Tom Wolf

Gov. Tom Wolf may not like a Senate GOP plan to overhaul pension benefits for public school and state government employees, but Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman warns that Wolf's budget plan has zero votes among the chamber's Republicans.

Corman made the comments Friday on WITF-FM's show "Smart Talk." The House has scheduled a June 4 hearing on the bill, which was fast-tracked through the Senate without a hearing. Senate Democrats opposed it.

Wolf Breaks Silence On His Ideas For Fixing Underfunded Municipal Pensions

May 15, 2015
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Gov. Tom Wolf announced a four-person task force focused on municipal pensions – and suggested some tactics they might consider when deciding what to recommend.

Wolf had yet to say during his five months in office what, specifically, he thinks municipalities should do to deal with retirement systems underfunded by an estimated $7.7 billion.

State House lawmakers are expected to take a final vote Wednesday approving a property tax relief plan similar to what Governor Tom Wolf proposed.

Like the governor’s plan, it would seek higher sales and personal income taxes in order to give Pennsylvanians a break on property taxes. The plan would not target extra relief to cities and poor school districts – something Wolf wants to do.   

The measure attracted Democratic leaders, like caucus whip, Rep. Mike Hanna (D-Clinton), and divided the chamber’s Republican majority.

Gov. Tom Wolf is opening his cabinet’s expense books up to the public. Department heads and select top aides have put their fuel costs, car leases, hotel bills and other expenses online.

Spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan said this is the first governor’s administration in Pennsylvania to share its expenses.

“The governor is very much committed to restoring the public’s trust in government,” said Sheridan. He said the expenses will probably be updated on a monthly basis.

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.

The state of Pennsylvania has filed a motion in Commonwealth Court that would force UPMC and Highmark to enter into arbitration to settle a dispute that could force some 180,000 Medicare Advantage recipients to look for new doctors or new coverage options.

State Senate GOP leaders aren't in Gov. Tom Wolf's inner circle, and they aren't happy about it.

The Senate's top Republican said last week the governor should have consulted his caucus before nominating a state treasurer.

"Who wants to be nominated by the governor that's going to go to the Senate and be voted down because the governor refuses to have a conversation with the Senate?" said Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson). "That's a ridiculous position to take to try to recruit, nominate and confirm qualified people for these positions."

Home Care Workers Vote in Favor of Representation

Apr 24, 2015

An executive order from Gov. Tom Wolf to create a representative organization for Pennsylvania’s home care workers lost a key provision Thursday when a Commonwealth Court judge barred the organization from making any written policy agreements with the governor’s office.

The executive order, which Wolf signed Feb. 27, gave home care workers the ability to vote for an organization to represent them in monthly talks with an advisory group in the governor’s office. The order also allowed the representative organization to make formal written agreements with the advisory group, but that portion of the order was blocked by Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini’s injunction.

Gov. Tom Wolf said Thursday he would veto a state proposal to eradicate local sick-leave laws in Pennsylvania if it reaches his desk.

The measure, which passed the Republican-controlled state Senate with bipartisan support last week, aims to preempt a Philadelphia law requiring businesses with 10 or more employees to give workers an hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked.

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.

Pennsylvania DAs Take Aim at Wolf's Death Penalty Moratorium

Apr 14, 2015

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association said Tuesday that Gov. Tom Wolf's death penalty moratorium could affect plea bargains and how judges and juries view executions, arguing it violates elements of the state constitution.

The association released a friend-of-the-court brief in a case before the state Supreme Court that challenges the governor's policy, saying he has misinterpreted the term "reprieve." The prosecutors said reprieves can only halt a criminal sentence for a defined period of time and for a reason that relates specifically to a particular convict.

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.

A venture-capitalist with a penchant for helping minority-owned businesses is Gov. Tom Wolf’s pick to step in as state treasurer.

Tim Reese, a resident of Montgomery County, said Tuesday that he brings more than two decades of experience in finance, most recently as a managing partner at Forge Intellectual Capital and founder of the National Minority Angel Network, which sought to invest in and provide financial literacy for companies owned by minorities, women, and veterans.

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.

Mary Wilson / WITF

For weeks, GOP lawmakers have been braying at Gov. Tom Wolf's budget proposal to reduce property taxes, saying it doesn't go far enough.

Farmers are also cottoning to that idea.

"We wouldn't support the proposal in its current state," said Mark O'Neill, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

Gov. Tom Wolf is earning a reputation as a social-media savvy executive.

Wolf took to Facebook to answer questions sent in from around the state and selected by his staff. He answered about a dozen of them during the live, video-taped exchange.

Topics ranged ranging from Wolf’s budget proposal and plans for tax increases and accompanying tax relief, to his desire to raise the state’s minimum wage and sign legislation protecting Pennsylvanians from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Education Budget Makes Charter Schools Nervous

Mar 26, 2015

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.”

Pages