Piecing Together the PA Budget Framework

(Important news… – promoted by John Morgan)

By Chris Lilienthal, Third and State

Some details emerged Thursday about the state budget framework unveiled midweek by Governor Tom Corbett and legislative leaders, but questions still remain. More details may be available later today when budget spreadsheets are released.

Funding for county human services is one area that appears to be in flux, as some House Republicans continue to voice concerns about a plan to block grant and cut that funding. 

A number of GOP House lawmakers want to add more dollars for the mental health and mental disability programs in that mix, said [Rep. Mario] Scavello.

A Senate-approved bill restores half of the $168 million spending cut for the human services programs initially proposed by Mr. Corbett. House members would like to restore even more money but have to balance that with cuts elsewhere, he added.

Although the statewide association representing county commissioners recently agreed to a two-year phase-in for the block grant, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-18, Bensalem, chairman of the House Human Services Committee, said he’s trying to stop the block grant altogether and substitute a pilot program for several counties instead …

The seven programs considered for a block grant include community mental health and mental disability services, the human services development fund, homeless assistance, child welfare grants, the Behavorial Health Services Initiative and Act 152 drug and alcohol treatment programs.

While there is some hope for restoring more funds to county human services, one area that appeared not to make the cut is the state’s General Assistance Program. The governor proposed – and legislative leaders appear to have agreed to – eliminating this modest benefit for temporarily disabled adults, which will have a devastating on nearly 70,000 Pennsylvanians striving to avoid homelessness and build a better life for themselves.

One item unlikely to survive, despite protests from church groups and advocates for the poor, is the so-called general assistance program that provides cash benefits to nearly 70,000 temporarily disabled adults. Corbett proposed eliminating the funding, and legislative leaders did not seek to restore it.

Brenda Freeman of West Philadelphia, who has peripheral edema, which swells tissues in her arms and legs, said that program had been “my only income.” Freeman, 38, whose condition makes it very difficult to stand or sit for long periods and who telephoned The Inquirer to protest the cut, said: “What am I going to have to do – eat out of a trash can?”

“There still is a chance to do something,” she said. “I’m hoping that they do the right thing.”

Pennsylvania’s public schools and universities are likely to see no change in their funding, after sustaining deep cuts in the budget enacted last year.

On Thursday afternoon, the House Appropriations Committee approved funding bills for the four state-related universities as well as the Veterinary School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Though he stopped short of confirming that the schools – Penn State, Temple and Lincoln universities and the University of Pittsburgh – would be flat-funded at current levels, “we are working toward that idea,” said Drew Crompton, the chief of staff to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson.

The four schools were targeted for 30 percent cuts in Corbett’s $27.14 billion budget proposal unveiled in February. An amended version of the budget approved by the Senate this spring would fund at current levels: Penn State at $227 million; Temple at $139 million; Lincoln at $11 million and the University of Pittsburgh at $136 million.

Crompton said budget negotiators are moving in a similar direction with the state system schools … The schools would be maintained at their current level of $412 million.

Finally, multiple newspapers are reporting that Accountability Block Grants, which support full-day kindergarten and other early childhood programs, will be restored to $100 million after the governor proposed eliminating them. More funding will likely be approved for distressed schools and to expand the state Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program, which allows businesses to donate to private school scholarships and recover most, if not all, of their contribution through tax benefits.

Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery, said negotiators told him the tentative agreement includes $25 million to expand the current Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, which is currently funded at $75 million. An additional $50 million would be available to students who attend a school among the state’s lowest-achieving 15 percent.

Sandusky Trial: Jury Deliberating

After the trial went to the jury yesterday it was reported that Coach Sandusky also molested his adopted son Matt.  Ever since this story erupted last fall there have been reports about Matt.  He was prepared to testify as a rebuttal witness had Jerry testified.  Now we know why he didn’t do so.  This would have been devastating to the defense.  

At 8:55 AM this morning the jury resumed deliberations they suspended at 9PM last night.  They are sequestered without access to news.

I expect convictions on all but the two cases in which victims were not identified.  I doubt the state was able to meet the standards for proof without them.  The original counts are down to 48 from 52, also something I predicted.  I would be surprised if there isn’t a verdict today.

T Mobile Outsources CWA Jobs From Lehigh Valley

T Mobile, infamous for union busting in this country, is outsourcing 605 jobs held by members of the Communication Workers of America.  We hosted several Democratic Talk Radio shows with CWA members working at T Mobile.  The company was negotiating in bad faith and finally shut the facility.

ALLENTOWN, Pa-The Lehigh Valley Central Labor Council and various community organizations will be rallying at T-Mobile as the company shuts its doors on 605 employees. T-Mobile announced on March 22, 2012 the closing of seven call centers across the United States, including the location on Roble Rd. Lehigh Valley Labor Council President, Gregg Potter said, “What T-Mobile failed to disclose is that calls that were taken here will now be handled by representatives based in the Philippines, Guatemala, Mexico and other countries.” Potter continued, “whatever short term cost savings T-Mobile will realize, the taxpayers, customers and communities will all suffer as a result of this shortsighted decision.”

Correction:  I am told the workers were not members of the CWA.  I recalled we did several Democratic Talk Radio shows on this issue at this facility and thought I remembered they were CWA members.  I regret the error.

SCOTUS Ruling on ObamaCare Imminent

The Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as ObamaCare, is imminent.  No one knows how the court will decide, if it will uphold the bill, tear it down or declare it entirely unconstitutional.  Regardless HHS is moving forward granting funds to community health centers to prepare for the expected influx of new patients expected to have health coverage.

The individual mandate will apply to only 8% of Americans but will bring them back into the system.  Those who supply these services must be ready to handle them.  Over $3 million has been dedicated to community health centers in Allentown, Kennett Square, Pottsotwn, Reading and Williamsport.

Pennsylvanians are in line to save $51.6 million in rebates to 576,000 health care consumers under the ACA.  The bill requires health insurers to spend at least 80% of their revenues on actual health care rather than executive salaries, perks and doctors whose jobs are to deny you the care you need and deserve under your contract.  Because they have failed to meet the standard the rebates are in order.

Keystone Progress will host a news conference the day of the Supreme Court decision, either way.  They will also hold rallies (all at 3PM) the following day at these locations:

Allentown – 12 Noon

Harry A. Roberts Plaza, Union Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Allentown, PA 18102 (at the MLK, Jr. & Coretta Scott King statue)

Bucks County – 12 Noon

Outside State Rep. Tina Davis’s District Office, 3611 Green Lane, Levittown, PA 19057

Lancaster – 12 Noon

Binns Park, 100 Block N. Queen Street, Lancaster, PA, 17603

Philadelphia – 12 Noon

Governor Corbett’s Regional Office, 200 South Broad Street, 11th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19102

Pittsburgh – 12 Noon

Governor Corbett’s Regional Office, Piatt Place, 301 Fifth Avenue, Suite 240, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Reading – 12 Noon

U.S. Post Office, at corner of 5th & Washington Streets, Reading, PA 19601

Scranton – 3 p.m.

200 Adams Avenue, Scranton, PA 18503 (between Spruce & Linden Streets)

Wilkes-Barre – 3 p.m.

Public Square, 15 WB Public Square (Between South Main & Market Street), Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701

News & Notes June 21, 2012

The Sandusky case goes tot he jury following closing arguments.  Judge Cleland issued a stern warning to credentialed news outlets (we’re credentialed for the trial) not to report any of the verdicts before he officially adjourns the trial.  His onerous order threatens sanctions.  I’m betting someone will jump the gun for the scoop.

Commerce Sec. John Bryson resigned today after suffering recent seizures.  We wish him the best of health going forward.

Gov. Corbett surrendered to legislative Republicans on the budget.  They’re up for re-election this year and have to answer to the voters.  He isn’t.  Pennsylvanians are mad a shell about the draconian cuts.

Stafford student loan rates are set to double on July 1st.  Congressional conservatives refuse to do anything.

The federal transportation bill, being drafted over three years, is also not being passed before July 1st.  Roads and bridges are decaying while Tea baggers play their fiddles.

Is Mittenms chastising Florida Gov. Rick Scott about the way his state’s economy is improving?  Romney doesn’t need Republican Governors crowing about the health of the economy.  Republicans have spent three years sabotaging the economy in order to win this year and the improving situation plays against Mitt.

Senate Republicans sought to gut the Clean Air Bill once again.  They want coal companies and power plants to be uninhibited in spewing mercury and other toxic substances into your air.  Mercury causes autism.

The Newseum ironically barred the press from covering an event there recently.  How does a museum dedicated to the media justify blocking the press?  If you’re outraged Change.org has a petition to sign.

Rabid dog Catholic leader Bill Donohue has a message for Jews:  “Jews Had Better Not Make Enemies Of Their Catholic Friends.”  Yes, just like their Catholic friends took such good care of them during the Inquisition.  Catholics have never been friends to Jews.

Remember the white Chevy truck I showed with the big Romney sign?  It was at the Wawa event in Quakertown Saturday.  It is no more after Karma intervened.

Conservative Democrat Mark Critz won’t attend the DNC convention saying Obama is a liability.  His southwestern Pennsylvania district is very conservative and the President isn’t popular with all the crackers there.  Don’t let the door hit you in the arse on your way out Congressman.

The Department of Labor reports that three state agencies will get grants for homeless veterans.  The YWCA of Greater Harrisburg gets $178,750, the Veterans Leadership Program of Western PA gets $300,000 and Impact Services Corp of Philadelphia sees a grant of $300,000.

GOP Holds Holder in Contempt

A Congressional committee voted along party lines yesterday to hold AG Eric Holder in contempt.  He is refusing to violate separation of powers by bowing to demands he turn over Justice Department documents.  The failed Fast and Furious gun running operation is under investigation by Congress so the President invoked executive privilege to protect the secrecy of the files.

Barack Obama condemned the invocation of executive privilege and had not used it before this week.  After promising the most transparent administration in history this doesn’t bode well for yet another broken promise.  The House investigation is primarily a partisan witch hunt led by Darrel Issa.  There are legitimate questions about the wisdom and integrity of Fast and Furious however and being open and transparent would be wise.

Rep. Tom Caltagirone (Hearts) Gov. Tom Corbett

Gov. Corbett’s office sent this Tweet yesterday:

“I have served under 8 gov.s, this is the only governor I can truly say has pushed forward w/ the changes needed.” said Rep Caltagirone, (D)

The love affair between Democrat Thomas Caltagirone and Gov. Thomas Corbett goes back a few years.  I exposed him for sending a $500 campaign contribution to then Attorney General candidate Corbett the first time he ran for that office.  I earned scorn and retribution from the State Representaive and Democratic Chair of the House Judiciary Committee for that work.  While I was brought up on charges of being a “bad Democrat” for releasing information on how a sitting Committee man gave material support to a Republican, he was never pursued by Berks County Chair Tom Herman.

He explained his donation numerous times by explaining to me that it was Corbett who got him off on charges he had lounged on a sofa in his District office naked one day awaiting a female staffer.  When she entered and found him she ran out with the State Representative allegedly chasing her down South 10th Street in Reading.

No wonder the two Toms get along so well:  one is in bed with the church and one with the gas industry.  Both are sellouts who work against women and children in Harrisburg.  Their cozy relationship goes back and Caltagirone’s statement in support of Corbett defies logic and reason considering the enormous negative impact of this Governor.

Of course Corbett isn’t the only Republican aided and abetted by Reading’s resident scoundrel.  After Dems finally regained a one vote majority in the House he infamously crossed the aisle and voted for (now) convicted felon John Perzel for Speaker.

So Tom Caltagirone supports the agenda being pushed out of the Governor’s mansion?  It’s time either for this dinosaur to retire or for a real Democrat to send him there.

News & Notes June 20, 2012

Today is the summer solstice.  I think I saw a drag queen with that name once.  Enjoy your longest day of the year.  With this heat I’ll spend it in the pool.

The State Senate passed a bill allowing the state to take over distressed school districts and break the teacher’s unions.  This after distressing them by slashing their funding.

The Tea Party Express endorsed Keith Rothfus for Congress.  A new poll show shim 10 points behind Mark Critz.  Here’s a video showing how ignorant the tea baggers are:

So how do we fight back against morons who refuse to invest in our communities?  One town discovered how:

One of Ed Rendell’s more controversial appointments was that of former Rep. Joe Conti as head of the LCB.  It turns out he’s corrupt.  I don’t expect any better of Gov. gasbag however who has put cronies in positions of power.

43% of our veterans are on food stamps and many of our citizens in the armed services.  Yet conservatives (I use that term because many Democrats are conservative) want to slash the program which helps feed the poor.  Rich people crashed the economy and threw millions out of work and out of their homes and now they want to further punish you.  If you vote Republican you aren’t a Christian folks.

Tea baggers in DC who railed about government spending aren’t shy about wasting your tax dollars.  They’ve been abusing the franking privilege for free postage after collapsing the Postal Service with onerous pension obligations.  Hypocrisy in action!

President Obama is going after Crossroads GPS and their abuse of their 501 c(3) tax exempt status.  Those IRS designated organizations are severely restricted in the amount of political activity in which they engage.  Since Karl rove’s group is purely political they should be revealing their donors.  It is clearly illegal.  Obama-Biden has filed a formal complaint with the Federal Elections Commission.

Here’s one for all the homophobes out there:  America probably wouldn’t exist as a free nation if not for one gay man.

One lone coal miner wins his battle against Big Coal.  It’s about time the courts began standing behind whistle blowers.

States without mandatory helmet laws see significantly more motorcycle deaths.  If you’re too stupid to ride without protecting your head please die before you procreate.  It’s simple:  survival of the smartest.  I favor these laws allowing dirtbags to commit suicide on our roadways, each one means one less dirtbag riding recklessly and endangering me.

Looking at Romney’s tax plan I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover it lowers rates for millionaires like himself while shifting the burden to the middle class.  This pattern has been ongoing since 1981.  Why would they change it simply because it’s bankrupting the country?  After the nation collapses they can all buy Fiji and move there(assuming it isn’t underwater from climate change).

Mitt can’t stop himself from telling lies.  This time he thinks it takes a 33 page form to change your address at a post office.  Can this robot get any further out of touch or out of reality?

My radio compatriot Rick Smith goes after a state representative trying to bust the prevailing wage on the backs of kids:

Pro Publica took a look at the many different claims Obama Administration people have made about civilian drone deaths.  None of them are close to being truthful however because the President assumes that any military age men killed in his hundreds of drone attacks are legitimate military targets and not civilians.  So what is the definition of “military age?”  That could be any male between 15 and 50.  This is a huge gaping hole in their logic.  Just because we blow up a house full of people doesn’t therefore mean we killed civilians…  How does he sleep at night?  In many national security aspects Obama is worse than Bush.

WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange has sought refuge with the country of Ecuador.  He is in its London embassy requesting political asylum.  Good luck Julian!

Ron Paul, ever the hypocrite, is collecting Social Security.  He once attacked the program comparing it with slavery.

More evidence that VP Dick Cheney lied us into war with Iraq.  Of course any intelligent person already knew this.  Of course as a war profiteer through his ties to Halliburton he didn’t care how many people were killed as long as he made money from the venture.  Such is the success of unbridled, unrestricted capitalism.

Sandusky Trial: Defense Rests, Coach Doesn’t Take the Stand

The defense rested today without Jerry Sandusky taking the stand.  This was probably a good gamble with prosecutors waiting to use unaired segments of interviews he conducted after the scandal broke.  The coach might have had a difficult time explaining some of the comments found in them.  An example:

Costas: “So it’s entirely possible that you could have helped young boy A in some way that was not objectionable, while horribly taking advantage of young boy B, C, D and E. Isn’t that possible?”

Sandusky: “Well, you might think that. I don’t know. In terms of my relationship with so many, many young people, I would guess that there are many young people who would come forward – many more young people who would come forward – and say that my methods and what I had done for them made a very positive impact on their life.

“And I didn’t go around seeking out every young person for sexual needs that I’ve helped. There are many that I didn’t have – hardly had any contact with who I have helped in many, many ways.”

That sounds a lot as if he were defending himself by saying he hadn’t molested every boy he met.  How noble…

Juror number 6 was excused today after falling ill.  She was one of the few with no ties to the university.  She is replaced with an alternate.

The defense attempted to impeach the credibility of Mike McQueary by showing he attended some Second Mile events even after finding Sandusky engaged in anal intercourse (rape) of a young boy.  I don’t find that unusual.  If you a football coach at Penn State and not supporting The Second Mile you’d have a lot of explaining to do and it was obvious the young assistant coach was very uncomfortable discussing what he saw.

Will this jury understand human nature or believe the attacks on credibility?  A case like this come s down to that issue.  To believe eight young men or one coach?  Closing arguments commence at 9AM Thursday morning and the case goes to the jury.  I expect a quick verdict either way.  Either they’re convinced or they’re not.