Cigarette Tax Stalled; School Funding in Danger

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

This is why you don’t count your chickens until they’re hatched: Yes, both the Pennsylvania House and the Pennsylvania Senate have given approval to bills allowing Philly to raise its cigarette tax by $2 per pack to fund local schools — but they haven’t approved the same version of the bill so far. And that’s turning out to be a big problem.

The House version ran into a Senate buzzsaw on Tuesday — with the upper chamber balking at adding provisions in the bill that would allow some Pennsylvania cities to raise their hotel taxes. Senators began amending the House bill (it now includes a five-year sunset provision on the cigarette tax) but it’s uncertain the House will return from its break to pass the revised version — which, if not would leave Philly in limbo — or whether, in fact, it would approve those revisions: Certainly, it seems House Republicans will resist approving the additional hotel taxes. Which means getting the two chambers to back the same bill may be difficult.

Read more »

Poll: 84 Percent of Pennsylvanians Approve of Medical Marijuana

Despite continued resistance from Gov. Tom Corbett on medical marijuana — he supports only a cannabidiol extract — Pennsylvanians clearly have no problem with medical marijuana. According to a recent Franklin & Marshall poll, 84 percent of the state’s residents back the use of marijuana for medical use.

Of that sample, 59 percent strongly favor the legalization of marijuana for medical use and 26 percent somewhat favor it. Only 12 percent are opposed in any way, with 4 percent undecided. Pennsylvania residents have actually supported medical marijuana for a while now: The same question, asked in May of 2006, found 76 percent of Pennsylvanians approved of medical pot.

Read more »

Interest Groups Spent $518 Million on Lobbying in Pennsylvania Last Year

The numbers are in, and the amount interest groups spent on lobbying Pennsylvania lawmakers in 2013 is staggering: A cool $518 million. The massive total includes staffer salaries, outreach, travel and free stuff for lawmakers.

It’s the first time more than a half-billion dollars has been spent in the state since lobbyists had to start disclosing totals in 2007. That year, lobbyists spent $450 million.

Read more »

Pennsylvania Approves New Tesla Motors Locations

As part of the flurry of legislative activity last week, Pennsylvania lawmakers approved a bill allowing Tesla Motors to open more locations in the state. Tesla Motors has thus far sold its $71,000 Model S sedans directly, and not through the traditional car dealership model.

Tesla currently operates a showroom in King of Prussia and service centers in Norristown and Devon, and is planning another showroom in Devon. The bill, which still needs Governor Tom Corbett’s signature, allows Tesla to open up to five stores in Pennsylvania.

Read more »

A Hollow Victory for Philly Schools

Dave Davies nailed it, as he so often does, when he described last week’s surprise deal enabling Philadelphia to tax cigarettes and send the proceeds to the schools as simultaneously “awful” and a “stunning, come-from-behind legislative win.”

The $2-a-pack cigarette tax looked dead right up until Wednesday night, when a surprise amendment offered by State Rep. John Taylor-the lone Republican in Philadelphia’s 34-strong delegation to Harrisburg-won enough support for the initiative to enable it to pass the tax-averse House. 119-90

Considering the alternative, there’s little doubt that this was a win for the city (and a reminder that a 100-percent Democratic delegation is clearly not in the city’s best interest). Parents, students and educators owe Taylor, the rest of the delegation, Mayor Nutter and Council President Clarke (all of whom lobbied hard for this) their gratitude.

But let’s look at what was won.

Read more »

Kane Won’t Sue Inky After All

AP Photo | Bradley C. Bower

AP Photo | Bradley C. Bower

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has apparently dropped the idea of suing the Philadelphia Inquirer for its articles about her decision to abandon an investigation that had caught Philly Democrats on tape accepting cash payments. She had hired famed and feared Philly litigator Richard Sprague after the article ran, bringing him to a meeting at the Inky where he refused to let her talk.

The Morning Call reports that Kane has since abandoned the notion of a lawsuit:

Kane said Sprague accompanied her because she thought there was a potential defamation lawsuit. But Kane said she has not pursued the matter further and is no longer represented by Sprague.

Read more »

Budget Omnibus: Pa. House Passes Cigarette Tax

Lots of moving parts to the state’s budget situation these days, so let’s try to take them in some semblance of order.

• First: The Pennsylvania House on Wednesday night authorized Philly’s cigarette tax, a measure designed to help fund city schools at something like full strength.  “The state House of Representatives voted 119-80 on Wednesday night to send the bill back to the Senate, which approved a similar version earlier this week,” AP reports. “Philadelphia officials say that imposing a $2 per-pack city tax on cigarette sales will help fill a crippling schools budget deficit. Without the money, they say schools won’t be fit to open in the fall.”

Read more »

Tom Corbett Is Absolutely Right About Pension Reform

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, right, along with Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, left; hold a news conference in his chambers addressing the state budget-spending plan for the new fiscal year that starts in less than 40 hours, Sunday, June 29, 2014 in Harrisburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Bradley C Bower)

AP Photo | Bradley C. Bower

He’s right, you know.

I’m talking about Tom Corbett. Our Governor. A man who probably doesn’t hear “you know Tom, you’re absolutely right” very often. Definitely not from many people on this side of the state. I’ve been disappointed by some of the Governor’s actions (or inactions) too – his lack of leadership on our schools, his lack of appearances in this area, his lack of courage when facing those protestors at Central High back in January. He may be a nice guy, but he doesn’t come across that way in the media. Yes, he’s a Republican and Philly is a Democratic stronghold. But even among Republicans here, Corbett’s popularity is tepid, at best.

But on one issue, the Governor is right: pension reform. He’s right to use the lack of pension reform measures as a reason to hold off on signing the state’s budget. He’s right to use it as a negotiating point in the funding of our schools. He’s right to fight for this unpopular measure even if it means depleting his already-depleted reserves of political capital this election year.

Read more »

Philly Cigarette Tax Stalls in PA House

House Republicans are refusing to amend a state budget bill to include authorization for a Philly cigarette tax that would help City Hall make up the shortfall in the city’s school budget. Mayor Nutter said Tuesday night’s result means Philly schools must prepare for layoffs.

Read more »

« Older Posts  |  Newer Posts »