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How Shapiro wants to revive a withering tax rebate

Plus, NY lawmaker's Twitter hacked after Pa. House crypto testimony.

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Thursday, May 4, 2023

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In today's edition: Rebate rescue, national nods, Twitter takeover, school fights, chief choice, Tree of Life, and 'the governor ... says the Celtics suck.' 

The number of people getting help from a state program that offsets some housing costs for older and disabled Pennsylvanians has dropped every year since 2009 and is set to drop again this year. 

State lawmakers haven’t updated the income limits for homeowners to qualify in more than 15 years. For renters, it’s been more than 35 years.

In his first budget, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro wants to reverse the trend by increasing income limits to make an additional 173,000 people eligible. It's a long-term solution to a problem that lawmakers have previously addressed only in a piecemeal fashion, but not everyone in government is sold. 

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Proposal to update ailing Pa. rent, property tax rebate program would reverse decade of decline.

THE CONTEXT: Even if lawmakers agree to Shapiro’s plan — which would up income limits, boost rebate amounts, and cost an estimated $136 million in year one, according to budget documents — the changes wouldn’t go into effect until 2024 and thousands would still lose out on rebates this year.

That's because soaring inflation led to one of the largest cost-of-living increases in Social Security history in 2022, making more people ineligible for rebates under current income guidelines that don't factor that in. 

State Sen. Lynda Schlegel Culver (R., Columbia) said the possibility of a rebate expansion was "an issue my district cannot stop talking about," but like other Republicans, she raised concerns about whether the cost of an expansion could jeopardize funding for broader property tax relief. 


"The Governor is focused on Game 2 tonight and says the Celtics suck."

A spokesperson for Gov. Josh Shapiro ahead of last night's Eastern Conference semifinals game between the Sixers and Celtics; Shapiro also had praise for Sixers superstar and newly crowned MVP Joel Embiid
» How Spotlight PA will cover Pa.'s 2023 primary election

» How to request, fill out, and return your mail ballot

» How to vote, find your polling place, understand mail ballots

» A guide to vetting candidates for school board, judge, and more

» A guide to the Commonwealth, Superior Court candidates

» A guide to the Pa. Supreme Court candidates

» High court candidates with party backing show fundraising edge

» Request your mail ballot for the May 16 primary; deadline May 9
Support Spotlight PA's trusted, nonpartisan election reporting.
» Los candidatos a la Corte de la Commonwealth y Cortes Superiores

» Guía completa de los candidatos a la Corte Suprema del Estado

» Una guía completa para el día de las elecciones primarias de Pa.

» Una guía básica para investigar a los candidatos a la junta escolar

» Todo lo que necesitas saber para votar por correo

Apoye ahora la cobertura electoral de servicio público de Spotlight PA.
It's May the Fourth or Star Wars Day and our PA Local newsletter recently went to Pittsburgh to see a pre-Y2K soda machine that's been drawing fans of the film franchise from around the country. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A Phantom Menace-themed Pepsi machine.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.KEY RACES: National progressives are weighing in on marquee primary races in Pennsylvania's two biggest counties. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders have endorsed Democrat Helen Gym in the race for Philly mayor, while Sanders has endorsed Democratic state Rep. Sara Innamorato for Allegheny County executive. Polling has Philadelphia's mayoral race in a dead heat, while new polling has Innamorato in the lead in her race weeks out from primary day, via WESA.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.TWITTER HACK: New York State lawmaker Anna Kelles testified to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives about the environmental impacts of cryptocurrency mining this week, and City & State reports that her personal Twitter account was hacked by cryptocurrency spammers soon after. “Get ready to receive free $PEPE tokens!” the account tweeted. As of Wednesday, the account had been suspended.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.SCHOOL WARS: The Bucks County Courier Times reports that two years after a wave of right-wing parental rights activists won school board seats across Pennsylvania, more candidates with similar leanings are running in this year's school board contests to shore up board majorities and, in turn, policymaking power. Spotlight PA reported on the semi-related push to end cross-party primary runs.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.CHIEF CHOICE: Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey has made his choice for police chief after a nearly yearlong search. The pick, Larry Scirotto, spent 23 years in Pittsburgh’s police bureau and more recently was fired from a chief of police job in Florida following reverse discrimination claims. If approved by City Council, Scirotto would take over at a pivotal time for Pittsburgh's police bureau, PublicSource reports.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.DEATH PENALTY: Accused Tree of Life massacre gunman Robert Bowers is still facing the death penalty after a federal judge ruled against his latest effort to avoid the possibility of capital punishment, the AP reports. Jury selection in the case is continuing this week. The pool of eligible jurors is slowly growing as lawyers for both sides scrutinize attitudes about the death penalty closely.

PA PARTY: Native son and famous actor Bradley Cooper is coming home to Pennsylvania to host the 2023 Annual PA Chamber Dinner. Allegheny County native Gabby Barrett will provide the music.

SURPRISE VISITOR: The first alligator to show up at Allentown's sewage treatment plant in 25 years dropped by last week. Workers saved the footlong specimen just in the nick of time, per LehighValleyNews.com.

HIGH DIVE: A group of scuba divers went to Somerset County and then straight to the bottom of "the highest body of diveable water" in Pennsylvania, more than two thousand feet above sea level, per WHTM.

FULL SPEED: The Pennsylvania Turnpike has entered the final phase of its all-electronic-tolling pivot with a cashless overhead system that allows drivers to pay at full speed via high-tech gantries, PennLive reports.

RADIO STARS: This Wes Anderson riff proves no one is having more fun on TikTok these days than Pittsburgh public radio station WESA.

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.

Yesterday's answer: Obsequious

Congrats to our daily winners: Michelle T., Mike B., Craig W., Barbara F., Jane R., Beth H., Irene R., Lynne E., Wendy A., Michael P., Al M., Chuck M., Stacy S., Eric F., Tracy S., Mark O., Vicki U., Marty M., Carol S., Don H., Eddy Z., Bruce B., Starr B., Susan N.-Z., John F., Susan R., Elaine C., Judith D., Mark C., Bob C., Ada M., Karen W., Beth T., Jill K., Nancy S., Kimberly D., Susan D., Kevin M., Stanley J., William Z., Jane C., Georgann J., Fred O., Craig E., John P., Joel S., Dennis M., Julie K., Sue B-W., Gary C., Elizabeth W., Joe W., Tom M., David W., John H., Richard A., Amy Z., and Jon W.
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