them involve entities that no longer exist.

David Amsler / Flickr

Republican state Sen. Scott Wagner is filing a Right-to-Know request over the layoffs of several hundred state employees.

The York County lawmaker is being blamed by Democratic Governor Tom Wolf and union leaders for being a major cause of the layoffs.

But Wagner contends that Wolf is at fault.

At the end of the 2016 legislative session last month, the GOP-led Senate decided not to vote on a funding bill for the state’s unemployment compensation program.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

 

Gov. Tom Wolf has signed a bill into law that expands the list of firearms permitted for hunting in Pennsylvania to include semi-automatic rifles and handguns.

The new law doesn't make semi-automatic weapons legal for hunting in time for the upcoming firearm deer season, which begins Monday.

Semi-automatic firearms discharge one shot for each pull of the trigger. The next cartridge is automatically pushed into the firing chamber.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Layoff notices are going out to more than 500 Pennsylvania state employees because of a dispute over additional state funding for unemployment compensation services.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's administration said roughly 520 employees will have received the notices by Tuesday.

The employees' last day on the job will be Dec. 19, when the Wolf administration plans to close unemployment compensation service centers in Allentown, Altoona and Lancaster.

Wolf Vetoes Bill On When To ID Cops Involved In Deadly Force

Nov 21, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

 

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is vetoing legislation that would have restricted the situations in which police officers are identified after firing their weapon or using force that results in death or serious injury.

Wolf rejected the legislation Monday, after it passed both the Republican-controlled House and Senate by veto-proof majorities last month.

Geoffrey Franklin / flickr

Big changes are coming to beer sales in Pennsylvania.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation Tuesday that will allow the state's more than 1,000 beer distributors to sell suds in any quantity. That includes individual 32-ounce bottles, four-packs, six-packs and growlers.

The law takes effect in 60 days.

Matt Slocum / AP

 

 

Democrat Josh Shapiro became Pennsylvania's next Attorney General in a close win over Republican opponent John Rafferty.

 

Shapiro, of Abington, is the chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners and was a member of the State House from 2005-12. Rafferty, of Lower Providence, spent three years as a deputy attorney general from 1988-91 and has served in the state Senate for 16 years.

 

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Five new Pennsylvania laws are now in place to address the state's opioid addiction and abuse problem, including limits on how much can be prescribed in an emergency room or issued to children .

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

State legislators approved multiple bills targeting opioid restrictions among the flurry of final pre-election activity. While Governor Tom Wolf said the four bills restricting opioid analgesic prescribing and improving doctor education shows that progress is being made, he said that “by no means are we across the finish line.”

Wolf On Opioid Crisis: 'Too Many Futures Robbed'

Oct 5, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A total of 3,383 drug-related overdose deaths were reported in Pennsylvania in 2015. That’s nearly 25 per cent more than the number of deaths in 2014. Governor Tom Wolf has called it a crisis and made dealing with it a priority. The governor spoke with 90.5 WESA’s Paul Guggenheimer about initiatives he and the legislature are working on in the handful of voting days that remain.

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

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