Corbett Criticized for Appointing Former Staffer to Judge

Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) is one of Corbett's main critics, saying "If he wants to send Mr. Ward to Disneyland or wants to get him to meet Beyonce, I would have no problem with that as long as it didn’t involve state money."

With Pennsylvania courts facing a sizeable budgetary shortfall this year, some state officials have questioned Gov. Tom Corbett’s recent appointment of his former chief of staff to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.

Corbett announced his intention to nominate Bill Ward to the court last Thursday, after Ward announced his resignation earlier that day.

But after last year’s agreement between Corbett and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille to refrain from appointing new justices, Corbett has received backlash from Castille as well as other court officials.

Ward’s appointment came after state Republicans called for a shakeup in Corbett’s staff, considering the lack of progress being made on key party issues, like liquor-store privatization and school vouchers.

This legislative hold-up is surprising, given the large majority held by the GOP in both the legislative and executive branches.

Despite the perceived unrest among state Republicans, Corbett said the appointment was a matter of placing highly-qualified individuals in judicial seats.

“For as long as I’ve known Bill, it’s been his dream to be a judge,” Corbett said last week after announcing Ward’s nomination. “I’m happy to help make that dream happen, both for Bill and for the citizens who will benefit from his knowledge and integrity.”

Kevin Harley, Corbett’s spokesperson, said in an article published Thursday in the Harrisburg Patriot-News that the governor agreed to the terms set by Castille, but only for a year.

In the same article, Castille said Allegheny County President Judge Donna Jo McDaniel told him that the caseload has declined. Allegheny County has 43 judges with two vacancies.

Castille also said that each county judge costs the state $200,000, including salary and benefits in addition to staff needs and costs related to the judge’s office.

With five other open seats across the state, Castille said he feared that the state would fill the other seats since judicial appointments typically come in political packages, with Democratic and Republican judges.

These measures are often necessary, since appointments require two thirds majority approval in the senate.

“If those five vacancies are filled in this little political thing they are going to do … that will cost us $1 million,” Castille said.

Under the current senate makeup, even if all 29 Republicans approve of Ward’s nomination, they will still need four votes of approval from senate Democrats.

Harley emphasized that Corbett was aware of the financial situation, but said the governor has the power to appoint qualified candidates to judicial seats.

In addition to budgetary concerns, Corbett has been criticized by state Democrats who accuse the governor of engaging in cronyism.  Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) said Corbett’s appointment of Ward was inappropriate because of their relationship.

“If he wants to send Mr. Ward to Disneyland or wants to get him to meet Beyonce, I would have no problem with that as long as it didn’t involve state money,” Leach said.

“To me, the whole concept of justice is a very sacred concept and the process has to be above reproach.This is not about rewarding cronies.”

Steelers Owner Art Rooney II, Other Big Dems to Rally for Critz

Rep. Mark Critz (D-Johnstown) has an impressive list of supporters coming out for him at a June 4 Pittsburgh fundraiser.

Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II, a handful of state congressmen and former rival Rep. Jason Altmire (D-McCandless) all plan to turn out for Rep. Mark Critz (D-Johnstown) at a June 4 fundraiser in Pittsburgh.

With more than 40 hosts listed for the event (including big-name Democratic party, labor and business leaders) it seems that Critz is looking to catch up to Keith Rothfus in a big way.

Tickets to the event, which will take place at Le Mont Restaurant in Mt. Washington, cost between $250 and $2,500.

Campaign spokesman Mike Mikus said the fundraising effort is just another way of building upon Critz’ primary success.

“Our fundraising efforts have been strong. We’ve been working every day, Mark has been working every day.”

Fratricidal races were the norm this primary season, with many fellow-party incumbents facing off in newly redrawn districts; but with all of those races decided many, including those from PA-12, have put the past behind them in order to play catch-up for the general election.

Despite building momentum from the win, Rothfus entered the race with not only more cash on hand than Critz, whose resources were depleted after the battle with Altmire, but high name recognition in the new district.

In fact, voters nearly handed Rothfus a victory over Altmire in 2010, where he came less than 5,000 votes (or 2 percentage points) shy of ousting the McCandless Democrat in the 4th district race.

Cook Political Report also lists PA-12 as “R+1,” meaning the district is conservative-leaning, and PoliticsPA has categorized it as the most vulnerable seat in Pa.

But looking forward, Critz is counting on organized labor for help. That, along with a heavy repeat turnout in his home Cambria and Somerset counties, could help him win.

Mikus added that despite what look like weaknesses on paper, the campaign isn’t too worried about Rothfus’ name recognition or fundraising.

“We feel good. We believe, in the end, voters are gonna look at Mark as someone who is fighting to create jobs for Western Pennsylvania and Keith Rothfus is an extremist who supports a Republican budget that would turn Medicare into a voucher system. And he supports unfair trade deals that shift jobs to foreign countries like China and India.”

Rothfus Campaign Manager Jon Raso said his candidate, “will be spending time with working families in his district on how best to help them work, live and raise a family.

“We’re not going to comment on Congressman Critz hobnobbing with Democrat insiders and union elites that support President Obama.”

Tina Fey Fights to Save the Arts in Pa. Hometown

Superstar comedian and Pa. native Tina Fey has joined the Save Upper Darby Arts movement to keep the school district she attended from cutting programs.

Upper Darby native Tina Fey is speaking out in support of Save Upper Darby Arts after being recruited by movement leaders. Fey has encouraged friends to view the Save U.D. Arts YouTube video and to sign a petition that will be presented to the governor June 6.

The school district, which is currently facing a $13 million deficit according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, will vote this summer on making significant cuts to extra-academic programs, commonly referred to as “specials.”

The Delco Times reported that by cutting independent art, music, library and gym classes from elementary education and eliminating foreign language and technology in middle schools, the district would be able to reduce the teaching staff by 60-plus members and save $4 million.

After being recruited by S.U.D.A. movement leaders, Fey sent out an email that said the following:

Hi Friends, The link below is a video about how they are cutting almost all arts and music from the elementary schools in my hometown. (Educational Realignment should be the new euphemism for crapping in your own bed.)

Other than to showcase some amazing Philly accents, I’m sending this to you in the off chance you know someone who can bring attention to this story. It’s emblematic of garbage that’s going on in a lot of states. This budget goes to vote next week, May 30, so it’s not only disgraceful, it’s time sensitive. [Note: The budget hearing meeting has actually been suspended until June.]

Sign the online petition? Tweet about it? Do a long monologue about it on a national television show? Y’all know I don’t usually forward stuff like this, so thanks. Tina

Like their superstar supporter, local members of S.U.D.A. are asking people to get involved.

In the Save the U.D. Arts YouTube video viewers are encouraged to speak out.

“We want to hear your voice. We want to hear your story. Please take 60 seconds to tell us who you are, where you’re from, and what this mission means to you. Use a webcam, a cell phone, a camcorder—whatever your method. Just tell your story.”

Viewers are also encouraged to sign the petition.

“If you believe education needs to take a higher priority in our society, please sign our petition now. The link is below. It takes less than 30 seconds to complete, it’s free, and your signature matters. Sign it. Share it. Join the fight to honor our past, celebrate our present and save our future.”

5/31 Morning Buzz

Good morning politicos, here’s the buzz. A budget deal gets closer, the presidential back-and-forth continues, and Fitzpatrick takes some heat.

Thanks to our conservative friend @dcseth, who noted that Rush Limbaugh featured a PoliticsPA article on his show Wednesday.

Pa. House and Senate Nearing Budget Agreement: State House and Senate leaders have both said they are approaching a budget agreement, and well in advance of the June 30 deadline. They aim to present a budget to Gov. Tom Corbett by next week.

Fitzpatrick Gets Burned on Chemical Tariff Suspension Proposals: Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown) has recently come under fire after it was discovered that eight of the 12 bills he proposed directly benefited a donor and company in his district. The eight bills would temporarily suspend tariffs on imported chemicals.

Job Creator: Romney vs. Obama: Who is the real job creator, Mitt Romney or Barack Obama? Fiercely debated, the question remains a central theme in both presidential campaigns as Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler) and a Somerset businessman laud Romney’s private sector experience while highlighting Obama’s sluggish economic recovery.

AP: Bitter primaries undercut GOP hopes in 3 states
AP: Obama’s health care aid to small firms disappoints
AP: Romney cinches nomination, but Trump overshadows
AP: Obama Team to focus on Romney’s record in Mass.
AP: Obama calls Romney, congratulates him on GOP nod
AP: What’s next for Romney? Undercut Obama, raise money
KYW Newsradio: Planned Parenthood rolls out anti-Romney campaign
KYW Newsradio: Why Wisconsin’s recall election matters to Obama and Romney
Fox Philadelphia: New website preserves deleted politicians’ tweets
Roll Call: Conservative group blasts tariff ‘earmarks’
Pennsylvania Avenue: First lady Michelle Obama to campaign in Philadelphia next week
Washington Post: Incumbent primary losses begin to mount, may approach record

Inquirer: Gov. Corbett signs bill to protect student athlete from sudden death
Philadelphia Daily News: Corbett shakeup par for course
Pottstown Mercury: Corbett signs three execution warrants
AP: Corbett attacked in ad; huddles with advisers
AP: Pa. finds out-of-staters were using welfare cards
Morning Call: Gov. Tom Corbett downplays staff shift
Morning Call: In Norristown, Corbett downplays reports of internal upheaval
Morning Call: Wednesday morning coffee: Pension reform (take two)
Tribune Review: Union boss: 401(k)s insufficient for state government employees
Tribune Review: Orie seeks to shield pension, campaign cash
Tribune Review: ‘We’ve got a ways to go’ to save 911th, Casey says
Early Returns: Obama operative: Pa voters racist, but would rather drink with Obama than Romney
Early Returns: Budget talks blooming early in Hbg
Patriot News: Republican senators propose changes to new employees pension
Patriot News: Statewide radio system’s dead air continues to cost Pennsylvania money
WFMZ: Pa. law to educate about sudden cardiac arrest
WFMZ: Study suggests Pa. tourism commission, tax changes

WHYY Newsworks: Pa. lawmakers challenges legality of Nutter’s tax plan
KYW Newsradio: Two Pa. Lawmakers Propose Diverting some Gambling Taxes for Philadelphia Schools
KYW Newsradio: Philadelphia Lawmakers Still Haggling Over Budget, Unfazed by June 1st Deadline
KYW Newsradio: Philadelphia Lawmakers Eye New Use for Old Trash: Energy Production

Daily Local: Corbett discusses funding for senior services such as Pocopspon

Lehigh Valley
AP: Corbett attacked in ad; huddles with advisers
Morning Call: Gov. Tom Corbett downplays staff shift
Morning Call: In Norristown, Corbett downplays reports of internal upheaval
Morning Call: Wednesday morning coffee: Pension reform (take two)
WFMZ: Study suggests Pa. tourism commission, tax changes

Tribune Review: Judge refuses stay in UPMC-West Penn lawsuit
Tribune Review: ‘We’ve got a ways to go’ to save 911th, Casey says
Tribune Review: Bill that would keep 911th open still months from final vote
Tribune Review: Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices overturn rape case decision
Tribune Review: Orie seeks to shield pension, campaign cash
Post-Gazette: Montour superintendent pays $5,000 for ethical violation
Early Returns: Pa GOP: process for Orie replacement bid
Early Returns: “30 Rock” star joins schools lobbying effort
Early Returns: Obama operative: Pa voters racist, but would rather drink with Obama than Romney
Early Returns: Budget talks blooming early in Hbg
Early Returns: Roddey: GOP’s Kumbaya with Fitz
KDKA: City Councilman Blocks Tax Break Extension
KDKA: Environmental Groups To Sue Over ‘Little Blue’

Beaver County Times: Little Blue Run group challenging FirstEnergy
Beaver County Times: First Energy to supply Ohio from Bruce Mansfield
Observer-Reporter: County commissioner, ex-husband in court over money obligation
Observer-Reporter: Sources tie demise of drug program to destroyed evidence
Valley News Dispatch: Union boss: 401(k)s insufficient for state government employees
Indiana Gazette: PURCHASE LINE: North school closing OK’d
Indiana Gazette: School board approves fact-finder’s report; teachers to vote next
Indiana Gazette: School directors delay decision on energy-savings plan
Indiana Gazette: County jobless rate unchanged in April
Somerset Daily: Somerset County authority applies for lowest grant amount in 15 years
Daily Courier: Fayette to seek review of jail operations
Daily Courier: Fayette nonunion staffers get added pay boost

The Times Tribune: Find out what’s ailing Susquehanna
Citizens Voice: Justice Melvin should resign
Standard Speaker: Senate panel OKs bill to encourage mine water for fracking

South Central
Harrisburg Patriot News: Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson to oppose any legislation barring city from bankruptcy protection
Harrisburg Patriot News: Republican senators propose changes to new employees’ pensions
York Daily Record: Corbett talks education, money and more with newspaper editors
York Dispatch: Special report: Schools, state scrap over savings
York Dispatch: York County worries funding won’t keep up with needs of older residents
Lancaster Intelligencer/Era: GOP wants pension reform
Lebanon Daily News: Toomey to attend Palmyra briefing

Philadelphia Daily News: A responsibility to share the burden
Daily Local: Competition Improves Life for America’s Workers
Delco Daily Times: Romney’s views on education earn failing grade
Morning Call Op-ed: Senior medical patrol helps identify Medicare fraud
Courier Express: ‘Budget cuts to cause pain!’ Well…duh
Williamsport Sun Gazette: More claws removed from voter ID law
Chambersburg Public Opinion: PO Editorial: Keep General Assistance benefit in the state budget

Speaking Freely (ACLU-PA): Noxious creeping: amending the PA Wiretap Act (Part I)
Keystone State Education Coalition: What would you like to ask Tom Corbett?
NEPArtisan: Eliminating school property tax: HB 1776
NEPArtisan: Mitt Romney not American!
2 Political Junkies: Venture capitalist Mitt Romney outspends all contenders to acquire Republican presidential nomination
PA Water Cooler: Welcome to the party, Jo Ann Nardelli
Pennsylvania Progressive: Campaign 2012: Romney wraps it up
Keystone Progress: Lobbyists from Just One Association plan to spend $80 million in corporate cash to elect pro-big business Congressmen this year
Keystone Politics: Has anybody seen Rick Daughtry?
Keystone Politics: Giving Philly city council veto power over bike lanes is a bad idea
John Hanger: International Energy Agency golden rules say fracking can & must be safe or else!
John Hanger: The Economist Writes about “fracking good news” or America’s slashed carbon emissions
North Pittsburgh Politics: North of the Burgh: Keith Rothfus and my family concerning healthcare

Pa. House and Senate Nearing Budget Agreement

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Chester) and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Bradford Woods) said they are engaged with other Republican leaders in ongoing negotiations to finalize the state budget proposal for fiscal year 2013.

They aim to present the budget to Gov. Corbett as early as next week, well in advance of the June 30 deadline.

Democratic leaders were not invited to take part in today’s negotiations.

Earlier this month, a plan was formulated in the Senate which restored nearly $500 million in spending that was cut by Gov. Corbett in his February budget proposal. It passed May 9.

The counter-proposal was made possible after the Senate passed a $27.6 billion spending plan, nearly 2 percent higher than the governor’s budget.

While the Senate budget makes room for greater spending, strict prioritization is key to Senate-House considerations for allocating funds.

For instance, both chambers blocked amendments aimed at restoring a $150 million that would restore funding for a $150 million cash assistance program

According to Morning Call, the Senate plan has three main priorities: “the partial restoration of some funding for K-12 education, higher education and some welfare spending, particularly for the mentally handicapped.”

Turzai said the Senate plan is “fiscally responsible while still balancing the needs of Pennsylvania citizens.”

Pileggi said that Republicans from both caucuses agreed on core concepts, and that they were just “working through the details.”

Corbett expressed outright displeasure with the Senate’s initial budget plan, so it is unclear how he will react to a new proposal negotiated between both chambers.

Fitzpatrick Gets Burned on Chemical Tariff Suspension Proposals

Rep. Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown) has been criticized for introducing bills that would directly benefit a company in his district, belonging to a campaign donor.

After introducing 12 bills suspending tariffs on chemicals entering the country, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick has come under fire after eight of the bills would potentially benefit the company of a campaign donor.

The bills, which would amend the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, would benefit United Color
Manufacturing Inc., a dye and pigment firm located in Newtown.

Thomas Nowakowski, the company’s owner, has donated more than $26,000 to Fitzpatrick since 2002, and $150,000 to Republican candidates and organizations over the same time period.

In addition, Nowakowski’s wife Carmella and his son Thomas Jr. donated $5,500 to Fitzpatrick prior to his proposal of the 12 tariff-related bills.

Fitzpatrick’s campaign refused to comment on the issue without a response from his opponent Kathy Boockvar, who was unavailable.

The controversy over Fitzpatrick’s potential earmarks comes amid growing recognition of tariff earmarks’ prevalence in the House of Representatives. Under Republican party rules, legislators can’t provide earmarks of any kind in proposed bills.

Under Fitzpatrick’s bills, the 6- to 7-percent duty on chemical imports would be suspended temporarily. Proponents of the bill – including Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) – argue that lowering tariffs would allow American manufacturers to be globally competitive.

United Color Manufacturing first proposed the bills to Sen. Casey, who introduced the Senate version of Fizpatrick’s bills. Unlike Republicans, Democrats haven’t banned earmarks in tariff suspensions, though they have prohibited their inclusion in spending bills.

In an article from Roll Call, Casey’s spokesperson April Mellody said Fitzpatrick’s bills benefit Pennsylvania directly in the world market.

“Senator Casey introduced these bills to help level the playing field for Pennsylvania manufacturers,” Mellody said.

“These companies face unfair global competition…This company is sustaining Pennsylvania jobs and the Senator wants to make sure they have the tools they need to grow and retain their workforce.”

Nowakowski echoed Casey’s stance on the proposals in the same Roll Call article, saying that American companies are placed at a disadvantage because of regulations and labor laws, and that Fitzpatrick’s proposals ease some of these burdens.

“A lot of our competition comes from China, comes from India, comes from Mexico,” Nowakowski said.

“And basically, the rules and regulations are less over there. The wages are less over there.”

Despite the controversy over Fitzpatrick’s bills, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) has pushed for legislation like Fitzpatrick’s in a larger bill.

Fitzpatrick and Camp’s legislative proposals have raised a debate within the Republican Party of the scope of the ban on earmarks.

Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) argued that tariff proposals present a clear-cut case of earmarking as defined by the party’s ban.

Rogers’ point of contention laid in the lack of fairness between committees in terms of earmarking, since legislators can’t provide spending earmarks in appropriations bill.

Job Creator: Romney vs. Obama

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler) said in a conference call today that Pres. Obama is hostile to job creators.

Who is the real job creator, Mitt Romney or Barack Obama? Fiercely debated, the question remains a central theme in both presidential hopeful’s campaigns.

Republicans attacked Obama’s economic record during a Wednesday morning conference call.

During the call,  U.S. Congressman Mike Kelly, (R-Butler), and Bruce Hottle, owner of Eagle Concrete Products (a manufacturer based in Somerset), discussed why the President’s economic, environmental and health care policies are detrimental to job creation and small business.

Kelly used his previous experience as a family car dealership owner to illustrate the difficulties caused by the Obama administration.

“I don’t know if I have ever seen another president that has more hostility towards American job creators in both his rhetoric and his policies. You look at what the president is doing, you can’t be so hostile to businesses and you have to be friendly to job creation.”

Citing unemployment and long-term unemployment rates as evidence, Kelly called the economic recovery “anemic” and job creation “absolutely impossible.”

“This is a person who has never actually worked in the private sector the way we have…He’s never created a job, he’s never run a business.”

Contrary to Kelly’s argument, Obama campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Austin said the president has assisted over 150,000 small businesses by granting Small Business Administration-supported loans, which allow for expansion in size and staff.

“Facts are facts – under the President’s leadership we have seen 26 straight months of private-sector job growth, in which businesses have created more than 4.2 million new jobs.”

In addition to job growth, Kelly also attacked Obama’s environmental policies.

“This is a country that does not need to rely on anybody from outside our borders for our own success. But you can’t do things like blocking the Keystone Pipeline that would have created 20,000 jobs and got those refineries back and got things going again.”

He further criticized the high cost of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called ObamaCare. Both of these policies, Kelly claimed, “cost Americans jobs, good jobs.”

On the other hand, Kelly praised Romney for working both in the private and public sector, and his long history as a job creator.

Despite these claims, the Obama campaign has repeatedly dismissed ‘Romney Economics’. Austin, in an email, refuted Romney’s business record.

“Romney’s record stands in stark contrast with the President, who has cut taxes for small businesses 18 times helping them grow and create jobs while lowering their costs,” she said.

“Romney economics means tax cuts for large corporations and the wealthy, but no help for small businesses, it is about doing whatever it takes for him and his investors to profit, regardless of the cost to workers, companies and communities.”

On the call, Hottle, who has owned Eagle Concrete Products for 35 years, echoed much of Kelly’s message when he talked about how the president made life more difficult for him.

“I run a small business…(and) I can tell you that our bottom line has been negatively affected by this recession. What’s even more frustrating is President Obama’s desire to add even more roadblocks to job creation.”

Besides Obama’s economic record, Hottle blasted the health care act, calling it a “big mystery.”

“For small businesses to survive, the key to it is controlling your costs and your bottom line. We don’t know what (health care) costs are going to be a month from now and that’s what makes it difficult for us to plan and to expand our business and create more jobs and hire additional people.”

The call wrapped up on the same note with which it began: a criticism of Obama for not understanding the private sector in the same way that Romney does.

“Romney has been in the private sector, he understands the risk involved. There’s always some risk: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you have to be willing to take the risk. Government needs to get out of the way and let us take those risks.”

5/30 Morning Buzz

Good morning politicos, here’s the buzz. Lots of debate of property taxes and local school districts; Voter ID questions persist, and a battle is brewing in the Bucks Co. GOP.

House Bill May Cause Tax Shift for Schools: The proposed “Property Tax Independence Act” bill would eliminate property taxes as a source for public education funding in the state, as the bill’s sponsor Rep. Jim Cox (R-Berks) calls for increases in income taxes and sales taxes. How will school budgets fare?

New Provision Makes Getting an ID Easier…Or Does It? The Corbett administration promised Wednesday to ease the burden of obtaining a photo ID in order to vote. They claimed the new provision simplifies the method for Pennsylvania-born voters, who can request PennDOT verify their birth using state health records.

Leadership Contest in Bucks GOP: Longtime Chair Harry Fawkes is stepping aside, and into the void have rushed two candidates: also longtime vice chair (and de facto chairperson for several years) Pat Poprik, and former U.S. Senate candidate David Christian.

Politically Incorrect: Public Education Financing Flawed: In their latest column, Terry Madonna & Michael L. Young say that funding public education through the property tax is responsible for many of our school’s woes, and the misplaced property tax revenues could be better put to use supporting local government expenditures. Rep. Jim Cox’s (R-Berks) bill may help solve these problems.

Legislative Election Update:

HD-5: The Erie Times-News has the latest on the campaign of Republican Greg Lucas, who is running against Democrat Jason White for the seat of retiring Rep. John Evans (R-Erie) – a seat that will most likely be moved across the state by redistricting.

AP: Obama, Romney’s campaign playing it safe
AP: Romney ready to claim GOP nomination after Texas
AP: Obama campaign raps Romney on Trump rhetoric
Fox News: Judge admonishes Edwards jury amid questions about panel behavior
Fox News: As He Clinches Nomination, Romney Visited by Ghosts of Primaries Past
ABC News: Obama Awards Medals of Freedom

AP: Corbett attacked in ad, as supporters look for change
AP: Groups urge Pa. to keep aid for disabled adults
Inquirer: Creating a new way to fight voter suppression
Philly Now: Another Liquor Privatization Plan Mashed Together in Harrisburg
Philly Now: Republican Has Comical Cash Lead in Pennsylvania Attorney General Race
KDKA: Group unloads against Corbett
WHYY Newsworks: Pa. to enact sudden cardiac arrest law
WHYY Newsworks: Pa. finds 650 people fraudulently tapping into state benefits
Tribune Review: Senate Republicans push pension reform
Morning Call: New push to privatize win, liquor sales
Morning Call: Text-message question headed to Pennsylvania Supreme Court
Morning Call: Corbett to sign Rep. Vereb’s “Sudden Cardiac Arrest” bill in Norristown
Morning Call: Report: New Super-Pac targets Corbett
Morning Call: Tom Corbett’s very big day indeed
Morning Call: Pennsylvania leads the way in casino taxes
Morning Call: Corbett says state not liable in arena dispute
Post Gazette: Corbett supports corrections changes that could save of $263 million over five years
PA Independent: Out-of-state food stamp recipients stamped out by PA
PA Independent: GOP senators to introduce PA pension reform bill
PA Independent: Bill to clarify Act 47 arbitration moving through Pennsylvania senate

Heard in the Hall: Friction among city commissioners
Heard in the Hall: City Republicans skirmish over party leadership
Philly Now: Philadelphia Increasingly Unpopular in Pennsyltucky
KYW Newsradio: Philadelphia City Council Told Women Getting Short Shrift in Business

Pottstown Mercury: Montco commissioners tell Pottstown the era of the “big check” is over
The Intelligencer: Bucks GOP battle to take over for Fawkes

Tribune Review: Allegheny County gets bogged down in appeals
Tribune Review: Highway tolls draw consideration from state governments
Post-Gazette:  Pennsylvania welfare department identifies more than 600 with improper benefits
Post-Gazette: Pittsburgh Housing Authority to investigate security firm
Post-Gazette:  Firefighters’ new medical duties could change role of paramedics
Post-Gazette: Pittsburgh Housing Authority defends use of constables as officers
Early Returns: Ads target Corbett
Early Returns: The overhyped blue collar vote
KDKA: Pat Toomey For Vice President?
KDKA: PAC Group To Launch Anti-Corbett Television Ad

Valley News Disptach: New nutrition regulations force schools to raise prices
WTAE: Special election will fill Jane Orie’s former Senate seat

Lehigh Valley
Reading Eagle: Many school districts tapping reserve funds to close budget gaps

Pocono Record: Sewer system quagmire gets state attention

South Central
Harrisburg Patriot News: Lower Allen Township approves land development plans for Walmart
York Daily Record: Groups urge Pennsylvania to keep aid for disabled adults
Lancaster Intelligencer/Era: Study suggests Pa. tourism commission, tax changes
Lancaster Intelligencer/Era: How will Obama do in Texas primary?
Lancaster Intelligencer/Era: Veterans support Romney

North by Northwest
Times News: Greg Lucas continues campaign

Philadelphia Daily News: Supreme Court tipping scales of partisanship
Inquirer: Voter-ID law is a pig in lipstick
Pottstown Mercury: For some Democrats, Bush is to blame – forever and ever
Washington Post Op-ed: Time to fight for a minimum wage increase
Washington Post Op-ed: Romney’s pants on fire
Washington Post Op-ed: The right running mate for Romney
Wall Street Journal Editorial: Any state with the right reason
Wall Street Journal Op-ed: The Bain ads are about spending
Washington Post Op-ed: A new conspiracy theory: is Romney a unicorn?
Washington Post Op-ed: Mitt Romney’s lessons from his political parents
Williamsport Sun Gazette: Jobs missing from Obama’s sales pitch
Times News: Will: Liberals try squeeze play on Roberts
Courier Express: Enough, already, about haircuts, religions, etc.; we have more relevant issues to discuss
Lewistown Sentinel:  Appreciate all that is good in America

2 Political Junkies: Two prominent members of the “old right” criticizing what’s become of the GOP
NEPArtisan: Joke(r) of the week, month, year? Don Trump
John Hanger: Centralia gas fire 50th anniversary reminder that up to 200 similar fires burn in U.S.
Keystone Politics: Tom Corbett’s making your life worse
Keystone Politics: PA Dems’ Marcellus compact is all that stands between the natural gas industry and hippies
Keystone Politics: Why is transportation funding not part of Pa. budget debate?
Keystone Politics: Senate Dems introducing paycheck fairness act
Keystone Politics: State’s largest economic engine unpopular with Pennsylvanians
Keystone Politics: It’s still way too hard to get a photo ID

House Bill May Cause Tax Shift for Schools

A new bill may be the answer to increasing property taxes that have, over time, been contributing to more and more public school revenue. The bill would shift the tax burden to income and sales taxes, along with slot machine taxes.

Proposed House Bill 1776, called the “Property Tax Independence Act,” would eliminate property taxes as a source for public education funding in Pennsylvania.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Cox (R-Berks), calls for increases in income taxes and sales taxes as alternative means of revenue.

The income tax rate (now at 3.07 percent) would increase to 4 percent, while sales taxes would jump 1 point from 6 to 7 percent (and to 8 percent in Allegheny County, where the sales tax is already 7 percent).

In addition, a sales-tax exemption on many goods and services would be eliminated, such as on dry cleaning, funeral expenses, amusement parks, gum and candy, flags, magazines and newspapers.

Cox estimated in a Post-Gazette interview that all of these measures would generate $9.6 billion, coming close to the $10 billion needed to make up for a property-tax revenue loss.

The remaining money would come from existing slot machine revenue taxes, he said.

Cox drafted the bill with the intention of protecting homeowners from debilitating property taxes, he said.

“No tax should have the power to leave you homeless. We have to end the practice of kicking senior citizens and widows out of their homes because they cannot afford to pay their property taxes.”

According to David Baldinger, head of the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition, more than 10,000 Pennsylvania families lose their homes each year because of unaffordable property taxes.

In the past, proposals to fundamentally change the tax structure have been voted down, including a 1988 referendum to get rid of property taxes by raising other taxes.

For this reason, representatives on both sides of the party line are hesitant about the recently proposed tax shift.

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association said that they do not support the complete elimination of school property taxes, but support diversified means of taxation.

Guest commentary appearing on PoliticsPA today discusses the need for a replacement to the current property tax system.

Tumultuous economic times have already been cruel to public education, and have left many wondering how school budgets will be impacted if the proposed restructuring of the tax system passes.

New Provision Makes Getting an ID Easier…Or Does It?

Under a new Corbett administration provision, Pennsylvania-born voters may use PennDOT to verify their birth using state health records.

The Corbett administration promised Wednesday to ease the burden of obtaining a photo ID in order to vote. They claimed the new provision simplifies the method for Pennsylvania-born voters, who can request PennDOT verify their birth using state health records.

The law, which passed in March, requires all citizens present photo identification at the polls before being allowed to cast their ballots. If a voter is without ID, they may cast a provisional ballot that will be accepted if they present election officials with an acceptable ID within six days.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, approximately 12 percent of the country’s eligible voters may not have a government-issued photo ID; that percentage is even higher for students, seniors and minorities.

This new provision allows PennDOT to verify voters’ births without them having to show their original birth certificate or paying a $10 fee to receive a new copy.

And while the new requirement may appease disgruntled voters, especially minorities, the law still causes a high number of difficulties.

First, residents born outside of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will not be eligible for the PennDOT verification service. If voters meet that requirement, there is still another hurdle.

For PennDOT to verify a voter’s state birth records, the individual must first visit the driver’s license center with not only his or her Social Security card, but at least two proofs of residency.

If they don’t have access to their Social Security card, they have apply to the Social Security Administration to receive their state birth records.

But it’s not that simple.

To do so, they must have either a certified copy of their driver’s license (which would allow them to vote under the new law regardless), a state-issued ID (which you need your Social Security card to receive in the first place) or a passport (which is already accepted as proper form of voting ID).

Additionally, the new law requires a subsequent trip to the driver’s license center to pick up the non driver ID card, after the state confirms the voter’s birth. Physically impaired voters, or those without reliable transportation, may therefore still find that obtaining an ID is difficult.

Vic Walczak, legal director for the Pennsylvania ACLU, told the Philadelphia Inquirer this slight change will not affect the 10 individuals who are suing, citing the law as a violation of the state constitution.

Walczak also told the Inquirer that the provision “does not go nearly far enough in enabling all registered voters to get the necessary ID.”

Hearings against the law are set to begin July 25, with a decision expected by early August.

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