Tom Wolf

PA School Districts Brace For Prolonged State Budget Battle

Aug 26, 2015
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The school year is soon to begin, and districts across the state of Pennsylvania are faced with a troubling proposition: How do you stay afloat when a very large chunk of your budget is nonexistent?

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Many Pennsylvania public schools are starting the school year with a worried eye toward Harrisburg.

Some are putting off bills. Some plan to borrow money. But Education Secretary Pedro Rivera said Monday he's not sure how much longer the budget impasse can continue before school operations are compromised.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Now seven weeks late, state budget negotiations have prompted rallies and protests by community groups, non-profit organizations, service providers and citizens all imploring Gov. Tom Wolf and the General Assembly to come to a consensus.

The Grandparents Support Group added their voice to the mix Tuesday at a gathering outside East Hills-based A Second Chance Inc., an agency that serves children being cared for by relatives or family friends.

“We cannot do anything, not unless the budget is passed. Our children are our future – no budget, no future,” said Shirley Pinnock, a grandmother from Wilkinsburg.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

A tentative proposal from Gov. Tom Wolf to change state pensions isn't sparking much agreement.

The governor has floated a "scenario" under which he would scale back retirement benefits for state and school workers, but top Republicans say the changes don't go far enough.

"It's just not even in the ballpark of what we would think we could acceptably sell to Republican members in the Senate," said Drew Crompton, chief counsel to GOP Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati.

Expert Assesses Risk Of Oil Train Derailment In Pennsylvania

Aug 17, 2015
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

With as many as 70 oil trains rumbling across Pennsylvania each week, the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday released a series of recommendations meant to reduce the risk of a catastrophic derailment, including reduced speeds through cities, beefed-up track inspections and a call for trackside communities to plan for an emergency.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

A grand jury judge says he won't take any legal action responding to Attorney General Kathleen Kane's public plea to release pornographic e-mails she says are being suppressed by people who want to force her from office.

"Kane has not filed with me any petition, pleading, motion or other request for Court action," said Montgomery County Judge William Carpenter in a written statement. "Accordingly, I will take no official action at this time."

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The engineers of the current state budget impasse are sitting down for another design meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The new fiscal year began July 1. Negotiations between the governor and top lawmakers have been held about once a week since then.

"We had productive discussion," said House Speaker Mike Turzai after a budget confab last month. "We really rolled up our sleeves."

Matt Rourke / AP Images

As the budget impasse grinds into its sixth week Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf says he is willing to compromise but not “compromise away our future.”

“I think that is why I was elected,” Wolf said. “I’m a native Pennsylvanian and I’m not about to compromise the future of my state away.”

A list released recently names Tom Wolf as the most liberal governor in the country. He prefers the term “practical.”

The ranking came from InsideGov, a product of data visualization company FindtheBest. Governors were evaluated using their campaign platforms, public statements, and voting records.

Wolf demurred on his first-place finish, saying on WITF’s Smart Talk that people should judge him by what he’s done.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File

Economists are questioning a top Senate Republican’s claims that a new tax proposed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf would devastate the natural gas drilling industry.

On WITF’s Smart Talk, Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati responded to a comment about polls showing the majority of Pennsylvanians support a severance tax on natural gas drillers.

Courtesy photo

Gov. Tom Wolf has picked retired Major Tyree C. Blocker to be the next commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, after the governor’s first nominee failed to win the state Senate’s confirmation in June.

The nomination represents a homecoming for Blocker, a Chester County resident, who spent 30 years with the State Police. Blocker was a trailblazer as an African-American commander and ran the Bureau of Drug Law Enforcement when cocaine was flooding into Pennsylvania.

In a state budget stalemate with few compromises, a left-leaning think tank says focusing on property tax relief could prompt some bipartisan agreement.

Gov. Tom Wolf made his pitch to offer property tax relief central to his proposed budget. In May, the state House passed a GOP-crafted proposal with bipartisan backing.

It included the kind of broad-based tax increases Republican leaders now say they can't support. 

The top House Republican says he'll try to override the governor's budget veto if negotiations don't starting yielding consensus.

"We have to look at overriding if we're not going to have a substantive discussion," said House Speaker Mike Turzai, during his appearance at the Harrisburg Press Club luncheon on Monday.

Turzai said an override should be the "goal" of the GOP-controlled Legislature, though he's not sure if such a move would have the votes to pass.

Minor Parties Get Win In PA Ballot-Access Lawsuit

Jul 24, 2015

A federal court is throwing out provisions in Pennsylvania law that minor political parties say make it unconstitutionally difficult for their candidates to get onto ballots.

The ruling released Friday by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel targets the financial penalties that judges can impose on candidates for office who lose a challenge to their nomination papers, but he's also striking down the state's higher signature requirement for the nomination papers of minor party candidates.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday said goodbye and good luck to his chief of staff for the past six months and turned to his legislative liaison, Mary Isenhour, to step in as his top aide.

Katie McGinty resigned Wednesday and is expected to launch a bid for U.S. Senate in 2016 after being courted intensively by national Democrats. She would not confirm Thursday that she intends to run.

AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma, File

Katie McGinty, chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf, is stepping down, reportedly to prepare for an announcement of her candidacy for U.S. Senate in 2016.

Wolf's spokesman said McGinty submitted her resignation Wednesday, first reported by the National Journal. She has been considering a U.S. Senate run for the past few weeks.

McGinty's departure comes as Wolf is still trying to hammer out a budget agreement with a GOP-controlled Legislature. But a feud with Senate Republicans has smoldered for months since she took a shot at their proposal to change public pension benefits in May.

Reid Frazier / The Allegheny Front

Gov. Tom Wolf said he would be "willing to have conversations" about compromises on the 5 percent severance tax on natural gas he's proposed to balance the state budget.

"I'm willing to have conversations," Wold told reporters while touring Big Beaver Elementary School in Darlington on Monday. "I want a better Pennsylvania. If I'm convinced we can have a better Pennsylvania with something better than what I've proposed, then I'm all ears."

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf isn't ruling out a switch to 401(k)-style retirement plans for future state and school employees.

"I think we can actually come up with a pension plan that's fair to employees and that meets the concerns that have been expressed by taxpayers," said Wolf when asked if he could sign such a proposal.

AP Photo/Chris Knight

Some see the state Capitol deadlock over a state budget as political dysfunction or theatre. But it's also a social experiment: this is the year Pennsylvanians will see how a court decision ending "payless paydays" affects the budget negotiations.

One week after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a GOP budget curtailing the state’s authority to spend money, negotiations over a new plan are at a standstill.

A Tuesday meeting between Republicans and the governor appeared to yield no progress toward the middle on a mix of tax proposals offered by Wolf and opposed by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Gov. Tom Wolf has let fly another veto of a major Republican priority – the privatization of the state-run liquor system.

In a written statement Thursday, Wolf said he doesn’t want to sell a state asset before it reaches its full money-making potential: “This legislation falls short of a responsible means to reform our state liquor system and to maximize revenues to benefit our citizen.”

Steve Miskin, House GOP spokesman, called the move disappointing.

AP Photo/Chris Knight

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf says even though formal budget negotiations will not begin until Monday morning, he and his staff will be busy over the holiday weekend. 

The Democratic governor rejected the budget passed by the Republican-controlled House and Senate, leaving the state without a spending plan as of Wednesday. He said both sides have put down their markers.

Late budgets aren’t the statewide shock they used to be.

Sure, the commonwealth loses the authority to make certain payments. Standoffs in the '70s, '80s and '90s meant thousands of state workers went unpaid. But recent court rulings say the state has to pay its employees’ salaries. Other critical services will have to be funded as well.

“I don’t think people should be terribly panicked or concerned,” said Christopher Craig, chief counsel to the state Treasurer. “It will take quite some for any real impact to be noticeable.”

AP Photo/Chris Knight

The war of rhetoric has begun in earnest in Harrisburg over the state budget. This week, the Republican controlled House and Senate approved a balanced $30 billion budget that was quickly vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf Tuesday.

Wolf, who is a Democrat, said the budget is based on gimmicks and lacks fiscal integrity.

AP Photo/Chris Knight

Pennsylvania's Democratic governor is inviting legislative leaders to meet in his Capitol offices, a day after the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a state budget he vetoed.

Gov. Tom Wolf said he hopes the Wednesday afternoon meeting will restart negotiations over a spending plan for the fiscal year that has just begun.

AP Photo/Chris Knight

Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed the entire GOP-crafted budget package sent to him Tuesday.

The governor announced his plans shortly after the bill passed the Republican-controlled Legislature Friday night. He has pointed out that the spending blueprint lacks his top priorities — a new tax on the natural gas industry, for starters. On Tuesday, Wolf said the budget also lacks basic fiscal integrity.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is applauding the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, but says state lawmakers should follow up by passing a law to protect people against discrimination based on their sexual or gender preference.

Wolf said in a statement Friday that the high court's 5-4 decision makes clear that "gay marriage" is now simply marriage and same-sex couples cannot be denied the pursuit of happiness.

Lindsay Lazarski / Keystone Crossroads

The centerpiece of Gov. Tom Wolf's state budget died its umpteenth death around a negotiating table this week.

Republican legislative leaders emerged from closed-door negotiations with the Democratic Wolf administration to announce that the governor's proposed severance tax on natural gas drillers is a non-negotiable no-go.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The tentative optimism about a timely state budget is giving way to partisan backbiting as lawmakers enter the last week before their deadline to approve a state spending plan.

Gov. Tom Wolf and the GOP-controlled Legislature appear to be stuck, both sides unwilling to compromise major priorities tied up with the state’s spending plan due June 30.

AP Photo/Andrew Rush

Although Pennsylvania has experienced a recent boom in natural gas production, many wells have no direct connection to the main infrastructure of pipelines.

The Wolf administration has created the Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force (PITF), to oversee the fulfillment of the demand for connecting pipelines.

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