Tom Wolf

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

After long months of partisan debate over funding for Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation program, the legislature has passed a fix—of sorts.

Rogelio Solis / AP

The Senate Education Committee has advanced a bill that would give schools in Pennsylvania the option of allowing teachers and other staff to carry concealed guns.

Supporters say it’s a matter of letting schools make the safety decisions that fit them best, while opponents call it irresponsible and unnecessary.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

State House Republicans are attempting to chart a new course for liquor sales in Pennsylvania, pushing a traditionally state-run system further and further toward privatization.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Several House committees held the latest in a string of hearings Monday about Governor Tom Wolf’s plan to consolidate four state agencies.

Many lawmakers expressed the same concerns they’ve been voicing for weeks—they want more details before they make any decisions.

The combination of the departments of Drugs and Alcohol, Aging, Human Services, and Health is considered the biggest agency merger the commonwealth has ever done.

Indiana County Republican Cris Dush voiced a common complaint—that it’s all moving way too fast.

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Rangers and personnel at Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks and forests will soon be equipped with the overdose-reversal drug naloxone.

 

Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday that the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources would provide its officers with the medication, used to help minimize opioid-related fatalities.

 

“We’re losing over 10 people every day to this disaster,” Wolf said. “This is an epidemic that affects everybody in Pennsylvania – all across the state. Rural areas, rich and poor, men and women. It affects everybody.”

 

Daveynin / Flickr

The House GOP-led budget proposal—which passed on to the Senate last week—has drawn criticism from legislative Democrats, and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf for its austere tax cuts.

But it’s also seeing pushback from a more bipartisan group: the Pennsylvania County Commissioners Association.

For the last few budget cycles, state funding has stayed largely flat for a number of county-level programs—including probation services, behavioral health services, and the multi-use Human Services Development Fund.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

One of the more contentious parts of Governor Tom Wolf’s budget proposal is a bid to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $12 an hour.

It’s currently $7.25—the lowest the federal government allows.

Associated Press

The state House has passed a bill to keep certain drug and violent crime offenders in prison longer.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Eight weeks after Governor Tom Wolf unveiled a $32.3 billion budget proposal for the new fiscal year, the Republican-controlled state House Tuesday approved its own version, a $31.5 billion spending plan.

The GOP plan was introduced Monday and was approved quickly along party lines with four Republicans joining all Democrats in voting “no.”  The Republican budget includes no tax hikes and cuts $800 million from Wolf’s proposal.

The governor called the Republican version “an opening conversation.”

Pennsylvania House GOP Plan Doubles Down On Spending

Apr 4, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

House Republicans on Monday unveiled a $31.5 billion no-new-taxes budget proposal for Pennsylvania government that would add politically touchy cutbacks to a relatively austere plan floated by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf as the state grapples with a huge deficit.

The plan left many questions unanswered, including how it would fill a projected $3 billion deficit without a tax increase, and how it would find such significant savings in two of the costliest services in state government, prisons and health care for the poor.

Matt Rourke / AP

The 2018 gubernatorial election is still well over a year away. But already, Republicans are announcing intentions to contest Democratic incumbent Tom Wolf’s bid for reelection.

It’s likely that GOP House Speaker Mike Turzai—long rumored to be interested in higher office—will soon be among them.

Pittsburgh-based political agency Cold Spark Media has confirmed it’s working with the Allegheny County Republican. Mark Harris, a partner with the agency acting as Turzai’s strategist, said the politician may explore a run more seriously after the state budget is finished.

Matt Rourke / AP

The Wolf administration is gearing up to launch one of the most ambitious parts of its proposed 2017-18 budget—consolidating four of the state’s biggest health agencies.

But few concrete details have been released about merging the departments of Human Services, Drugs and Alcohol, Health, and Aging. And lawmakers are expressing concerns that the plan won’t be fully ready by budget day in three months.

Rich Moffitt / AP

A former Democratic state senator is being nominated to fill an opening on the five-member Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday announced his choice of John Wozniak for a seat recently vacated when Sean Logan was appointed to the Pennsylvanian Gaming Control Board.

Wozniak did not run last year for another term in a Johnstown-area Senate seat.

He'd been in the Legislature since 1980 and had served as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Transportation Committee.

Wolf Urges Mixed Pennsylvania Delegation To Defeat GOP Bill

Mar 22, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Reaction to Republican health care legislation speeding toward a vote was mixed Wednesday among Pennsylvania's 18-member U.S. House delegation, as Gov. Tom Wolf made another attempt at urging them to defeat it, saying it would jeopardize people's lives.

In a letter Wolf's office released publicly, the Democratic governor said the GOP health care bill would blow a $2.5 billion to $3 billion hole in the state government's deficit-riddled finances.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

One of Harrisburg’s perennial headaches is heading back to the legislative spotlight as Senate Republican leaders work to push a familiar pension bill through the chamber.

Last session, GOP lawmakers made a late-in-the-game attempt to pass a pension overhaul that would have offered state employees three retirement options—two so-called “hybrid” plans, and a 401k-style plan.

At the time, Governor Tom Wolf indicated he’d sign it. But the plan didn’t get full votes because House and Senate Democrats refused to support it, saying they hadn’t gotten enough input.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

President Donald Trump's budget plan, released Thursday morning, clarifies his spending priorities and calls for cuts in several departments, which local and state leaders said will negatively impact residents.  

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf isn't ruling out any particular kind of casino-style gambling expansion under consideration by lawmakers, but he says tax revenue to the state can't be a zero-sum game.

Wolf said Tuesday that he'll look for a gambling expansion that brings in new revenue to the deficit-wracked state government.

Wolf made the comments during an interview with the editorial board of Pennlive.com. Some lawmakers warn that a gambling expansion could cannibalize existing forms of gambling or the state lottery.

The Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh

Once an automobile showroom, the building that houses the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh will soon have a little more room to grow.

The organization serves approximately 6,000 women, children and families each year, but has run out of room to house them.

“We have been over capacity every night for a few years,” said Board Chair Sara Davis Buss. “In fact, in 2016, we turned away over 700 people who needed our services.”

Jacqueline Larma / AP

Jewish centers in York and Harrisburg were among those affected by a wave of bomb threats in at least 11 states Monday. This came the day after more than 100 headstones were knocked over at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

The state police are facing shrinking ranks and a funding shortage as a slew of troopers approach retirement age.

Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed a $25 per-person fee for each of Pennsylvania's 2.5 million residents in nearly 1,300 municipalities that rely on state police coverage instead of a local police force.

Republicans Eye Revenue Assumptions In Wolf's Budget

Feb 21, 2017
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.

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.

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