Wolf Holds Firm on State Police Nomination

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Gov. Tom Wolf is holding firm in backing Marcus Brown’s nomination to head the Pennsylvania State Police, despite opposition from Republicans and the troopers themselves.

The Pennsylvania State Troopers Association on Monday gave Brown a vote of no-confidnce, but the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said Wolf gave no signs of budging on the issue.

“Again, as I said over the weekend, I nominated him because of his strong background,” Wolf said. “He was a beat cop in Baltimore, he was head of the state police in Maryland and I think he’s a good choice. He has a great background and I would like to see him confirmed.” Read more »

PA’s Wealthy School Districts Get Way More Local Cash Than Poor Ones

School District of Philadelphia

School districts across Pennsylvania have felt the impact of state budget cuts and the expiration of federal stimulus dollars over the past few years.

But the money woes of the high-poverty Philadelphia School District have been so extreme that they’ve garnered national attention: Some city schools lack such basics as full-time guidance counselors and nurses.

A new analysis shows that, despite the fact that low-income students come to class with greater needs than their better-off peers, Pennsylvania and its municipalities actually spend less per pupil in the poorest districts than in the richest ones. Way less, actually. According to the Washington Post, “In Pennsylvania, per-pupil spending in the poorest school districts is 33 percent lower than per-pupil spending in the wealthiest school districts.”

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The Brief: The 5 Council At-Large Candidates With the Best Signatures Game

Philadelphia City Council  | Photo Credit: City Council's Flickr page

Philadelphia City Council | Photo Credit: City Council’s Flickr page

A candidate has the opportunity to flex some muscle while collecting signatures for nominating petitions.

You only need to gather 1,000 legit signatures to get on the May 19th primary ballot for citywide office — but if a candidate amasses significantly more than that, they can theoretically inoculate themselves from a legal challenge and show the city that they’ve got a good ground operation. (Again, at least in theory. U.S. Rep. Bob Brady led the pack in signatures among mayoral candidates during the 2007 campaign, only to lose in the primary.)

March 17th is the deadline to file a legal challenge against a candidate over their nominating petitions. We told you how many signatures the mayoral hopefuls collected. What about the candidates in the second-most interesting race in town, the Democratic City Council At-Large tussle?

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What Tom Wolf Wants in His Big, Bold Budget — and What He’s Likely to Get

Gov. Wolf | Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Gov. Wolf | Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Gov. Tom Wolf‘s budget “contains the most ambitious and bold set of proposals in modern history.”

That’s according to Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College who has been watching state budget battles for the past 35 years. Wolf wants to boost educating spending, raise some taxes, cut other taxes, and increase the minimum wage.

We asked Madonna what parts of Wolf’s budget could realistically pass in the GOP-controlled state legislature, and what’ll likely end up dying. Let’s break this down point by point:

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School Funding Suit Against State Advances Despite Promises From Wolf

It’s time for Pennsylvania’s courts to force the state legislature to properly fund state schools, attorneys representing a coalition of money-hungry school districts argued today before the Commonwealth Court at Harrisburg.

“We argued today in court the schoolchildren of Pennsylvania have an enforceable right to be heard,” said Maura McInerney, an attorney for the Education Law Center, which helped bring the case. She spoke during a conference call after the court appearance. “The court,” she said, “has a vital role to play in enforcing the state constitution.” Read more »

The Brief: Happy Ballot Challenge Season!

Dubious.

We’ve officially entered that most wonderful time of year: Ballot Challenge Season.

To get on the May 19th primary ballot, a candidate running for citywide office in Philadelphia must get at least 1,000 voters to sign their nomination petitions. That paperwork must be filed by today, March 10th.

But the signatures can’t come from just anyone: They must be from registered voters of the candidate’s party. Each voter must write out their full name, address and the date on the petition, in addition to their signature. If any of these items are missing or somehow flawed, a candidate is leaving themselves open to a legal challenge from another campaign. Because why beat the competition in an open election when you can eliminate them beforehand?

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Green Won’t Challenge Wolf’s SRC Decision

Bill Green, last week at district headquarters after Gov. Wolf removed him from SRC chairmanship.

Bill Green, last week at district headquarters after Gov. Wolf removed him from the SRC chairmanship.

Bill Green said this afternoon he will not mount a legal challenge to Gov. Wolf’s dismissal of him as chair of the School Reform Commission, saying he did not want to undermine support for the Philadelphia School District. But he said he still believes Wolf overstepped his authority in removing him from the chair and replacing him with fellow SRC member Marjorie Neff.

“Lawsuits can wait,” Green said in a press release. “Harmony needs to prevail.” Read more »

44 Taxes We Pay as Residents of the Great City of Philadelphia

Governor Wolf introduced his budget on Tuesday. And in it he proposed an increase in spending, no pension reform, no long-term deficit reduction and no cuts in costs. And although he’s lowering business and real estate taxes, there are proposed increases in our state income and sales tax. Mayor Nutter introduced his budget yesterday. And he wants a 9 percent property tax increase (oh, and good luck with that). Now the mayoral candidates are talking about a plastic bag tax.

And why not? We Philadelphians are used to taxes. It’s no big deal.

In fact, depending on whether you live and/or work and/or run a business in the city, you might be paying as many as 44 different taxes, fees and tariffs every single year — maybe more! Don’t remember them all? Who could blame you! So here’s a list to refresh your memory. And please let me know if I’m leaving anything out. I’m definitely forgetting something, right? Read more »

Does Michael Nutter’s Property Tax Stand a Chance?

Philadelphia City Council  | Photo Credit: City Council's Flickr page

Philadelphia City Council | Photo Credit: City Council’s Flickr page

It’s never easy for a mayor to sell a tax hike.

So the fact that Mayor Michael Nutter is asking City Council to raise property taxes by 9 percent to help fund Philadelphia’s cash-strapped schools as 15 of 16 Council members are running for re-election is fairly gutsy. Oh, and he’s also proposing this after property taxes have gone up three times during his tenure. And a year after the first round of property tax bills went out under his Actual Value Initiative, a citywide reassessment that boosted taxes for some residents.

Is this remotely doable?

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