Pennsylvania’s big budget gamble is paying off so far with high bids for two mini-casinos

Charles Thompson | Wednesday, January 24, 2018, Harrisburg Patriot News

State officials who banked on gambling expansion to balance the state’s deficit-ridden budget are riding a hot hand so far when it comes to the new concept of satellite casinos.

With a winning bid of $40.1 million secured Wednesday from Stadium Casino LLC for a casino in Westmoreland County, officials have now raised $90.2 million from just the first two of 10 potential licenses.

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The pink pig returns to the Capitol to protest legislative pay raise, per diems

Jan Murphy | Thursday, November 30, 2017, Harrisburg Patriot News

Protesting the automatic pay raise that takes effect on Friday for state lawmakers, citizen activist Gene Stilp brought his giant inflatable pink pig to the Capitol steps on Thursday to protest what he considers legislative abuse.

While inflating the 25-foot-long pig that wore a “Taxpayers Abused Again” sign, Stilp said the .81 percent automatic legislative pay raise may not sound like much “but it’s still a pay raise while Pennsylvanians are suffering.”

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With no budget, and a gag on advertising, Pa. marijuana growers and doctors get creative

Sam Wood | Tuesday, November 21, 2017, The Philadelphia Inquirer

What if Pennsylvania had a medical marijuana program but few people knew it?

With hundreds of millions of dollars invested in cannabis growing facilities and dispensaries — and the health of thousands of prospective patients on the line — alerting state residents to the program should be a priority. But there’s effectively a gag order on nearly all players involved.

The state Department of Health, responsible for the program’s roll-out, has no budget to pay for advertising. Marijuana growers, processors and dispensaries are prohibited by law from actively promoting their wares. And doctors who write recommendations for medical cannabis are forbidden from publicizing that they’re participating.

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Pennsylvania’s budget package is hit by $200 million lawsuit

Monday, November 13, 2017, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — A state-created medical malpractice insurer of last resort is asking a federal judge to block the Pennsylvania government’s demand for $200 million from its reserves and a threat to shut it down if it does not hand over the cash.

The Pennsylvania Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association sued last week and said the state’s attempt to take most of its reserves is an unconstitutional nationalization of a nonprofit organization. It said in court papers that losing that amount of money would “seriously imperil” its ability to make good on its coverage obligations to its policy holders.

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A dozen ways Pa.’s 2017-18 state budget may impact your life

Jan Murphy | Friday, October 27, 2017, The Patriot News

With all the pieces of the 2017-18 state budget now through the General Assembly and awaiting action by Gov. Tom Wolf, it’s a good time to look back at this $32 billion spending and revenue package as a whole and see how it could change life in Pennsylvania.

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Massive borrowing, gambling bills advance in state budget scramble

Wednesday, October 25, 2017, The Associated Press

The last cinderblocks in a four-month stalemate over how to fix Pennsylvania’s deficit-riddled finances began falling Wednesday as Pennsylvania lawmakers worked into the night to advance massive borrowing and casino gambling measures.

Hundreds of pages of legislation — including a 470-page gambling bill first unveiled Wednesday evening — moved through the Legislature as top lawmakers bowed to concessions they had resisted since mid-summer.

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State lawmakers optimistic a budget deal is within reach

Wes Venteicher | Tuesday, October 24, 2017, The Tribune Review

State legislators are homing in this week on a revenue package that favors borrowing and transferring funds over imposing new taxes to close a $2.2 billion budget gap and end a four-month stalemate.

Disagreement persisted Tuesday between the House and Senate over proposals to expand gambling to bring in needed revenue, but some officials in Harrisburg expressed optimism that an agreement is within reach. The House reconvened Tuesday, and an agreement could come as early as Wednesday.

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Injunction sought to stop Wolf’s borrowing to balance Pa.’s budget

Jan Murphy | Monday, October 23, 2017, The Patriot News

Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to use his executive powers to borrow against future Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board payments to help fund this year’s budget may have hit a roadblock.

An emergency injunction was filed in Commonwealth Court on Monday seeking to put on hold the PLCB’s plan to carry out Wolf’s request to monetize the agency’s future earnings to provide a one-time cash infusion of $1.25 billion to help close the $2.2 billion revenue deficit in this year’s $32 billion enacted state budget.

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Pennsylvania explores new territory in budget fight

Sunday, October 15, 2017, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s deficit-riddled finances are in new territory, as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf assembles a package to balance the state’s budget without involvement from a Republican-controlled Legislature riven by ideological and provincial disputes.

Three-and-a-half months into the state’s fiscal year, Wolf has bypassed a Legislature that hasn’t sorted out a way to finance a nearly $32 billion budget bill it passed June 30. Instead, he is working on a $2.2 billion budget-balancing strategy that relies heavily on borrowing to get the state through the year.

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Pa.’s budget mess further threatens higher-ed

John Baer | Tuesday, October 10, 2017, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Among vast amounts of at-risk funding trapped in Pennsylvania’s inane budget impasse is money for in-state students at Temple, Pitt, Lincoln, and Penn State.

It’s about $600 million. It makes a huge difference in tuition costs. Huge, as in five-figure discounts from what out-of-state students are charged.

Temple president Richard Englert wrote in an Inquirer op-ed piece this week that absent this state funding, tuition discounts of close to $12,000 a-year at the North Philly-based university “would be over, and student debt would increase dramatically.”

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Gov. Wolf will veto controversial Medicaid work requirement bill

Kate Giammarise | Thursday, October 5, 2017, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Gov. Tom Wolf will veto a budget-related bill passed by the Republican-controlled state House and Senate that would have required the administration to include a work-search requirement in the Medicaid program and could have limited certain Medicaid benefits.

Mr. Wolf, a Democrat, had said for months that he was opposed to the changes, but it wasn’t clear if he might go along with them as part of a larger budget agreement with the Legislature, or because they were included in a large omnibus bill with other human services provisions.

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State budget talks collapse in Harrisburg

Angela Couloumbis and Liz Navratil | Wednesday, October 4, 2017, The Philadelphia Inquirer

HARRISBURG — Saying he was fed up with the inability of House Republicans to finish work on balancing the Pennsylvania budget, Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday said he will borrow more than $1 billion against the state’s liquor revenues.

“Too many Republicans in the Legislature are focused on the 2018 elections — they’d rather see me fail than Pennsylvania succeed,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference in the Capitol. “I’m not going to play their games anymore.”

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Pressure mounting on lawmakers to identify a long-term unemployment compensation funding solution

Jan Murphy | Monday, October 2, 2017, Harrisburg Patriot News

The clock is ticking on state lawmakers to put in place a long-term funding fix to help make Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation system fully functional again before the next big wave of jobless claims hits.

The $15 million bridge funding approved in April enabled the system to hire back nearly 200 of the 521 state Department of Labor & Industry workers who were laid off last December when state funding to help underwrite the system dried up.

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Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but Pa. budget logjam shows signs of easing

Charles Thompson | Friday, September 29, 2017, Penn Live

Don’t call it a deal yet.

But there is a new proposal coming together in Pennsylvania’s state budget stalemate, and it may become the next serious chance at closing a $2.2 billion gap between revenues and expenditures.

The energy from closed-door talks between Republican legislative and Gov. Tom Wolf this week was deemed positive enough Thursday for state Senate leadership to bring its members back to Harrisburg Monday.

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Pa. budget fight runs into Amazon courtship

Sunday, September 24, 2017, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — Mass transit system? Check. Big population center? Check. Top-notch universities? Check. Predictable state government with a top-notch credit rating?

Pennsylvania business boosters and economic development professionals couldn’t help noticing this week that state government got slapped with another credit downgrade amid an ugly budget stalemate just as officials in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh regions are polishing their resumes to try to land the golden goose: Amazon’s second headquarters.

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S&P downgrades Pennsylvania’s credit amid budget stalemate

Wes Venteicher | Wednesday, September 20, 2017, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

S&P Global Ratings downgraded Pennsylvania’s credit a notch Wednesday, saying an ongoing cycle of budget fights has weakened the state’s financial standing.The change puts Pennsylvania among the agency’s five lowest-rated states, but its debt remains investment grade, said Carol Spain, an S&P director.

The downgrade came as Pennsylvania approached a third month without a plan to fully fund a budget that projects $32 billion in spending for the fiscal year. The state Senate on Wednesday rejected the House’s no-tax proposal that would have drawn on a collection of off-budget funds to partially fill a $2.2 billion shortfall.

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Senate GOP returns to Harrisburg to hash out no-tax package in 80-day budget fight

Monday, September 18, 2017, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Senate returned to Harrisburg on Monday, Day 80 of an increasingly ugly budget stalemate, as senators began picking apart the House’s no-new-taxes plan and raising questions about whether huge parts of it are realistic.

The Senate’s Republican majority was divided over going along with the House’s GOP-penned plan, as lawmakers grapple with how to resolve state government’s largest cash shortfall since the recession — a projected $2.2 billion gap in a $32 billion budget.

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Tied down with late budget, lawmakers warned to keep on ties

Mark Scolforo | Thursday, September 14,2017, Associated Press

HARRISBURG — After spending months in futile efforts to complete a budget, Pennsylvania legislators have turned their attention to what they should be wearing to the fight over state finances.

It’s another issue Democrats and Republicans can’t seem to agree on.

Complaints about dress code scofflaws prompted the parliamentarian for the state House of Representatives, where Republicans are in the majority and run the show, to issue a memo last week reminding members that men must wear a coat and tie.

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State House OKs no-new-taxes borrowing package

Marc Levy | Wednesday, September 13, 2017, Associated Press

Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives is sending the Senate a no-new-taxes borrowing package to help plug state government’s $2.2 billion budget gap.

The GOP-penned measure passed, 103-91, late Wednesday night, with heavy opposition by Democrats. Pennsylvania’s budget stalemate is in its third month and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says the House GOP’s plan doesn’t solve the state’s underlying financial problems.

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Pennsylvania must start freezing spending, top senator says

Monday, August 21, 2017, Associated Press

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf should start freezing spending on various programs because the deficit-strapped state government soon will not be able to pay every bill on time, Pennsylvania’s ranking state senator said Monday.

Since the recession, the state Treasury Department has reliably supplied cash infusions into the state’s tattered bank account during low-flow periods of tax collections. But Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said it would be irresponsible for the Treasury to loan more money while the state government lacks a balanced budget seven weeks into its fiscal year and unconstitutional for the state to spend it.

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