June 2, 2014 |
HARRISBURG - Elected officials have plenty of words to describe the coming state budget debate, none of them good. Some call it bleak. Others call it agonizing - or just plain bad. "Expect a lot of street theater," said one, noting that this is an election year. On Monday, Gov. Corbett and the legislature head into the thick of budget season. Looming are a July 1 deadline and the fiscal reality that state revenue collections are not matching projected expenditures.
January 27, 2014 |
HARRISBURG - With Pennsylvania's budget forecast gloomy, the legislature looks to be placing its bets on gambling. As budget discussions unfold over the next few months, it is widely expected that the GOP-controlled House and Senate, along with the Corbett administration, will seriously consider a proposal to expand lottery gambling and, possibly, one to legalize online gambling. Both measures could mean hundreds of millions in annual tax revenue at a time when the state is in the red. The administration says Pennsylvania could be facing at least a $1.2 billion budget gap for the fiscal year that begins July 1. But the proposals are also bound to stir anew concerns that Pennsylvania is moving at breakneck speed to offer more options to gamble, which many believe will increase addiction and the social ills that go with it. Gov. Corbett, for instance, signed a law late last year allowing small games of chance - including pull-tab games and raffles - in bars and restaurants.
April 5, 2013 |
TRENTON - Without drastic cuts or controversial pension changes to argue over last spring, Gov. Christie and Democratic lawmakers found other foils for their budget bouts: the wonks who crunch the numbers. That's how David Rosen, a long-serving budget officer for the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, became "Dr. Kevorkian of the numbers," a name Christie gave him after the analyst cast doubt on the administration's revenue forecast for the fiscal year that ends June 30. Christie apparently wanted to link Rosen's dreary projections to a man called "Dr. Death," and best known for his role in assisted suicides.
March 22, 2013 |
WASHINGTON - Moving on two fronts, the Republican-controlled House on Thursday voted to keep the government running for the next six months while pushing through a tea-party-flavored budget for next year that would shrink the government by another $4.6 trillion over the next decade. The spending authorization on its way to the White House for President Obama's signature leaves in place $85 billion in spending cuts to the Pentagon and domestic programs. The result will be temporary furloughs for federal workers and contractors over the next six months and interrupted, slower, or halted services for many Americans.
February 5, 2013
By Sharon Ward Gov. Corbett and his staff have crisscrossed the state over the past few weeks, previewing the state budget to be unveiled Tuesday. The change in style is welcome for a governor who has seemed reluctant to explain his priorities or defend his positions. Pennsylvanians also appear to be clamoring for a change in substance. A recent Quinnipiac poll shows that only 36 percent of Pennsylvanians approve of Gov. Corbett's job performance - while 46 percent disapprove. It's not a mystery that the governor's popularity tumbled after last year's budget debate: An on-time spending plan is not enough to compensate for a budget out of step with Pennsylvanians' priorities.
January 31, 2013 |
WASHINGTON - There's a growing sense of resignation that the country's political leaders will be unable or unwilling to find a way around looming automatic spending cuts, despite fresh signs the trims would threaten the recovering economy. On one side are conservative Republicans, outnumbered and frustrated, who see the painfully large cuts as leverage in their battle to force Democrats into concessions on the budget. On the other side are President Obama and his Democratic allies, who are pressing to replace some of the cuts with new tax revenue.
January 25, 2013 |
Brett Mandel, one of the candidates trying to unseat City Controller Alan Butkovitz, is providing voters with their own opportunity to become city fiscal watchdogs. With help from technically savvy friend Ben Garvey, Mandel has created a website where Philadelphians and anyone else can look up the city's spending in the fiscal year ended last June. The site is budget.brettmandel.com. It features blocks for each department in city government, sized according to how much of the $3.5 billion budget they control.
November 14, 2012 |
WASHINGTON - In the final days of the presidential campaign, you saw them everywhere. Sen. Pat Toomey stood on stage with Mitt Romney at a massive Bucks County rally last Sunday. U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, a Democrat from Montgomery County, zipped across the region for news conferences to combat the Republicans' late Keystone State offensive. Toomey and Schwartz were among Romney's and President Obama's most prominent surrogates in Pennsylvania, but their positions as leading advocates didn't end with the election.
August 15, 2012 |
MITT ROMNEY and Paul Ryan want to destroy Medicare and use the money saved to give bigger tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires. Or, Romney and Ryan want to save Medicare from bankruptcy, ensuring that a key part of the social safety net survives. Those were the competing political narratives pitched Monday in Philly by surrogates for President Obama's re-election campaign and Romney's Republican bid to replace him in the White House. Romney's selection Saturday of Ryan, a seven-term member of the U.S. House from Wisconsin, for the vice-presidential spot on his ticket reset the political debate on how to manage the national budget.
July 3, 2012 |
Another city budget season has come and gone, and, for the fifth straight year, Philadelphians will endure more tax increases even as the city's long-term fiscal challenges remain unresolved. With the murder rate on the rise, "rolling brownouts" limiting Fire Department resources, and adored-but-underfunded parks struggling to do more with less, this latest budget represents more than a missed opportunity; it's a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare. All the hand-wringing, missed deadlines, and brinkmanship ended up amounting to what the Bard's Macbeth called "sound and fury, signifying nothing.