Episode 56: The art of the “get out of town” budget

It’s a brave new world for the commonwealth’s budget process—at least compared to the last decade or so. For the first time in many years, lawmakers are poised to pass a budget ahead of the June 30th deadline, and Wolf is likely to sign it after letting the previous three plans pass without a signature.
Their proposal has made it through the House and, as of Friday morning, is awaiting final Senate consideration. It’s a mostly status-quo bill—spending $32.7 billion, or about 1.7 percent more than last year’s plan.
That extra cash doesn’t come from any new revenue (there’s none in the plan) but instead, from strong returns in the 2017-18 fiscal year, healthy projections next year, and some internal transfers. Plus, election year pressures are giving lawmakers extra incentive to agree to a plan and get out of Harrisburg fast.
WITF’s Capitol Bureau Chief Katie Meyer leads a discussion on the ins and outs of the budget plan with Capitolwire Bureau Chief Chris Comisac and Marc Levy of the Associated Press—plus explains why all budget numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.
We’ll also provide an update on lawmakers’ long-awaited congressional redistricting overhaul, which seems increasingly unlikely to pass the House in time to impact the 2021 redistricting process.
And just a note: This episode of the podcast was recorded live as an episode of WITF’s morning show, Smart Talk. That means it’s a full hour long, and includes underwriting breaks.

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Episode 55: Amendments for all

This week had everything: major bills moving, last-minute amendments, a little back-room plotting, and a lot of yelling on the Senate floor.

A bill to create a citizen’s commission on redistricting has passed the Senate and is now awaiting House action—but it looks very different than it did just a few weeks ago. Now, a number of changes have given the legislature more power in the process, plus an entirely new clause has been added that seeks to elect appellate judges by region.

Confused about how those things go together? Reporter Jan Murphy and columnist John Micek, both of PennLive, join us to hash out the details.

Plus, we’ll discuss House Speaker Mike Turzai unexpectedly shoehorning his own abortion-restricting language into a human trafficking bill, an effort to keep judges safe from dogs, addressing sexual harassment in the legislature, and more.


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Episode 54: Too many redistricting bills, not enough time

It’s crunch time for the House and Senate to get a redistricting overhaul passed in time for congressional reapportionment in 2021. But you wouldn’t be able to tell there’s a month to the deadline by spending time in the Capitol.

No less than seven (at least) bills on the subject are floating around both chambers. And though the Senate has made progress toward a compromise, the House is nowhere close.

Stephen Caruso of the PLS Reporter and Liz Navratil of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette join us to talk about the fate of the map-drawing process.

Plus, they give the latest updates on the gubernatorial race, and a recent executive order from Governor Tom Wolf.