Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Katie Meyer, WITF

  • Email: katie_meyer@witf.org

House assigns blame as budget talks crash; Wolf draws “line in the sand”

House Republican Leader Dave Reed blamed the Democratic caucus for the breakdown of negotiations. Democrats blamed the House Republicans.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

House Republican Leader Dave Reed blamed the Democratic caucus for the breakdown of negotiations. Democrats blamed the House Republicans.

The latest push to finish Pennsylvania’s late, unbalanced budget has melted down.

After several false starts, talks between House Democrats and Republicans dissolved into fights Wednesday over who’s at fault for the chamber’s inability to find consensus on a tax package.

Meanwhile Governor Tom Wolf declared himself “done” playing games, and unexpectedly announced he’ll balance a portion of the budget himself, by borrowing against future revenue from the state-controlled liquor industry.

Among the failures over the last three days of negotiations were Republican-proposed bills to tax warehouses and the hotel industry.

GOP Majority Leader Dave Reed blamed the letdown on a lack of Democratic votes–which he claimed amount to a betrayal by Democratic leaders, and by extension, Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.

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Controversy over Wagner’s severance tax remarks

A campaign tracker recorded Wagner at a meeting he held with a conservative York group.

AP Photo/Marc Levy

A campaign tracker recorded Wagner at a meeting he held with a conservative York group.

A state senator running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination next year has been urging fellow Republicans not to support a natural gas severance tax–in part because he thinks it would help Democratic Governor Tom Wolf politically.

Senator Scott Wagner’s remarks on the subject were recorded secretly by a campaign tracker.

They don’t constitute an ethics violation–though the state Democratic Party is saying the comments smack of conspiracy.

The recording is from a September 14th conference hosted by the conservative York 912 Patriots.

It was taken by a volunteer campaign tracker for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, and captured Wagner talking about House GOP Appropriations Chair Stan Saylor–a key figure in budget negotiations who has long been a vocal opponent of a severance tax.

“I said ‘Stan you cannot let this severance tax get through so that it gets to the governor’s desk, because if that happens the governor is going to get reelected,’” Wagner was recorded as saying. “Stan, you take that to the bank.”

Saylor’s spokesman said the gubernatorial race wouldn’t sway the chair’s stance on budget issues.

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Pa. House narrowly passes a tax-free budget funding plan

House Democrats and Republicans held an intense Rules Committee hearing on the bill before sending it to the full floor. It saw several more hours of debate there.

Katie Meyer / WITF

House Democrats and Republicans held an intense Rules Committee hearing on the bill before sending it to the full floor. It saw several more hours of debate there.

The state House of Representatives has narrowly voted to move a budget plan built largely on one-time fund transfers.

Although it represents the first action on the overdue budget in well over a month, it’s unclear how much it’ll move the needle toward a resolution.

The Senate and the administration of Governor Tom Wolf both support a very different plan that raises several taxes–something the House majority wants to avoid completely.

Committee debate on the funding plan wasn’t just a study in contrasting ideologies between Democrats and Republicans–it was a study in contrasting facts.

House Democrats, like Minority Leader Frank Dermody, insist there needs to be more recurring revenue to balance the structural deficit (a budget shortfall that recurs year after year due to underfunding).

“There is no free lunch,” Dermody told his GOP colleagues in a committee meeting. “There’s no way out of this with smoke and mirrors, double-counting revenue and not coming up with real revenue. That can’t be done anymore.”

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Lawmakers, state officials clash over regulatory oversight

In a House committee meeting, the subject of how Pennsylvania manages its regulations was front and center.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

In a House committee meeting, the subject of how Pennsylvania manages its regulations was front and center.

GOP lawmakers and the Wolf administration have renewed their sparring over state government regulation, butting heads on environmental rules.

The discussion in a House State Government committee meeting was ostensibly focused on Department of Environmental Protection regulations. However, it also delved into some more deep-seated disagreements over how the commonwealth is run.

Officials from the DEP testified before the panel, primarily about general permit revisions to methane regulations, which some lawmakers contend need to have more legislative oversight.

Secretary Patrick McDonnell maintained that the state is doing all it is required to under Independent Regulatory Review Commission guidelines. Continue Reading

Wagner keynotes for natural gas advocates in Harrisburg

Scott Wagner, a Republican state senator from York County and owner of trash hauling firm Penn Waste, is running for governor. (FILE)

AP Photo/Marc Levy

Scott Wagner, a Republican state senator from York County and owner of trash hauling firm Penn Waste, is running for governor. (FILE)

Over a dozen county commissioners from Pennsylvania’s northern tier are working to organize around an issue that directly impacts their constituents: natural gas drilling.

Organizers said Harrisburg often neglects the interests of its more far-flung counties. They described their keynote speaker as someone who’s gone against that trend– York County Republican senator and gubernatorial hopeful, Scott Wagner, has supported natural gas drilling since he was elected.

Wagner noted repeatedly that this wasn’t a campaign event, though that didn’t stop a few speakers from remarking that it would be nice to have a governor who would reduce regulations on the gas industry.

Amid his calls to get pipelines flowing, Wagner did take the opportunity to lay out some policy proposals–and try out some catchphrases.

“There’s a huge difference between an active environmentalist and an environmental activist,” he said, using a line he reiterated multiple times. “I love the outdoors, I grew up around the outdoors, I love fishing–I am in favor of drilling on state lands.”

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Sen. Scott Wagner officially kicks off his campaign for governor

State Senator Scott Wagner (R- York) officially launched his campaign for governor Wednesday.

Katie Meyer / WITF

State Senator Scott Wagner (R- York) officially launched his campaign for governor Wednesday.

Republican State Senator Scott Wagner is the first person to throw his hat into the 2018 race for governor. He made the official announcement Wednesday at the York County headquarters of his trash hauling company.

A conservative first-term senator and businessman, Wagner’s making it clear that he is running on a similar outsider platform as president-elect Donald Trump.

“I started my first business when I was 20 years old,” he said at one point. “When you start out with two trucks and two employees and you build that company to 350 employees—you know, I’ve learned you can, surround yourself with the best people.”

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Parents call on Wolf to regulate methane

Children sat on the steps of the Capitol rotunda as their parents talked about the effects of methane on their communities.

Katie Meyer/ WITF

Children sat on the steps of the Capitol rotunda as their parents talked about the effects of methane on their communities.

A group of parents from around Pennsylvania is urging Governor Tom Wolf to regulate methane emissions.

They held a conference in the State Capitol Thursday, flanked by their children, whom they say are affected most harshly by pollution caused by the state’s oil and gas industry.

The governor promised in January that oil and gas regulations would be introduced this year. His methane-reduction plan would require companies to use the best technology available to prevent leaks of the powerful greenhouse gas at their work sites.

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