Senate Approves “House Version” of State Budget

[UPDATE] In an 11th-hour move, the Pennsylvania Senate has passed a $30.3 billion dollar budget package with a 33-17 vote. The legislators had previously been in favor of a $30.8 billion package preferred by Governor Tom Wolf.

On his personal Facebook page, House Majority Leader Dave Reed said:

“The Senate just passed the House version of the budget with a bipartisan vote of 33-17. This budget spends over $3.5 billion less than the Governor originally wanted and $600 million less than what had been on the table. It will still increase funding for Pre-K thru 12 education by over $200 million, but will not require a sales tax or income tax increase. The bill will be signed in the House tomorrow and sent to the Governor’s desk. Hopefully he signs it and our schools and human service agencies will finally get their monies.”

In response to the news, Governor Wolf issued this statement through his spokesman:

“It was only one day ago that the House displayed a historic show of bipartisanship that bucked Speaker Turzai and the tea party. Yesterday, the House advanced a responsible budget with historic education funding and placed it on the verge of passage. It is deeply disappointing that today the Senate has caved to those same House leaders and extreme interests to continue the failed status quo and harm our schools and children by denying them these critical additional funds.

“A historic compromise budget that included the largest increase in education funding in history, reforms in public pensions, and a reduction in the deficit was within reach. It seems that the Republican legislature is intent on continuing the Harrisburg status quo and getting out of town to go on vacation instead of continuing the hard work to move Pennsylvania forward.

“Change is difficult, and clearly more so given this legislature, but we must continue our fight for historic education funding that will begin to restore the cuts from five years ago, and a budget that is balanced, paid for, and fixes our deficit.”

Observers have noted that the governor notably did not use the word veto. Once it hits his desk, Wolf will have 10 days to sign or veto it.

[ORIGINAL] We’ve said it before: Take all news about the Pennsylvania state budget standoff with a grain of salt. When last we checked in on the Harrisburg Budget Standoff, the House of Representatives appeared to have reversed course in the face of a threatened veto from Gov. Tom Wolf and was ready to vote on a full 12-month state budget.

Today, the House appears to have reversed course on that too.

The latest report is that Republican leadership in the House has pulled the budget off the floor because no means of paying for it had been attached. Pension reforms the leadership had insisted on were also left out of the bill. Read more »

“Winter Is Coming,” Gov. Tom Wolf Says on 60 Degree Day

Photo | Dan McQuade

Photo | Dan McQuade

Today is the first day of winter. Brr!

Only, no. It‘s nearly 60 degrees in Philadelphia. The rest of the state is similar: It’s almost 60 in Pittsburgh, around 50 in Harrisburg and Scranton and 55 in Erie. In Mount Wolf, Pennsylvania, it’s in the mid-50s.

Which brings us to our next news item: Today, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf — whose residence is in Mount Wolf — is reminding us to prepare for winter today.

“Whether it feels like it now or not, winter is coming,” Governor Wolf said in a release. “Pennsylvanians can use this time of warmer-than-usual weather to prepare for what will eventually come: extreme cold temperature and adverse winter weather. We can avoid bigger issues for our families by being prepared.” Read more »

Wolf Says He’ll Veto “Stopgap” Budget

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks with members of the media Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf's hopes of ending Pennsylvania's 99-day-old state budget impasse were dashed Wednesday when nine of his fellow Democrats joined all House Republicans to vote against his revised plan to raise billions in income and gas drilling taxes.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks with members of the media Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.

Gov. Tom Wolf told Pennsylvania lawmakers today he will veto any attempt to pass a “stopgap” budget, even though previous attempts to pass a full-year budget have repeatedly failed.

“Let me be clear, I will veto this bill if it reaches my desk,” the governor wrote in a letter to lawmakers and released publicly by his office. Read more »

Gov: We Have the Votes for a Budget

We’ve said it before, and been fully justified in doing so: We won’t believe that a state budget deal has been achieved until Gov. Tom Wolf signs the final legislation. Hopes have been raised too many times.

However…

The Associated Press is reporting that the Wolf Administration is now proclaiming that is has the votes in the Pennsylvania House to finally get a budget — along with some associated tax hikes — passed.

“We are confident that we have the votes to pass this,” said Jeffrey Sheridan, Wolf’s spokesman. “We look forward to this impasse coming to an end so we can move Pennsylvania forward.” Read more »

Now It’s House Republicans Blocking a Pa. Budget Deal

Pa. House Majority Leader Dave Reed discusses the state budget situation in October.

Pa. House Majority Leader Dave Reed discusses the state budget situation in October.

Maybe I was wrong.

As the months dragged on without a state budget, I had increasingly come to believe that Gov. Tom Wolf was being too stubborn. After all, there were reports that Republicans had offered a substantial increase in ed funding as part of a budget deal; given that schools were foundering without a state budget to send money their way, I believed the governor should take that half a loaf, declare victory, and move on to the next battle. The fact that he hadn’t done so, I suggested, raised questions about his ability to govern. (He disagreed, by the way.)

In the last couple of weeks, though, Wolf has done exactly what I’d hoped he’d do: He took the half-a-loaf — a big increase in ed funding — and prepared to end the budget battle. He didn’t get the tax he wanted on the Marcellus Shale. In fact, the budget agreement pays for the increase in spending by expanding sales taxes, which fall most heavily on the poor. But that’s politics in a divided state: To get a little you have to give a little.

One problem, though: A budget framework was announced before Thanksgiving. That fell apart, and a new, similar deal was announced Friday. It now appears to be falling apart. What’s up with that?

It’s House Republicans, it turns out, who can’t get their (ahem) house in order.

Read more »

Harrisburg Finally Has a Budget Deal

tom-wolf-budget-940x540

Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican legislative leaders say they have finally cut a tentative budget deal, reports NewsWorks’ Kevin McCorry. It includes a historic increase in education funding, which is a major victory for Wolf. He promised to secure more money for the state’s schools during his gubernatorial campaign. Via McCorry:

The tentative pact includes what would be the largest increase in state education spending in at least two decades.

The basic education subsidy would see a $350 million increase, special-education and pre-K funding would each receive a $50 million boost, in addition to $10 million more for Head Start.

Read more »

Revealed: The Secret to Governor Wolf’s Family Stuffing Recipe!

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

So just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, I got a link from Gov. Tom Wolf’s office with his family’s stuffing recipe. Stuffing is something that people tend to be particular about, and I was naturally curious what Wolf’s family would be stuffing in its turkey. The link gave me the answer: butter.

That’s right. Butter is the secret ingredient—and how—in this treasured family recipe. Read more »

Wolf, GOP Battle Over Refugees

Photos: Associated Press

Photos: Associated Press

Good morning, Philadelphia. Here’s what you need to know today:

Harrisburg Republicans are unhappy with Gov. Tom Wolf’s welcome to Syrian refugees — but he’s got Ed Rendell’s support.

“Republican lawmakers are pressuring Gov. Tom Wolf to stop accepting Syrian refugees in Pennsylvania out of fear that deadly terrorists attacks like those in Paris will happen here,” PennLive reports. “The governor has to realize this could be a life and death situation with radicals,” said Rep. Ron Marsico. “The danger is real and the safety of Pennsylvanians is at serious risk.” Wolf’s response? He couldn’t keep them out, even if he wanted to. “Despite the implication of some, states do not have the authority to refuse to accept refugees that are admitted by the federal government.”

Ed Rendell, talking on Rich Zeoli’s radio show, defended Wolf: “Remember who these people are. These are people who fled ISIS. They fought ISIS. When ISIS started rampaging in their country, they fled. I think it’s fair to assume that they’re not ISIS sympathizers. Now, would I be worried that some people who once the announcement was made that we’re taking people, that some people would try to jump in and get into the group? Sure. But people who fled and have been in refugee camps for six months, nine months, a year, I think it’s fair to assume that they hate ISIS too.” Read more »

In Refugee Crisis, Tom Wolf Reminds Us He Was the Right Choice

Democratic party candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, left, and republican Gov. Tom Corbett before a debate at the WTAE-TV studio in Wilkinsburg, Pa. on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Rodney Johnson,WTAE-TV, Pool)

Tom Wolf challenged Gov. Tom Corbett for office last year. Wolf won.

Well, good for Gov. Tom Wolf.

It hasn’t been an easy rookie year for Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor. He’s been faced with a Republican-controlled legislature that has goals pretty much the opposite of his, with the result that the annual budget — due in June — is still unfinished. He’s taken (ahem) a little bit of flack for that.

But on Monday, he made me glad he’s our governor. Read more »

Obama, Wolf Say Syrian Refugees Welcome

President Obama speaks during a press conference in Turkey. (WhiteHouse.gov)

President Obama speaks during a press conference in Turkey. (WhiteHouse.gov)

In the wake of deadly terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, President Obama and Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf said today that the nation — and state — will continue to accept refugees from war-torn Syria.

They promised, however, that the open-door policy would be accompanied with an eye on security.

“Even as we accept more refugees, including Syrians, we do so only after subjecting them to rigorous screening and security checks,” Obama said in a press conference in Turkey. “We also have to remember that many of these refugees are the victims of terrorism themselves, that’s what they’re fleeing. Slamming the doors in their faces would be a betrayal of our values.” Read more »

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