Tom Wolf

Education Budget Makes Charter Schools Nervous

7 hours ago

Advocates for Pennsylvania’s charter schools are worried that Governor Tom Wolf’s new education budget would force some schools to close their doors.

Wolf’s 2015-2016 education budget includes more money for preschool through college education, but one school group is feeling ostracized.

“Charter schools in Pennsylvania are already receiving far less per pupil than their traditional school peers,” said Kara Kerwin, President of the Center for Education Reform. “On average it’s about 30 percent less per pupil.”

Mary Wilson / WITF

Col. Marcus Brown is an outsider wearing an insider’s uniform, and it’s threatening to sideline his career with the Wolf administration.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

For weeks, state lawmakers have been asking for more details about how Gov. Tom Wolf's tax proposals will affect their constituents. They recently got an answer from the state House GOP.

Essential Pittsburgh: A Conversation with Governor Wolf

Mar 16, 2015
Tom Wolf / Flickr

Now that Pennsylvania is transitioning to a full Medicaid expansion, what happens if the Supreme Court decides to unravel Obamacare? And will Gov. Tom Wolf’s death penalty moratorium survive a lawsuit filed by the Philadelphia DA? Hear the answers to those questions in his first Essential Pittsburgh interview since the election.

Regarding his plan for using the sales tax to help the Commonwealth's budget deficit, Wolf explains:

"We simply can't keep doing what we're doing -- that is, consume public goods but not pay for them, and we've been doing that for years and years. It's a bipartisan thing, but we need to finally address that, and be honest about the deficits, and I want to do that. - Gov. Wolf

Also in the program, Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak discusses ongoing efforts by UMPC workers to unionize, Evelyn Roche tells the story of Guinness beer, WESA contributor Margaret J. Krauss gives some history of LGBT culture in Pittsburgh, and business contributor Rebecca Harris talks women in the workplace.

David Trawin / flickr

Support for legalizing medical marijuana is growing in Pennsylvania, according to a poll conducted by Robert Morris University.

The survey showed 67.5 percent of Pennsylvanians are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana, up from 56.1 percent in a similar RMU poll last year.

Flickr user Alex Proimos

The Wolf administration has announced its timeline for the transition to a traditional Medicaid expansion.

Beginning in April, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services will transfer individuals enrolled in the General Assistance and Select Plan programs from the private coverage option (PCO) to the new Adult benefit package, dubbed HealthChoices.

Matt Rourke / Associated Press

The state budget discussions are a week old, and lawmakers are mired in dueling numbers.

Governor Tom Wolf's administration has referred to a $2.3 billion budget deficit, but the state Independent Fiscal Office estimates the deficit to be a bit south of that figure.

"We would revise it down to something closer to $1.5 or $1.6" billion, said IFO Director Matthew Knittel, during his testimony before the House Appropriations Committee. Knittel said his agency's estimate accounts for lapses -- budget funds that were never spent.

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.

Representative Dave Reed's office

Governor Tom Wolf is set to give his budget address to the General Assembly  Tuesday morning, and lawmakers are expecting proposals for significant tax changes, in addition to the plans already shared by the governor.

Wolf has said he’ll seek a five percent tax on natural gas drillers and rework the state’s corporate tax infrastructure.

More than two dozen former Pennsylvania Department of Health nurses were offered reinstatement by Gov. Tom Wolf last week after their positions were eliminated by the Corbett administration.

In November, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, which sued Gov. Tom Corbett in 2013 over his plan to close 26 community health centers and eliminate 26 nursing positions to save an estimated $3.4 million a year.

Matt Rourke / Associated Press

Gov. Tom Wolf, who ran last year with the backing of environmental groups, will soon be giving a first glimpse at how his administration will approach the powerful Marcellus Shale natural gas industry.

Next week, Wolf's Department of Environmental Protection is preparing to release its plans to update various rules over the drilling industry, including how it must prevent methane leaks and how it must handle toxic wastewater.

Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board

By a vote of 114-87, the state House has passed a proposal to take apart the state’s liquor system, though the measure is heading to an unenthusiastic Senate and an opposed governor.  

The measure would phase out most state-owned wine and spirit stores and put the state in charge of selling licenses to private retail and wholesale vendors.

House debate went for hours on the merits of the bill – despite the fact that it’s headed for almost certain changes in the Senate.

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.

Matt Rourke / Associated Press

Governor Tom Wolf says he could’ve picked his words better when he said that Pennsylvania’s biggest problem is “low self-esteem.”

At a recent meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington, D.C., C-SPAN recorded Wolf’s response to the question: what is the biggest economic issue facing Pennsylvania?

“This is going to sound strange, I mean I agree with everybody – education, we gotta build out the infrastructure, we have to make investments to make sure the economy can function,” said Wolf. “But I think the biggest problem in Pennsylvania is low self-esteem.”

Gov. Tom Wolf is holding off on a search for a permanent director of the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records while a state court considers whether he had legal authority to fire the last one.

Wolf's lawyers said in court filings this week, ahead of a Commonwealth Court hearing next month, that he has delayed the national search "out of respect for the expedited judicial process."

Another new filing, by the Office of Open Records, argues the court should remove it from the case brought by Erik Arneson and the state Senate Republican caucus against Wolf.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Last Friday, Governor Tom Wolf announced a hold on all executions in Pennsylvania, due to ongoing questions about the effectiveness of capital punishment.

While the death penalty is on hold, State Senator Daylin Leach is taking steps to repeal the practice in PA altogether.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Gov. Tom Wolf campaigned on a promise to pump $1 billion into public education, and he was in Monroeville Monday promoting his plan to do just that.

Wolf has proposed severance tax of 5 percent plus 4.7 cents per thousand cubic feet of natural gas extracted. He said the Independent Fiscal Authority determined that would amount to an overall tax of about 5.8 percent.

Wolf Proposes Natural Gas Extraction Tax

Feb 13, 2015
Gerry Dincher / Flickr

Governor Wolf has proposed a 5 percent natural gas extraction tax that would be based on both the value and volume of gas extraction from natural gas wells.

For its part, the natural gas industry has fought hard against such a tax in Pennsylvania, saying it will discourage continued investment.

But is this myth or fact?

“The argument from the drilling industry is that the state already has high corporate income tax and the industry is ... paying its fair share in other ways beside a severance tax," says Reid Frazier, a reporter for the Allegheny Front. 

He goes on to say that environmental groups have been a bit silent about this proposal. 

“Some of the environmental groups are waiting to see more details, to see specifics. There are certain environmental clean up initiatives they would like to see. State programs to clean up run off from agriculture, abandon mine clean up. That’s a five billion dollar problem in Pennsylvania that is essentially not funded. They would like to see more funds go to that.”

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Governor Tom Wolf has announced a moratorium on the death penalty, calling the state’s capital sentencing system “riddled with flaws.”

“The only certainty in the current system is that the process will be drawn out, expensive, and painful for all involved,” said Wolf in a written statement released Friday.

The moratorium will remain in effect until Wolf has reviewed the forthcoming report of the Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Commission on Capital Punishment.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Gov. Tom Wolf fleshed out his plan to tax natural-gas drilling Wednesday, saying it would bring Pennsylvania into line with other gas-producing states and generate as much as $1 billion a year largely earmarked for helping the state's financially strained public schools.

The Democrat made his case for the tax during a visit to Caln Elementary School in Thorndale, located in one of the poorest school districts in Chester County, as he kicked off a statewide "Schools that Teach" tour.

Governor Wolf Begins Dismantling Corbett’s Healthy PA Program

Feb 10, 2015
Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

When Tom Wolf was campaigning for Governor, he said he would do away with then-Governor Tom Corbett's Healthy PA plan, and replace it with a full Medicaid expansion supported by the Affordable Care Act.

This week Gov. Wolf officially announced plans to transition from Healthy PA to the Medicaid expansion. We'll talk about the implications of this change with Antoinette Kraus, Director of PA Health Access Network.

Kraus says that her organization is relieved to see that Healthy PA will be phased out and the Medicaid expansion will be implemented. The PA Health Access Network has worked to enroll hundreds of Pennsylvanians in Healthy PA, but she says that the program has been complicated and bureaucratic, with substantial limits on accessing care and benefits.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration on Monday announced it is simplifying the benefits packages for adult Medicaid recipients.

Wolf's administration released letter to the federal government saying it is withdrawing a request from former Gov. Tom Corbett for approval of a low-risk benefits package for healthier adults.

The governor’s nominees selected to fill two vacancies on the state Supreme Court appear poised for easy approval by the state Senate.

On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf selected Democrat Ken Gormley, dean of Duquesne Law School, and Republican Thomas Kistler, Centre County President Judge.

The case over whether Gov. Tom Wolf can remove the head of the Office of Open Records will go before a panel of seven Commonwealth Court judges next month.

Both sides of the dispute struck a deal after a hearing Wednesday. Senate GOP lawyers arguing on behalf of Erik Arneson, the fired Office of Open Records director, said they would withdraw their request that he be immediately restored to the director’s post. In exchange, the Office of Attorney General, arguing for the Wolf administration, said that Arneson could not participate in any Open Records business.

McCord Resigns Amid Extortion Scandal

Feb 3, 2015
Rob McCord website

Now that former Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord has admitted using the influence of his office to get money from prospective donors to his gubernatorial campaign, what happens next? And what does his resignation mean for the future of the state? Capitol correspondent Mary Wilson provides her analysis and her forecast for Harrisburg’s political climate to come.

The squabble between state Senate Republicans and Governor Tom Wolf is ramping up. A Senate committee on Tuesday brushed aside Wolf’s recall of 28 nominations made by his predecessor.

Instead, the panel approved 13 of the 28 nominations made by former Governor Corbett in the twilight of his term, queuing up the names for a confirmation vote in the full Senate.

Senate GOP spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said the same committee would eventually take up the remaining 15 Corbett nominations.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said Thursday he would void 28 last-minute nominations made by his Republican predecessor, Gov. Tom Corbett, as well as the "midnight appointment" of Erik Arneson as director of the state's Office of Open Records.

Arneson, a former top aide in the state Senate GOP, was selected to run the OOR less than two weeks before Wolf's inauguration.

Wolf criticized the appointment at the time.

Before he took the oath of office, Gov. Tom Wolf said that as governor he would push for legislation that would implement paid sick leave for employees of businesses with 50 of more employees. That has some business groups in the state concerned.

“We’ve gone through this issue before,” said Gene Barr, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. “The problem isn’t in having people get sick time, it’s in government mandating or dictating exactly what that structure needs to look like.”

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Gov. Tom Wolf has taken his oath of office, using his inauguration address to call for a statewide transformation.

“As you know, I laid out a plan during the campaign to give Pennsylvania a fresh start, and we will debate those ideas, I know, in the days and months and years to come,” said Wolf, turning to his left, where Republican House and Senate leaders chuckled.

As Gov.-elect Tom Wolf takes the oath of office Tuesday many in the state have high hopes that he will lead Pennsylvania into an improved business and economic climate but most analysts admit the governor has very little day-to-day impact on the state’s economy. 

However, the head of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development seems to hold a little more sway.

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