Tom Wolf

Counties May Sue PA Over 5-Month Budget Standoff

Nov 25, 2015
David Flores / Flickr

Pennsylvania's cash-strapped counties are saying enough is enough as the budget impasse in Harrisburg nears its sixth month. They are exploring a lawsuit to force the state to release funds, and at least one already declared it will protest by withholding millions of dollars it collects in state real estate transfer taxes and court fees.

The stalemate between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican lawmakers has meant a lack of state funding for school districts, counties and nonprofits, which in turn have reduced staff, slashed services and borrowed money to cover costs.

Capitol Recap: Proposed Municipal Pensions Fix Would Allow Skipping Public Bids

Nov 25, 2015
Emily Previti / Keystone Crossroads

The exemption would apply to 98 percent of Pennsylvania's municipal retirement systems.

Susquehanna Township's figured out a way to save $40,000 a year, every year.

That's three percent of their budget, freed up. Without compromising anything for residents, or firing anyone.

But to public officials in the 25,000 person community, getting there was almost not worth the trouble.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The acting commissioner for the State Police is poised for a full state Senate vote after receiving unanimous approval from a key committee on Tuesday.  

Colonel Tyree Blocker is returning to the agency 10 years after he retired. 

Marc Levy / AP

A tentative outline for a state budget looks like it could crumble this week, dealing a bitter reality check to Governor Tom Wolf and the top lawmakers who said they could deliver a spending plan by Thanksgiving.

Mary Wilson / WHYY

Tiny preschoolers and K-12 school students took Monday off to join school board members and exasperated parents calling for an end to the state budget impasse, as Gov. Tom Wolf signaled a budget deal wouldn’t be ready before December. 

Members of the advocacy coalition known as Campaign for Fair Education Funding fanned out throughout the Capitol building to meet individually with their lawmakers and ask for a finalized state budget.


As the state budget impasse wears through its fifth month, service organizations and some of their funders are calling on state lawmakers to take action before services and programs statewide face more delays in funding.

The Pittsburgh Foundation partnered with the United Way of Allegheny County to launch a social media campaign using #PAPeopleCount. The groups are asking service providers, nonprofits and residents to let their digital voices be heard.

Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

Legislative aides are beginning to hammer out the details of a state budget, now that top lawmakers and the governor have agreed on the general shape of the plan.  

The sprawling, tentative package includes a 1.25 percent hike in the state sales tax, a reduction in state retirement benefits for future hires and some kind of change to the state liquor stores.

The deal promises to be unwieldy.

Matt Rourke / AP

Legislative leaders and the Wolf administration said Monday they have a rough map to reach a final budget deal by Thanksgiving.

“This is the first time I think that we’ve seen a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Jeff Sheridan, spokesman for Governor Tom Wolf.

David Amsler / Flickr


One of the many victims of Pennsylvania’s budget impasse is domestic violence organizations that rely on government funding.

With the impasse well into its fourth month, organizations that rely on state or federal funding aren’t getting either, and there are fears that some may have to temporarily shutter their doors. That means victims of domestic violence may not get the help they need.

An annual commonwealth tradition may take a backseat to state budget negotiations.

Every December, the state’s top politicians head to New York City to see and be seen at a long weekend of fundraisers, parties and one swanky gala collectively referred to as Pennsylvania Society. But some are already talking about skipping the trip if the state doesn’t have a budget by the date of the main event on December 12.

Matt Rourke / AP File Photo

Pennsylvania schools have borrowed at least $431 million since the state’s budget impasse began in July.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said his office has now heard from more than half of the state’s school districts in an effort to track the fiscal effects of the state’s budget stalemate.

“It’s bad now, but we go from bad to borderline disastrous if something isn’t done by Thanksgiving,” DePasquale said.

Andrew Duthie / flickr

The jack-o-lanterns have not yet found their way to the compost pile, but the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is already thinking about getting its snow plows on the road. This year, managers and the public will be better able to keep tabs on those trucks.

James Lee / Flickr

There are roughly 1,300 homeless veterans in the state of Pennsylvania, according to a study released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development earlier this year.

Jerry Beck, deputy adjutant general for veterans affairs in Pennsylvania, said the Wolf administration wants to reduce this number by 550 by the end of the year.

The possibility of legalizing new forms of gambling in Pennsylvania has been a low-priority debate among state legislators for at least a year.

The effort is getting more attention now as Republican state lawmakers search for ways to fill a budget gap without ceding to the kind of tax increases supported by Governor Tom Wolf.

Wolf has said he would consider a gambling expansion.

Mary Wilson / 90.5 WESA

  Gov. Tom Wolf’s revised tax package failed a vote in the state House on Wednesday as nine members of his own party voted against it. 

Republicans and Democrats disagreed about what the vote proved, and shared no specific plans for finalizing a state budget that is now 100 days late. 

Gov. Tom Wolf is scaling back his tax wish-list ahead of an expected vote in the House on Wednesday.

The revised proposal, released Tuesday afternoon, includes a smaller personal income tax increase and a natural gas drilling tax, but no sales tax hike or increases to cigarette and business taxes.

Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

Gov. Tom Wolf kept his promise to veto a short-term funding package on Tuesday, killing the stopgap plan he derided two weeks ago as an ill-suited solution to the state’s long-term problems. 

PA House Sends Short-Term Spending Plan To Governor

Sep 24, 2015

The Pennsylvania state House of Representatives has passed a short-term spending bill that Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto without an agreement on a plan to end a nearly three-month budget stalemate.

The state Senate has passed what may be a doomed interim state budget meant to get public money flowing again to schools, social services providers, and a variety of other projects.

Debate wrapped up quickly Friday as the Republican-controlled Senate voted along party lines to pass the stopgap budget.

Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto the package, criticizing the GOP’s concern for schools and social services as disingenuous.

The tone of state budget talks hit a new low this week as the governor promised to veto a stopgap measure meant to get state funding flowing to entities facing their own fiscal cliff due to the months-long standoff over a state budget.

GOP Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said a deal still seemed distant after a Wednesday meeting with Democrats and the governor. As a result, he said, Republicans would go ahead with a short-term proposal to fund schools and social services through October.

Republican state lawmakers could put Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in a tricky spot with their next budgetary maneuver: they say they’ll be back in session this month to approve a temporary spending plan.

Aapo Haapanen / Flickr

  A legal battle over Gov. Tom Wolf’s seven-month death penalty moratorium lands in the state’s Supreme Court on Thursday.

The court’s ruling could disrupt Wolf’s plans to continue issuing reprieves to death row inmates, at least until a state task force finishes studying capital punishment in Pennsylvania. 

PA Budget Talks Go Underground

Sep 1, 2015

State budget talks are being kept quiet this week as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf plans to meet with top Republican lawmakers without the press lurking outside.

The governor’s office said Monday the coming meetings will be smaller and more low-profile in an attempt to get closer to a deal.

Spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan said the impromptu hallway press conferences that have punctuated so many meetings over the past several weeks haven’t been helpful. The state spending plan is already two months late.

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."