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GOP balks at Shapiro's 'critical jobs' tax credit

Plus, tracking Pa.’s proposed constitutional amendments.

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Monday, May 1, 2023
🗳️ PRIMARY DEADLINE: Today is the last day to register to vote in the May 16 primary. Register here. Keep scrolling for more Spotlight PA election coverage, including voter guides and resources.
In today's edition: frosty reception, amendment tracker, statistical tie, chief controversy, banned bags, armed threats, and candy dish consequences.
A tax credit and signature selling point in Gov. Josh Shapiro’s first budget is getting a frosty reception from the lawmakers needed to approve it. 

While tax credits have proven very popular among the General Assembly, the Democratic governor's proposed credit for new police, teachers, and nurses — an effort to curb shortages of each — is drawing pushback. 

Republicans in control of the state Senate are more interested in lowering Pennsylvania’s corporate and personal income tax rates while also expressing interest in expanding existing tax credits for corporations.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: The Pa. legislature seems to have met a tax break it dislikes: one for teachers, nurses, and cops.

THE CONTEXT: In the 2017-18 fiscal year, the state handed out $477 million in tax credits, according to the Independent Fiscal Office, a nonpartisan legislative agency. That number rose to $679 million in the 2021-22 fiscal year, and is projected to reach almost $1 billion this fiscal year.

Shapiro's proposal is relatively small and estimated to cost $24.7 million in forgone tax revenue in its first year, the goal to aid in the retention and expansion of three professions he named as critical.

The proposal would allow newly certified members of those three professions to receive up to $2,500 off their state income taxes, though the AP reported most police, nurses, and teachers don't earn enough to qualify.

Some advocates for teachers are questioning the non-refundable credit's true impact, but the biggest hurdle remains Republicans in the state Senate, where Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R., Indiana) called the credit's professional scope too limited and an across-the-board income tax cut a better option.

"While police officers, nurses, and teachers are vital to our communities, so are bus drivers, EMTs, correction officers, and CDL drivers," Pittman said.

"It was an issue that even the Supreme Court wanted to review."

Central Dauphin School District on video of an altercation between an administrator's wife and student that the district spent around $240,000 in taxpayer money on legal fees to keep from being publicly released
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🏆 TEST YOUR PA IQ: If you think you've been paying attention to the news, there's only one way to prove it: Put your knowledge to the test with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz: ‘Landmark step toward equality,’ legal pot next door, and local media fusion.
The sunnyside at Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve in Bucks County, via Don N. Have a Pennsylvania photo you'd like to share with the whole state? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
Two turtles sunning on a log.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.TRACKING TOOL: Pennsylvania legislators have proposed almost 40 changes to the state constitution this session. Most are still at the beginning of a lengthy legislative process, but several amendments covering abortion, voter ID, childhood sexual abuse, and executive branch overrides could reach voters this session. Keep tabs on all of them with Spotlight PA's updated tracking tool and guide.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.DEAD HEAT: New polling from the nonpartisan Committee of Seventy says the race to be Philadelphia's 100th mayor is a statistical tie weeks before the city's pivotal Democratic primary. Democrat Rebecca Rhynhart has gathered endorsements from former mayors and the paper of record and leads in a poll showing what voters' preferences would be with ranked-choice voting, if it was allowed in Pennsylvania.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.CHIEF PICK: Multiple outlets are reporting that police reform-minded Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey is set to nominate Larry Scirotto to be the next head of the city's force. Scirotto, a former Pittsburgh officer, was fired months into his job as a police chief in Florida over allegations of reverse discrimination. Gainey's reported first choice — former Boise, Idaho Police Chief Ryan Lee — had baggage of his own.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.BAG BANS: Cheltenham Township in Montgomery County is the latest municipality to adopt a ban on single-use plastic bags following the end of a provision that prevented such local restrictions. In Philadelphia, where a bag ban has been in place since 2021, WHYY reports a new study says the policy eliminated over 200 million plastic bags in the city — enough to fill City Hall every eight months.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.'I'LL BE BACK': A former GOP Allegheny County Council candidate is accused of threatening people with a gun at a Plum Borough Republican Committee meeting last week. Allegheny County GOP Committee Chair Sam DeMarco said Eric Casteel was upset about the vote for a new vice chair. According to witnesses, Casteel said "I'll be back," left the building, retrieved a gun, and aimed it at others. No one was injured.

TRIAL PREP: Jury selection continues this week in Pittsburgh's Tree of Life massacre trial. Last week saw dozens of potential jurors questioned, among them several people who called hate crimes "hoaxes" and a man with an interest in alt-right, America First ideologies, TribLIVE reports.

BAM DEFENSE: Bam Margera has hired a Trump impeachment lawyer to defend him against assault charges that followed an incident at Margera's Chester County home. Attorney Michael T. van der Veen told The Inquirer (paywall) Bam's family, "like every family, has disagreements at times."

MASKING RULES: Health-care giant UPMC has ended universal masking rules at most of its facilities, effective today. CBS21 reports masks will still be required in some patient care areas. In a major departure, the CDC stopped recommending universal masking in health facilities last September.

RETIREMENTS HAVE CONSEQUENCES: Billy Penn reports Pennsylvania has lost control of the U.S. Senate's candy dish following Pat Toomey (R., Pa.)'s retirement. Pennsylvania-made confections are out and Indiana-made gummies and chocolates are in.

PIZZA PLAYERS: Not to be outdone by the Lehigh Valley Hoagies, Altoona's minor-league baseball team is temporarily changing its name too. The chosen nod? A local delicacy that's been called a crime against pizza.

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. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Friday's answer: Laconic or conical

Congrats to our weekly winner: Stacy S.

Congrats to our daily winners: William Z., John H., Karen W., Bill S., Kim C., Irene R., Dan A., Ted W., Jane R., Kevin M., Don H., Kimberly D., Jon W., Vicki U., Carol S., Lynne E., Beth H., John F., Mike B., Robert K., Michelle T., Jennifer L. C., Kimberly B., Starr B., Daniel S., Tom S., Ted B., Wendy A., Adrien M., Matt C., Susan N.-Z., Mary S., Judy M., Elaine C., Elizabeth W., Becky C., Daniel M., Jim A., Judith D., James B., Beth T., Dianne K., Dennis M., Stanley J., Art Z., Nancy S., Mike Z., David W., Craig W., John P., Bob C., Bruce B., Eric F., Barbara F., and Joel S.
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