House members return to session with deep divides

The House of Representatives returned to Harrisburg Tuesday for a rare mid-July voting session and rank-and-file members of that chamber expressed frustrations and divides as deep as those in their leadership responsible for negotiating a new spending plan.

Rep. Lee James (R-Venango) told The PLS Reporter that while his district hasn’t seen the mailers sent to mainly Republican House districts in the southeast, he reported those of his district are happy with his vote in support of the Republican-crafted budget plan.

“I’m trying to hold the line on increasing taxes and that’s their main concern,” he said.

While he said he received about 100 “canned presentations” from school teachers, after he explained to people why he voted the way he did many reported that their union did not tell them about what the governor’s revenue plan would mean for them.

Giving a literal thumbs down to whether he’d support new revenue sources, Rep. James indicated new taxes are a non-starter for him.

“It’s kind of a non-event out in the western part of Pennsylvania as long as I hold the line on taxes,” he stated.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views

Budget politicking hits the road

Major players in Pennsylvania’s budget stalemate were on the road Monday trying to sell their message to the Commonwealth’s body politic before House members return to voting session on Tuesday.

The governor had a busy morning in Western Pennsylvania where he began the day giving remarks at the Pittsburgh Technology Council Breakfast Briefing Program.

He then stayed in Pittsburgh where he gave remarks at the VFW national convention.

By noon, Gov. Wolf was speaking at Big Beaver Elementary School in Darlington, Beaver County. That stop was part of his continuing “Schools That Teach Tour,” which is the governor’s ongoing push for his education funding plan.

It was that third stop that was met with Republican reaction in a joint statement from Representatives Jim Christiana (R-Beaver) and Jim Marshall (R-Beaver), who organized a rally held to counter Gov. Wolf’s trip to the area. 

Monday, July 20, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views

GOP House member unveils budget alternative

Standing alone Thursday, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) unveiled what he called a “middle of the road” budget alternative.

“I’ve been here a long time, I’ve been through a lot of these debates on the budget and I think it’s time we start to get serious about doing this,” he said at Thursday morning’s news conference unveiling his proposal. “It doesn’t appear to me that much progress is being made.”

Thursday, July 16, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views

Capitol grinds to a lull as PA concludes second week of new fiscal year without a state budget

Wednesday marked the two week anniversary of the start of the 2015-2016 fiscal year, while lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf have yet to agree on a state budget.

July 15 is the traditional calendar date on which the state sends its first round of checks to school districts, but the Commonwealth is not authorized to spend the money without the enactment of a state budget.

Meanwhile, activity in the Capitol was at a notable lull Wednesday as tourists once again claimed the Rotunda and staff roamed about from meeting-to-meeting.

While some legislative leaders and the governor were in the Capitol, no face-to-face meetings between legislative leadership and Gov. Wolf were reported or observed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views

Property tax elimination closer than ever?

Sponsors of a proposal to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania are feeling more optimistic than ever before about its chances for passage.

“We are closer than we have ever been before in this long, painful process, but we still have a long way to go,” Sen. Dave Argall (R-Schuylkill) told The PLS Reporter. “We believe we have the votes that we need for the first time in the Senate.”

The proposal he's sponsoring, Senate Bill 76, plans to eliminate Pennsylvania’s school property taxes by raising the personal income tax from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent and increasing the sales tax from six to seven percent while also expanding the base.

Those tax increases would also rise with inflation based upon the statewide weekly wage.

Sen. Argall anticipates the proposal will raise $12 billion, enough money to completely eliminate the school property tax.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views