July 3, 2015
AS EXPECTED, Gov. Wolf this week vetoed the $30.2 billion budget passed by legislative Republicans, saying that it was filled with "gimmicks . . . smoke and mirrors and a lot of kick the can down the road. " That is a long string of clichés, but the governor was right. The Republican budget balanced on paper, but did so by shortchanging public education and pillaging various state funds that were supposed to be dedicated to such things as school construction and child-welfare payments.
June 30, 2015
IT WOULD be wrong to say that Gov. Wolf and the legislative Republicans aren't on the same page when it comes to spending and taxes. They aren't even on the same planet. The governor has an ambitious plan to fashion a "grand bargain" that balances the budget, increases state aid to public schools and lowers local property taxes by increasing the personal income tax, sales tax and by imposing a severance tax on Marcellus Shale gas. The Republicans have countered with an ambitious plan to deny reality and to say "no" to any talk about taxes, even the natural-gas tax. It wouldn't be so bad if this stance were a posture taken as part of the hard bargaining that must go on if we are to have a new budget anytime this year.
June 23, 2015 |
Gov. Wolf knows how to place a bet. The York County businessman, who made a bundle on his family's kitchen cabinets company, sunk $10 million into his campaign for governor last year. He went from unknown to unstoppable, easily winning the Democratic primary and then defeating incumbent Tom Corbett. As politicians go, he looked pretty savvy. But the first five months of Wolf's first year as governor has been altogether different, as if the political side of running the government has been set aside.
April 19, 2015 |
HARRISBURG - Polls, politics, and partisanship were not the only things Tom Corbett left behind when he vacated the governor's mansion early this year. He also left Britta, one of his pooches. For the last six months of Corbett's term, the German shepherd had been the lesser-known stepsister in the governor's mansion. Harry and Penny, two Airedale terriers the first couple had adopted as pups, were raised nearly to the status of First Children - paraded for the cameras and showcased on the Corbetts' holiday cards.
March 15, 2015 |
Gov. Wolf turned to a new, if not totally secret, weapon Friday in the high-volume campaign for his education and tax reform package - a soft-spoken York County artist who is also the new first lady of Pennsylvania. Frances Wolf, 62, took the case for the Democratic governor's roughly $1 billion proposed hike in school funding to Paul Fly Elementary School in Norristown, where she hosted a roundtable and listened to teachers and administrators, many of whom complained about budget cuts under GOP predecessor Tom Corbett.
February 7, 2015 |
HARRISBURG - Gov. Wolf said Thursday he was forming a new state office aimed at identifying hundreds of millions in savings as a way to trim a multibillion-dollar budget deficit. "This is not about cutting," the new governor said, "it's about doing what we do more efficiently. " Wolf, in his first formal Capitol news conference since being sworn in last month, said he expects to introduce details of the office in the coming weeks. The executive order he signed Thursday creating the Office of Transformation, Innovation, Modernization, and Efficiency came with a directive to state agencies to immediately identify a total of $150 million in potential savings.
February 6, 2015 |
HARRISBURG - The fate of the state's former open records officer will remain unresolved for at least another month. After a hearing in Commonwealth Court, lawyers for Gov. Wolf and Erik Arneson, the newly appointed open records officer he fired last month, reached an agreement Wednesday to withdraw a request that Arneson be reinstated. But their dispute over Wolf's authority to fire Arneson lingers. The full Commonwealth Court will hear the case March 11. Matthew Haverstick, an attorney for Senate Republicans, said he was pleased with the temporary solution and looked forward to airing their side before the seven-member bench.
January 31, 2015 |
Fulfilling a campaign promise, Gov. Wolf on Thursday reinstated a moratorium on natural gas drilling on state parklands. It came less than a year after his predecessor lifted the ban. The executive order protects about a million acres - or 60 percent - of Pennsylvania state parks and forests that sit atop the natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation. Fracking companies that already have leases on public lands can continue to operate. And new leases may be signed to drill under land for which the state lacks "subsurface" rights.
November 26, 2014
EACH YEAR Pennsylvania hands out $5.5 billion in subsidies for basic education that follows a formula which is outdated and ignores the realities of local school districts. To use just one example: districts that have lost students in recent years get the same amount of state subsidy, even though they are educating fewer children. And don't even talk about making allowances for such factors as poverty. In fact, in 2007, a "costing-out" study commissioned by the legislature concluded that the state's public schools were underfunded by $4.38 billion.
November 16, 2014 |
The wave was even bigger than it looked on the networks' election-night maps. Republicans picked up so many seats in state legislatures that the party will control 68 of the nation's 98 partisan chambers come January - the most since 1920, a time of flappers, bathtub gin, and the Model T. They'll have legislative control in 30 states, to 11 for the Democrats. Counting Republican governors, the GOP will dominate the governments of 24 states (to six for Democrats). By one calculation, that means about 48 percent of the U.S. population will live in states where Republicans can drive their agenda without significant Democratic opposition.