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What’s inside Pa.’s new $45.2 billion state budget

Plus, anti-abortion measure moves closer to Pa. ballots.

A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
July 11, 2022
By the numbers, amendment tracker, fresh vetoes, targeted research, RGGI hold, church and state, dispatcher charged, and Wildcat gone. It's Monday.
Pennsylvania's delayed 2022-23 state budget is now law, the $45.2 billion spending plan earning General Assembly approval and Gov. Tom Wolf's signature on Friday, one week after the official due date. 

Spotlight PA reports the spending plan contains a $1 billion boost in education funding, a new child care tax credit, a corporate tax cut, and a $2.1 billion deposit into the state's rainy day fund — all made possible by higher-than-expected revenues that led to a multibillion dollar surplus.

The General Assembly also agreed to spend $2.2 billion in remaining federal stimulus dollars on a number of one-off conservation, water infrastructure, housing, child care, and public safety projects. None of the money will be used for direct payments to Pennsylvanians as Wolf requested.

The budget also includes $45 million in new election funding for counties statewide. It's a potentially transformational move, but the strings attached are drawing mixed reviews from local election officials.

CONSTITUTION CHANGES: Amendments to the state constitution covering everything from voter ID to abortion could be decided by voters as soon as next year under a bill passed by a divided state legislature, Spotlight PA reports. 

If the amendments are approved by the state House and state Senate again next year, as required, they will go before voters. If they are approved by voters, they will be veto proof — a policy avenue favored by GOP lawmakers looking to avoid the governor's final say on contentious issues.

The proposed amendments under Senate Bill 106 would: 
  • Declare the state constitution does not grant any right relating to abortion, including no right to public funding for the procedure.
  • Require government-issued ID to vote.
  • Require the auditor general to audit elections.
  • Allow each major party's gubernatorial nominee to choose their own running mate, rather than holding a separate primary for lieutenant governor.
  • Expand the General Assembly's power to reject regulations.
Track Senate Bill 106's progress with Spotlight PA's tracker tool.

"You cannot enhance services in the community on funding that is gone in two years. It needs to be a sustainable source of funding."

—Bucks County administrator Donna Duffy Bell on the resources needed to carry out a state law expanding court-ordered mental health treatment
A turtle on the bike trail at Presque Isle State Park, courtesy of Don H. Send us your pics, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
VETO POWER: Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed legislation that would ban transgender girls and women in Pennsylvania from playing on school sports teams that correspond to their gender, Spotlight PA reports. Wolf also vetoed a bill that would have loosened rules around poll watchers, something critics warned could lead to a weaponizing of the role and intimidation at the polls, via ABC27.

PITT FUNDING: TribLIVE reports $580 million in funding for in-state tuition discounts at four state-related universities has survived a challenge that saw Republican representatives in Harrisburg threaten to block the money over fetal tissue research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, delaying this year's budget. While the money has been given the green light, attempts to stop the research continue.

CARBON CAP: Coal-related interests earned a win on Friday in their push to halt Pennsylvania's entry into a regional carbon pricing program that would limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Commonwealth Court has temporarily paused the regulation, a cornerstone of Wolf's climate change agenda, the AP reports. Wolf's office is planning an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

RELIGIOUS RIGHT: GOP nominee for governor and current state Sen. Doug Mastriano is central to a New York Times piece about the right-wing political candidates who are promoting Christian power in America and "mixing religious fervor with conspiracy theories." Mastriano has called the separation of church and state a "myth" and believes divine intervention will deliver a win for him in November

NO DISPATCH: A Greene County 911 dispatcher is charged with involuntary manslaughter after authorities say he refused to send an ambulance to a bleeding woman unless she agreed to go to a hospital first, per KDKA-TV. The criminal case against Leon Price of Waynesburg is unusual, experts say, and stems from a July 2020 call that failed to deliver aid to Diana Kronk, 56, who died the next day. 
WAIT AND SEE: Bird flu cases are on the decline in Pennsylvania after the worst outbreak in years decimated commercial poultry flocks here. But experts told WHYY that when the wild birds that spread the virus to livestock start migrating again in the fall, the surge could return. 

NEW POST: Corey O'Connor is now Allegheny County's controller, having been confirmed by the state Senate last week. A special election to fill his Pittsburgh City Council seat is shaping up. WESA reports competitive 2023 race to retain the controller's office could also be looming.

LAST RIDES: Hersheypark's Wildcat coaster is done on July 31, ending a 26-year run. A replacement has yet to be named, but a tweet from an Idaho-based firm known for "converting old wooden coasters into steel-and-wood hybrids" could offer a clue, per the Theme Park Tribune.

DONUT DOG: The hot dog donuts at South Philly's Okie Dokie come with mustard and pack a sweet-and-salty punch, per Billy Penn. Exactly how they got the hot dog to form a circle remains a trade secret.

BLOB MARKET: Blobfest slid back into Phoenixville over the weekend after a two-year hiatus, drawing fans of the 1958 horror film The Blob back to the town where part of the movie was filmed, via 6ABC.
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*This week's theme: Wedding season

Friday's answer: Supercilious

Congrats to our weekly winner: Sharon P.

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