Will Pennsylvania’s elected officials turn to the cigarette to balance one more state budget?
Could happen, and this time it’s got nothing to do with cigarette tax rates.
Several sources told PennLive last week one strategy under study to get to budget closure without a major tax increase is floating a bond issue against future proceeds owed Pennsylvania from the 1998 national tobacco settlement.
There is no consensus for this move yet, the sources cautioned, and there is no prospective deal available for review.
But it is on the list of possibilities as Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative leaders dig in for the legislative equivalent of a cram session to finalize and balance a new budget for 2017-18. The new fiscal year starts July 1.
You could call it a win, a compromise, or backing down. Or all of the above.
The pension reform bill passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf last week makes more changes than unions would have liked and less than Republican advocates had sought.
Unlike past efforts at pension reform, this bill was not actively opposed by most Pennsylvania public sector labor unions, however.
“Labor did not throw bombs at this thing,” said David Fillman, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 13, which represents about 40,000 commonwealth employees, though he added that the union didn’t embrace the bill, either.
It garnered praise from a number of outside groups and passed both chambers with bipartisan support — by 40-9 in the Senate and 143-53 in the House.
The 2015 Democratic primary for mayor of Philadelphia could make a curious intersection with the 2019 primary in City Hall on Friday.
The issue: the city’s sweetened-beverage tax, which since January has added 1.5 cents an ounce to the cost of most sugary and diet beverages sold in Philadelphia.
The players: State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams and City Controller Alan Butkovitz.
The target: Mayor Kenney?
Williams, who opposes the tax, requested that the Senate’s Local Government Committee hold a hearing on the issue, not in Harrisburg but in Philadelphia, in City Council chambers.
Butkovitz, another critic of the tax, plans to testify at that hearing.
Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse spent nearly ten times as much as his closest competitor in this year’s mayoral primary, according to campaign finance reports submitted last week.
Papenfuse spent nearly $150,000 in the months leading up to the May 16 primary election, which dwarfed the $16,530 spent by challenger Gloria Martin-Roberts.
Challenger Jennie Jenkins, who came in a distant third in voting, spent $5,129 for her campaign.
Candidates who raised or spent at least $250 in the final month of the campaign had to complete mandatory finance reports that were due last week. The other mayoral challengers did not file any reports.
PennLive combined the spending totals of the post-primary reports with earlier campaign spending reports to come up with overall totals for the candidates.