March 2015
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Treasury Creates $1.5 Billion Credit Line

Treasurer Rob McCord and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale held a press conference this morning to announce that the Pennsylvania Treasury Department extended a $1.5 billion line of credit to the Commonwealth due to the General Fund cash balance dropping below zero yesterday. “Pennsylvania is now compelled to borrow unusually early in the fiscal year to pay its daily bills,” Treasurer McCord stated. “To solve the problem in the near term, I have decide, in collaboration with the Auditor General, to make funds available temporarily that will allow the state to continue operating.” Check out the PLS Capitol Toolbox later today to read the full story.

Government activist files ethics complaint against Senate Education Chair Folmer over Tomalis scandal

Activist Gene Stilp discusses Folmer ethics complaint

Activist Gene Stilp discusses Folmer ethics complaint

Activist Gene Stilp today announced he has filed an ethics complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee against Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), chair of the Senate Education Committee, “for misuse of the Education Committee chairmanship position” in an effort to diffuse a ghost employee scandal centering around former Education Secretary Ron Tomalis.

Stilp alleged in a press conference that Sen. Folmer has been part of a coverup involving Gov. Tom Corbett and current Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq to deflect attention from Tomalis and questions surrounding his tenure as Special Advisor to Gov. Corbett on Education. The ethics complaint contends Sen. Folmer used his position “incompetently” and as a result “has crossed the line into the equivalent area of obstruction of justice.”

Eric Epstein, speaking on behalf of good government advocacy Rock the Capital, offered a broader critique of “ghost employees” in state government and offered a series of recommendations to curtail their use.  He also called on the legislature’s Reform Caucus to demand public hearings on the matter.

PLS subscribers check the Capitol Toolbox later for the full story.

PERC Issues Actuarial Note on Grell Pension Reform Plan

The Public Employee Retirement Commission met this morning to consider an actuarial note to two Grell amendments, one of which establishes a cash balance pension plan for most public employees. The other amendment was described as technical and without impact. During discussions on the cash balance proposal, it was revealed that the bulk of the projected savings come from the issuance of a pension obligation bond and not from plan design changes. Commission staff suggested the policy implications of a bond are a question for the legislature to explore, but said a bond has benefits from a system-standpoint.

Look for the complete story in the Capitol Toolbox later this afternoon.

Auditor General Releases Performance Audit on DEP

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today unveiled a performance audit that shows the high rate of growth of the shale gas industry in Pennsylvania has “caught the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) unprepared to effectively administer laws and regulations to protect drinking water and unable to efficiently respond to citizen complaints.” DePasquale explained the audit showed eight different findings on DEP’s performance in monitoring potential impacts to water quality from shale gas development 2009-2012. He concluded the press conference by taking questions from the press.

PLS subscribers find the full story later today in the Capitol Toolbox.

Rep. Turzai Discusses Budget Impasse

Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) held a press conference this afternoon to discuss the current state of the budget as it has received line-item vetoes from Gov. Tom Corbett. “The governor’s actions today seem to be about politics and not about the hard work of the government,” argued Rep. Turzai. “Between the House and Senate we sent him a budget that spent $29.1 billion, only 1.8 percent over last year’s budget.” Gov. Corbett’s budget proposal would have spent $29.4 billion, a 2.9 percent growth, he noted. Rep. Turzai explained the executive branch’s expenditures have seen 16.4 percent growth while the legislature’s expenditure has grown by only 4.8 percent. He said he does not understand why the governor will not sign a budget that was delivered on time and includes his “most important request” for public education funding.

PLS subscribers check the Capitol Toolbox for the full story.

Gov. Corbett Signs Budget, Line Item Vetoes Certain Legislative Appropriations

Gov. Tom Corbett held a press conference this morning to announce that has signed the budget and Fiscal Code and also line item vetoed $65 million in General Assembly Operating Appropriations and as well as an additional $7.2 million in additional legislative-designated spending. “Facing a $1.5 billion deficit and struggling to provide adequate funding for essential programs, the General Assembly instead chose to increase their own $330 million budget by two percent,” he stated. “It is charging the taxpayers an additional $5 million to pay for its parking. It refuses to use any of its own six-month surplus – $150 million in taxpayer-funded budgetary reserves – to help with the budget gap. It filled the budget with earmarks driven by high-powered lobbyists. And it refused to deal with the biggest fiscal challenge facing Pennsylvania: our public pensions.” Check out the PLS Capitol Toolbox later today to read the full story.

Senate Democrats Discuss Fiscal Code

Senators Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia), and Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) held a teleconference this morning to discuss the status of the state budget and upcoming actions of the Senate. Sen. Costa said the main issue faced by the legislature is the fact that Gov. Corbett has not yet signed the budget bill. He admitted the Democratic Caucus did not support the budget bill but he believes the governor should sign the bill expeditiously. “Holding people hostage is not appropriate,” opined Sen. Costa. “Now that he’s got a balanced budget on the table done on time he should sign it.”

PLS subscribers find the full story in the Capitol Toolbox.

Rock the Capital Releases Pay Raise Report

Rock the Capital

Rock The Capital released a review of current and former state legislators who accepted an increase in their pay through “unvouchered expenses” and refused to pay the money back this morning. Eric Epstein of Rock the Capital, explained the organization released a report on the status of the people who voted for the pay raise nine years ago and refused to pay the money back. He said he believes the pay raise situation, the pension spike, and the automatic Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) has put Pennsylvania in a political conundrum. “Pennsylvania’s state government is a slow democracy,” opined Epstein. “They accomplish next to nothing and are paid a lot.”

Gov expresses disappointment at stalled pension reform, blames public sector unions

Gov. Corbett offers budget update

Gov. Corbett offers budget update

Governor Corbett spoke today on the state of the fiscal budget process and his ongoing desire to enact pension reform before breaking for the summer. The governor lamented a procedural move by the House yesterday to refer a pension reform measure back to committee, and blamed public sector unions for leveraging their opposition to the measure.

The governor emphasized he is keeping “all options” on the table, including  a possible veto of the budget. He encouraged Republican leadership to work with their membership to put pension reform up for a Floor vote, and indicated he would be more amenable to signing the budget, and its associated pieces of legislature that are still in process, if pension reform is also on his desk.

PLS subscribers check back later for ongoing coverage of the state budget and pension reform.

PBPC Discusses Budget Situation

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) held a teleconference this afternoon to discuss the $29.1 billion budget passed by the General Assembly last evening. Gov. Corbett has yet to sign the budget. PBPC Executive Director Sharon Ward described the budget situation as “not quite done yet.” She explained the Senate amended the House’s budget which was passed late last night. Ward said Gov. Corbett’s announcement he would not sign the bill was shocking to some. She opined the current budget bill did not require any Democratic votes to pass and does not include any new revenue sources.

PLS subscribers find the full story in the Capitol Toolbox.