Thursday, May 23, 2013
The liquor privatization debate has brought out a new special interest—the property owners who rent space to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent HARRISBURG — Inside Pennsylvania’s liquor privatization debate, everyone wants a taste. A new special interest is asking for a seat at the table after the state legislature’s actions threaten the finances of its members. The Liquor Store Real Estate Owners Association is the latest opponent to liquor privatization. The group is comprised of property owners who have lease agreements with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. Among their ranks is David Neal, a Philadelphia real estate owner who owns the property for the state-owned wine and spirits shop on South Street. His lease, like all others in the state store system, has a termination clause, one without any penalties if the agreement ends. This …
As much as $515 million in costs and savings of Medicaid expansion were mis-estimated by the IFO, according to the Corbett Administration.
By Eric Boehm | PA Independent HARRISBURG — The administration of Gov. Tom Corbett says a report on Medicaid expansion by the state’s Independent Fiscal Office improperly claims as much as $515 million as savings, revenue or underestimated costs to the state. The IFO report, published in April and updated last week to reflect new information, showed expanding Medicaid in Pennsylvania would produce $180 million in savings for the next during the next budget year – mostly due to shifting state-level costs to the federally funded Medicaid program. The expansion of Medicaid is a part of the federal health-care reform law, but states must voluntarily opt-in to the program, something Corbett has so far been unwilling to do. In a letter sent to …
Monday, May 20, 2013
The Office of Administration says server outages may be a thing of the past once its new contract for web services with NIC is up and running.
Monday, May 20
By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent HARRISBURG — A state lawmaker continues to raise red flags about a website redesign and management contract. Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver, said this week he’s concerned the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett knew it would pay millions to NIC USA, a government website design and management firm, even though the contract was entered as a “self-funded” agreement. NIC provides “eGovernment” services in 28 other states, all of which operate on a self-funded model, relying on fees added to transactions business and individuals may make online. Pennsylvania is the only state to authorize a sole-source contract. Matzie said three work orders totaling about $2.6 million are proof the administration knew this …
Sunday, May 19, 2013
The Pittsburgh-based nonprofit, Pennsylvanians for Accountability, targeted four GOP lawmakers in November and is now airing TV ads attacking Corbett’s education policies.
Sunday, May 19
By Eric Boehm | PA Independent HARRISBURG — A new political nonprofit claims to be holding Gov. Tom Corbett accountable on behalf of Pennsylvanians. But the group comes up short on the accountability scale, itself. The Pittsburgh-based nonprofit is called Pennsylvanians for Accountability, and in recent weeks it has been airing television ads attacking Corbett’s policies for supposedly short-changing education in order to fund corporate tax breaks. An article published Wednesday by Public Source, an investigative reporting organization based in Pittsburgh, calls attention to the group. The ads blast Corbett for playing a “shell game” that cuts money from education and forcing districts to lay-off teachers while “bankrolling big tax cuts …
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Privatization debates in the Pennsylvania General Assembly could mean changes to where Pennsylvanians can buy six packs.
Saturday, May 18
By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent HARRISBURG — A simple six-pack of beer is becoming a focal point of the most substantive legislative debate on Pennsylvania alcohol laws since Prohibition. A Tuesday afternoon Senate Law and Justice Committee on liquor privatization, headed by Chairman Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, featured numerous testifiers discussing the already-private industry of beer sales. Chief among the concerns from the beer distributor industry and taverns is package reform, or allowing establishments who sell beer to sell different amounts. Under current law, beer distributors cannot sell less than a case, and bars or grocery stores with the ability to sell bottles cannot sell more than a 12-pack. The Senate, under McIlhinney’s…
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Pennsylvania’s Sen. Pat Toomey called for a congressional investigation into the IRS target scandal in a Monday statement.
Thursday, May 16
By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent HARRISBURG — Both of Pennsylvanians U.S. senators said they want to see the IRS investigated for its targeted treatment of conservative political groups. Their sentiments were released on Monday, several days after the IRS publicly stated it had targeted treatment of groups that had “tea party” or “patriot” in their names in applications for tax-exempt status. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said the issue should concern members of any political party, and that he’d like to see the matter as part of a congressional investigation. “The IRS’s actions are akin to an enemies list and further contribute to the deep cynicism that many Americans have about the government,” Toomey’s statement said. In a similar …
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
An audit of the state liquor control board show the agency overstated its assets by more than $1 million over the last year.
Wednesday, May 15
By Eric Boehm | PA Independent HARRISBURG – An audit of the state liquor control board reveals that the state agency responsible for selling and regulating the consumption of wine and liquor overstated its assets by more than $1 million during the past fiscal year. The audit, quietly released in March and uncovered by Keri Andren of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review for a story published over the weekend, was conducted by the state auditor general and looked at the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2012. It shows that the PLCB does not regularly take a physical inventory, leading to the inaccurate information on financial statements. Andren explains: The audit found that in a random sample of 10 items from the LCB’s list of assets, six items …
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
A Monday hearing of the Pennsylvania Senate State Government Committee involved testimony on adding a fee for commercial records requests.
Tuesday, May 14
By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent HARRISBURG — North Cornwall Township Manager Robin Getz said she sees the municipality’s employees spending too much time fulfilling open-records requests made to earn someone else money. That’s why she’s urging the state legislature to provide a fee structure for records submissions made for commercial purposes. “Our staff is performing the duty for a business, which is further resulting in their efforts being taken away from the taxpayers that they are there to serve,” Getz said. “Government should not be utilized as promoters for any business.” Getz was one of about a dozen people who testified in front of the Senate State Government Committee on Monday. The hearing concerned a proposed update to …
Monday, May 13, 2013
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille says the prime concerns for the judiciary branch are financial, and widespread understanding of the purpose of the courts.
Monday, May 13
By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent HARRISBURG — In Pennsylvania, the judicial system isn’t much different than the other two branches of government when it comes to worrying about money. A 2013 State of the Commonwealth’s Courts report released this week shows the court system is working to cut its costs as it prepares for a slight decrease in funding next year. “At one-half of one percent of the state budget, the judiciary’s lean budget has never had deep pockets for easy savings,” Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille said in the report. Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget for the 2013-2014 year provides $308.1 million for the judiciary, down from $309.2 million this year, as the court requests $324 million. The report shows a few …
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ron Castille gave the reapportionment commission a passing grade, barely, on their second try at drawing a new electoral map.
Sunday, May 12
By PA Independent HARRISBURG — In a capital city teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and the first city in the nation to be charged by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission with misleading investors, the Pennsylvania state government is beginning the process of putting together a budget. Pension costs and transportation spending will loom large in the new budget, which will get its first legislative vetting next week. Gov. Tom Corbett has talked about the looming danger that Pennsylvania’s $47 billion public pension debt poses to the state budget. This week, he made it clear how that would affect the household budget as well. At the current level, the unfunded pension liability would cost each household in Pennsylvania more than…