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Sticking points loom as budget talks begin

Plus, a big health system merger.

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A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Thursday, May 16, 2024
Today: Fiscal outlook, rare support, coal catch, big merger, Philly no-borhood, billing mistake, and Kittatinny Ridge sentinel. Thanks for checking in.

Budget talks are getting underway in Harrisburg more than a month out from the fiscal deadline and with many competing visions to reconcile.

Central to the divide: What to do with a $14 billion state surplus. 

Gov. Josh Shapiro and his fellow Democrats want more spending for education, public transit, and economy-boosting initiatives, while Republicans generally believe the money should be used to backfill a cut to Pennsylvania’s income tax and eliminate a tax on private utility companies.

Both sides see room for compromise. Meanwhile, the issue that held up the last budget, school vouchers, remains "unfinished business."

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Education funding boost, tax cuts are on the table as 2024 state budget talks begin.


"We humbly ask that your government—in its wisdom—temper justice with mercy and recognize that these men made mistakes."

—A letter from Josh Shapiro and two other governors asking Turks and Caicos to release Americans, one from Somerset County, held for ammo possession and each facing a minimum of 12 years in prison
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Chapman State Park in Warren County with Don H. and crew. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania
A dog and human walk between tall rows of trees.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.OFFICIAL OPPOSITION: The Allegheny County District Attorney's Office spent Tuesday trying to thwart the compassionate release of Ezra Bozeman — the 68-year-old quadriplegic whose bid for a medical release from prison has rare support from a sitting Pennsylvania governor. But the judge in the case said Bozeman "has a pretty strong case." The petition would be an exceedingly rare win if granted.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.WITH CREDIT? A natural gas driller wants to build a $1.5 billion facility at Pittsburgh’s airport to make hydrogen-based fuels — but only if coal mine methane is able to qualify for related federal tax credits, something environmentalists oppose, the AP reports. As the U.S. government looks to springboard a potentially massive domestic hydrogen fuel industry, serious divisions have emerged in states like this one.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.HEALTH MERGER: Thomas Jefferson University will acquire Lehigh Valley Health Network in an agreement confirmed Wednesday. It's set to create one of the top revenue-generating health systems in the country and a 30-hospital system spanning South Jersey to NEPA with 65,000 employed faculty, clinicians, and staff. The $14 billion deal still needs to win regulatory approval but could close this summer
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
FAIRMOUNT FRAY: Hundreds have signed a petition against Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker's plan to house people displaced by crackdowns in Kensington — a poster child for the city's drug epidemic — at a city-run homeless shelter in nearby Fairmount. The Inquirer (paywall) reports on Tuesday's raucous public meeting about the effort and Fairmount Councilor Jeffrey Young Jr.'s legislation to end it.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.PPL PAYBACK: PPL won't try to collect $1.7 million from customers who were underbilled during the power company's billing fiasco last year. StateImpact reports PPL has agreed not to seek repayment under an agreement with state regulators. The company has already issued about $1 million in refunds to people who were overcharged.
ON PROBATION: A Bucks County "parental rights" advocate will serve one year of probation for giving alcohol to kids, the Courier Times reports.

POLICY DECISION: Bucks County's Pennridge School District has rescinded a "biological sex" bathroom policy following a Title IX update.

NATURAL GEM: "One of the most biodiverse regions" in the eastern U.S., Pennsylvania’s Kittatinny Ridge, is now a Sentinel Landscape.

ANTHROCON: Pittsburgh's annual furry convention, Anthrocon, sold out 11,000 hotel room nights in 12 minutes this year, per KDKA-TV.

MONEY MILES: LendingTree says Pennsylvania has the most expensive toll per mile in the U.S. on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
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