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Wolf's budget taps aid money the GOP wants to save

Plus, Spotlight PA is launching its first-ever regional bureau.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
February 9, 2022
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Final pitch, map tool, salary switch, policing plea, broken up, constitutional limits, and a first for Spotlight PA. It's Wednesday. Welcome.
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In his eighth and final budget address, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf outlined a $44 billion spending plan with no income or sales tax hikes. But Spotlight PA reports the proposal is almost certain to face pushback from GOP leaders.

That's because the governor's budget plan relies on spending billions in remaining federal coronavirus aid, money Republicans in control of the legislature want squirreled away to address future needs. 

But with the state flush with extra money now, the result of good budgeting practices and better than expected revenue collections, Wolf said: "These are days of opportunity for our commonwealth," adding, "at long last, our fiscal house is in order. … We are no longer digging out of a hole."

There are months of negotiations ahead. Lawmakers and Wolf have until July 1 to reach a deal, the start of the new fiscal year.

THE CONTEXT: Wolf's final budget address returned to themes that have marked his two terms in office, calling once again for greater investments in education, infrastructure, and public health initiatives, for example.

The term-limited governor also renewed his call to raise Pennsylvania's minimum wage, which remains among the lowest in the nation. 

Wolf's budget plan includes:
  • An added $1.25 billion for K-12 education, an added $200 million for special education, and an extra $70 million for early childhood education
  • An added $141 million for the State Police, a move meant to reduce transfers (like this) from a fund for bridge and highway repairs
  • An added $91.25 million in Medicaid payments to skilled nursing facilities and an added $14 million to state-run veterans homes
  • A hike of Pennsylvania's minimum hourly wage that would start at $12 an hour on July 1 and grow 50 cents each year until 2028
  • A reduction of the state's current 9.99% tax rate on corporate profits to 7.99% in 2023, 6.99% in 2026, and 5.99% in 2027
For all of February, we at Spotlight PA are giving you the chance to share a message of love, gratitude, or appreciation with the entire state. 

Here's how it works: Make a donation of $25 or more to Spotlight PA using this special link, put your shoutout in the "I am contributing because..." box, and we’ll include it in a special section of our PA Post newsletter. 
Show some love to a Pennsylvania business, a person, an animal, an animal that reminds you of a person, or your favorite reporters (👋). Make someone feel good, brighten a day, and support Spotlight PA at the same time.

"From what we understand, the majority of the women are recent border entrants, and are a mix of Haitian, Roma, and Spanish-speaking women."

—Immigration attorney Jackie Kline on the reopening of a controversial Berks County detention center as a women-only facility
» SUPPLY STOP: Johnson & Johnson quietly paused production of its COVID-19 vaccine last year, per The New York Times. The impact could be greatest in developing countries, where the single-shot option was preferred.

» BABY WAIT: The COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdowns led to a smaller-than-expected baby boom, the Wall Street Journal reports.

» LOW RATE: Less than a third of Pennsylvania elementary students are vaccinated against COVID-19, months after becoming eligible for the shots.

To find a COVID-19 vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your zip code to 438829 (GETVAX).

» BALLOT BATTLE: Join us Thursday, Feb. 17 at 5 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on Pennsylvania's mail voting law, the ruling striking it down, and what comes next. Register here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

Some post-ice-storm berries found in Monroeville. Thanks, Douglas W. Send us your gems. Use #PAGems on Instagram or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
SIDE-BY-SIDE VIEW: A panel has approved a final Pennsylvania Senate map that could make small changes to the partisan composition of the chamber. The Pennsylvania Constitution explicitly lists four requirements for state House and Senate districts. Spotlight PA has a look at how the final map stacks up on each and other measures, like minority representation and partisan fairness.

SALARY BUMPS: Members of Pittsburgh's City Council are scaling back pay raises they approved for themselves after private deliberations that drew criticism and raised questions about the legality of the hike. KDKA-TV reports the initial 22% pay increase has been scaled back to 6% because the larger amount conflicted with the city's home rule charter. That means roughly $4,500 raises instead of $16,000.

PAY GAPS: With roughly 1,200 police officer jobs and 350 emergency call center jobs vacant statewide, WITF reports AG Josh Shapiro is urging lawmakers to back emergency assistance that would bankroll signing bonuses and retention pay for first responders and 911 operators. Shapiro says more police will "make our neighborhoods safer." Studies say other steps are just as important, if not more so.

MAP FLAP: The congressional map overhaul recently recommended to Pennsylvania's Supreme Court by a lower court judge would "blow up" the 10th Congressional District, PennLive reports. If the high court takes the recommendation, which it is under no obligation to do, the outlet says voters in greater Harrisburg — and Dauphin and Cumberland Counties, in particular — will be sent in three different directions

GOV'T LIMITS: The Tea Party-aligned push to amend the U.S. Constitution and place new limits on federal authority could get a boost from Pennsylvania, where a state Senate panel voted along party lines this week to join calls to hold a constitutional convention where those changes would be proposed. Thirty-four states are needed to trigger the process, per Capital-Star. So far, 17 have signed on.
BIG NEWS: Spotlight PA is excited to announce the launch of its first-ever regional reporting bureau, which will be based in State College. The bureau will include a team of four journalists focused on State College, Centre County, north-central Pennsylvania, and the northern tier. Here's more on what readers can expect and how they can get involved.

CHANGE UP: The Chameleon Club's former Lancaster building has been sold. The buyer? The neighboring Pennsylvania College of Art and Design. The price? Nearly $1 million. LNP reports the plans for the former concert venue and cultural landmark are unclear. It could become student and artist housing, studios, or exhibition space. A plan is expected by the end of May. 

TICK CHECKS: rare but potentially deadly tickborne pathogen has been found in high levels at Clearfield County's Lawrence Township Recreational Park, The Allegheny Front reports. The state's DEP reported that 23 out of 25 sampled ticks at the park, or 92%, were positive for the virus, which can lead to severe disease, such as encephalitis or meningitis, in humans.

BLACK HISTORY: The building that houses the Bellefonte Art Museum once harbored runaway slaves in a secret hideaway. "It's so important to tell the real history of a place, and to not let it disappear," the museum's founder told WTAJ. A permanent exhibit is showcasing the space and the region's larger role in the Underground Railroad. Take a virtual tour here.

TAKE FIVE: If you need me, I'll be entering "Pennsylvania," Pennsylvania town names, and Pennsylvania sports team names on this "website for cinema archaeologists," which returns a string of clips of people saying the words and phrases in famous movies. (Note: Only the first five clips are free.)
And here's something similar, only just with screengrabs of The Simpsons.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

*This week's theme: Arts and crafts

Yesterday's answer: Topstitch

Congrats to our daily winners: Michelle T., Bonnie R., Wendy A., Don H., Vicki U., Barbara F., Doris T., Judith D., Susan N.-Z., Kevin M., Sandy B., Kevin H., Ted W., Susan D., Beth T., Stephanie J., Becky C., Kimberly B., Connie K., Craig W., Kimberly S., Elaine C., Mary Jo J., Cindy G., Bruce B., Kim C., Dan W., Starr B., George S., Scott R., Dianne K., James B., John B., Ronnee G., Irene R., Heidi B., Mike B., Bill S., Alan V., Carol D., Elizabeth W., Darlene B., David W., Kimberly D., Karen W., Patricia R., Lex M., and Pat B.
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