The Associated Press | Thursday, July 6, 2017, Trib Live
HARRISBURG — A credit rating agency is putting Pennsylvania on notice that it faces another downgrade that increases the cost of government borrowing if the state doesn’t improve its finances.
Standard and Poor’s on Thursday said putting Pennsylvania on a negative “creditwatch” reflects Pennsylvania’s eroding financial position. It says it also reflects its view that there’s a “significant likelihood” that Pennsylvania state government won’t pass a structurally balanced budget for the fiscal year that began Saturday.
Jan Murphy | Friday, June 30, 2017, updated Saturday, July 1, 2017, Penn Live
As lawmakers barrel down the home stretch of this year’s budget negotiations, some are eyeing a horse-racing fund to help reach the finish line.
Raiding some or all of the $250 million Race Horse Development Fund to support the $32 billion spending plan budget the Senate and House approved on Friday has put those in the state’s equine industry on edge.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Health awarded permits Tuesday to 12 companies that applied to grow marijuana to help treat serious medical conditions.
The recipients, which have six months to begin operating, include PurePenn LLC in McKeesport and AGRiMED Industries of Pennsylvania LLC in Cumberland Township, Greene County.
“We’re pleased that (state officials) recognized PurePenn’s business sense and equally strong mission to bring the highest-quality products to patients,” said PurePenn CEO Gabe Perlow, a Pittsburgh attorney.
On Tuesday June 20, 2017, the Pennsylvania’s Department of Health awarded permits to 12 companies, out of 177 total applicants, to grow medical marijuana in the state. Permittees have 6 months to begin operating. For a full list of permits issued click here. It is anticipated that the state will announce the 27 dispensary permits by the end of June.
The Set Up: Pennsylvania is a deregulated energy market that operates within the PJM. One of the drawbacks of a deregulated market is that generators cannot recover the cost for plant upgrades directly from the ratepayer. Utilities have to spend capital cost then compete on the open market against every other energy sources. This has made it difficult for older coal and nuclear plants to make improvements, either necessary or driven by regulation, because the market price for energy is suppressed. This is largely due to low natural gas prices and energy demand. Plus you have energy sources- like solar and wind- that are subsided which allows those sources to enter the PJM and accept a low rate per Kw/H.
Faced with this reality, a group of PA Legislators have formed the Nuclear Caucus. At this time, it’s not clear what focus the group will take; however, they formed to find a solution to save Nuclear Power Plants. If you recall, the nuclear industry, equipped with jobs and economic numbers, have won recent victories in Illinois and New York. The policies passed require the rate payer to subside the nuclear plants through what is called Zero Emission Credits. It unclear if these laws are going to withstand the court appeal process. Nonetheless, the nuclear industry is pursuing similar laws and Pennsylvania is next on the list.
What to look for: The nuclear industry is staffing up in Harrisburg. They are currently hiring many lobbyists and former regulators to help carry the message. The opposition however is not a sleep at the switch in Pennsylvania. They are organizing early and forming powerful opposition to any subsidy.
The battle between to the side will be simple; jobs, low carbon energy, and grid reliably versus rate payers, more government subsides (tax payer money), and a less diverse energy mix.
The side hustle: With a major Natural Gas development in Pennsylvania – Marcellus Shale – they have the most to lose at this point. If the state props up nuclear it will only prolong natural gas rising as the dominate energy source. It will be interesting to see how much time and resources the gas industry uses to defeat any nuclear subsidy.
The Public Forum is a bi‑monthly KQV Radio Talk Show where Cohen & Grigsby Lobbyists and various guests discuss hot issues impacting Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC and the business community.
In a world of uncertainty, be it in Washington where President Trump and the Republican House and Senate majorities are grappling with the difficulties of actually governing, or in Harrisburg where the Governor and the General Assembly are staring down a 3 billion dollar hole without the benefit of increasing revenue with the use of any broad based tax there IS one certainty:
Mayor Bill Peduto will be re-elected to a new 4 year term.
As a matter of fact—and history—no incumbent Democratic Mayor who has sought re-election has lost—since 1937.
My math, which isn’t great—that’s why I chose politics as a profession—tells me that is an 80 year streak.
Mayor Peduto has run a forward thinking, scandal free administration without any real drama. His opponents are underfunded and relatively unknown.
So there is nothing to upset this incredible streak.
Pittsburgh is a small town that is adverse to change in its political leaders. The machinery of incumbency: command of free media, ribbon cutting and fixing potholes is difficult or impossible to overcome.
Get your seats early for the re-inauguration next January.
As for Harrisburg, two perennial favorites are back in the news: gaming expansion and liquor privatization. Driving both of these issues in the aforementioned need for new revenues.
Will we be able to buy our bourbon at Giant Eagle? Play video poker legally in our local tavern?
The Public Forum is a bi monthly KQV Radio Talk Show where Cohen & Grigsby Lobbyists and various guests discuss hot issues impacting Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC and the business community.
Our host for tonight’s show is Nello Giorgetti with guest, Gladys Brown, Chair of the Pennsylvania Utility Commission.
We hope you will listen tonight at 7:00 PM at 1410 AM, KQV.
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If you have questions please contact Michelle Vezzani at MVezzani@cohenlaw.com or the public affairs professional with whom you work.