Episode 13: When is a budget not a real budget?

As of this writing (around noon on Friday, 6/30), the legislature is on track to send a spending plan for the 2017/18 fiscal year to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk by the end of the day, which means they’ll successfully meet their budget deadline. Kind of.
The spending plan is a bipartisan compromise—no easy thing for PA’s legislature and governor to achieve. But it doesn’t include a revenue plan, which means it’s not balanced—and in fact, lawmakers are still pretty far from agreeing on exactly how to fill a roughly $2.2 billion hole.
PennLive’s Charlie Thompson and Angela Couloumbis of the Philly Inquirer join us to talk about the political, legal, and fiscal ramifications of handling a budget this way. Plus, we break down the relatively minimal changes in spending laid out by the legislature’s $32 billion plan.
Things will probably have changed by the time you listen to this podcast, so keep an eye on WITF’s state politics feed for updated information.

State House Sound Bites Podcast: NPR | iTunes | Google Play


Episode 12: Do deadlines even matter?

With five voting days to go until the state budget is due, we still have very few specifics about what it will look like. ABC27’s Dennis Owens and Karen Langley of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette join us to recap what we know so far–and to ask whether lawmakers are even trying to meet the deadline.
Plus, the US Senate has released its long-awaited Affordable Care Act replacement. The Better Care Reconciliation Act already has Democrats in Pennsylvania–and around the country–up in arms, including PA’s senior US Senator Bob Casey. Casey shed his usual mild demeanor at a rally at the Capitol Friday, calling the bill “obscene,” among other things. We discuss how the BCRA could impact Pennsylvanians.
We’ll be back next week with more budget analysis, whether it’s on time or not. Stay tuned!

Episode 11: The calm before the storm

With two weeks until the budget due date, lawmakers are staying mostly mum about negotiations. So unlike last week—which saw a major pension bill pass to the governor, and an omnibus gaming bill get through the House—the last few days have primarily been full of legislative odds and ends.

The Caucus’s Brad Bumsted and PennLive’s Wallace McKelvey join us to talk about a lawsuit recently filed against the commonwealth alleging that its congressional map is unconstitutionally gerrymandered. Plus, we discuss the state of Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law, and the difficulty journalists (and others) often have getting the information they need.

All that, plus we’ll be including updates on budget negotiations every week until the new plan is passed and signed.

State House Sound Bites Podcast: NPR | iTunes | Google Play

Episode 10: Did we fix the pension system?

Pennsylvania’s legislature is kicking off the month of June with a bang.

This week, all four caucuses (and governor Tom Wolf) were able agree on something that’s been evading them for years: a new structure for the state’s two biggest pension systems.

Some lawmakers are calling the plan historic. Others are saying it’s an ineffective distraction from the real issues. What’s really going on? Capitolwire’s Chris Comisac and Steve Esack of the Morning Call sit down to walk us through the different arguments.

We’ll also explain the massive, surprise gambling expansion that passed the House mid-week, as well as the foreboding letter lawmakers received from the state’s Treasurer and Auditor General.

State House Sound Bites Podcast: NPR | iTunes | Google Play

Episode 9: Goodbye TMI

Even if you don’t typically keep up with all the latest nuclear energy news, you’re probably familiar with Three Mile Island. The infamous Dauphin County nuclear plant partially melted down in 1979, in what is still the most severe nuclear accident in US history.

So why are we talking about it now? Officials at the plant announced this week that it’s going to shut down in a few years unless the state intervenes. Capitolwire’s Robert Swift has been reporting on TMI since the meltdown, and joins us to provide some analysis, and to help predict what’s in store for PA’s nuclear industry.

Angela Couloumbis of the Philly Inquirer also helps give some insight into lawmakers’ perpetual reluctance to impose limits on the gifts they can accept, and much more.