It’s Budget Day 2020: Here’s three things to keep in mind | Tuesday Morning Coffee

February 4, 2020 7:12 am

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at rally for his Restore PA infrastructure plan Wednesday, May 15, 2019 (Capital-Star photo).

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Welcome to Budget Day 2020, a marathon day of speeches, posturing and analysis that will kick off this morning as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf presents his 6th spending plan to a joint session of the House and Senate, and then end tonight with a no-doubt gleeful President* Donald Trump taking a pre-acquittal victory lap around the U.S. House chamber during his third State of the Union Address, while Nancy Pelosi silently wonders if extraordinary rendition for a sitting chief executive is constitutionally permissible.

And despite the ongoing chaos in Iowa, we’re going to chiefly concern ourselves here with the affairs of the Commonwealth and let the chips of impeachment, and the eventual release of the results in the Hawkeye State, fall where they may.

Herewith, three things to think about on this 4th day of February 2020.

Answering the important questions. (Gov. Tom Wolf/Instagram)

1. Which Tom Wolf will show up?
Are we going to get friendly, “Go ahead, AMA” Instagram Tom Wolf?

Are we going to get Tom “Beaver, your Mother and I are very disappointed in you” Wolf, who will try to gently guilt the GOP into complying with his wishes?

Or are we going to get angry progressive Tom Wolf, who will wake up on Tuesday morning, remember that he romped to re-election in 2018, has energized Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate, and will just Fight You for $15 until the Eleventy-Seventh of July if he needs to?

As we noted last year, Wolf didn’t exactly shoot for the moon in his 2019 budget address. And the administration’s seeming capitulation to Republicans by the end of June was, indeed, eyebrow raising.

There were suggestions last week that Angry Progressive Wolf might be the guy who shows up on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters after rolling out his 6th attempt to boost the minimum wageWolf seemed like he’d had it with Republican obstructionism on the issue, snarking to a reporter that his leverage on the wage was “that this is the right thing to do, and that it would really be a good thing for Pennsylvania’s economy to raise the minimum wage.”

Speaker Mike Turzai announced his retirement Thursday. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

2. The Republican Reaction:
Equally worth considering — alongside the choice of Wolf du Jour — is how Republican leaders in the House and Senate will respond to the speech. The safe money seems to lie in looking at the calendar and reminding yourself that it’s an election year.

All 203 members of the House, along with half the 50-member Senate, will be on the ballot this fall. Democrats are continuing what’s become a two-cycle strategy of winnowing down the GOP majority in the lower chamber. They’ve enjoyed some success.

Because, at this point, the only way we’re going to know what Southeastern GOP Moderates were like is if archaeologists dig up the remains of Tacony Man thousands of years from now.

Of the two Republican caucuses … cauci?… cockeyed? … Senate Republicans have the most room to be obstructionist. Thanks to their special election win in Lebanon County’s 48th District, the Senate GOP is back up to a 29-21 majority. Still, the Senate GOP needs to protect state Sen. Tom Killion, R-Delaware, who’s up this fall, and whose suburban district must surely be on the Dems’ want list.

The reaction, of course, will depend on whether Wolf goes Full Bernie or merely settles for Biden at 11. Senate and House Majority Leaders Jake Corman, R-Centre, and Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, could set a more congenial tone, even as he pours cold water all over Wolf’s proposals.

The variable, of course, is state House Speaker Mike TurzaiR-Allegheny, who recently announced his retirement, and hasn’t ruled out quitting office early (with visions of ascending to Chief Extrusion Officer for Royal Dutch Shell dancing in his head?).

Turzai has made a career of standing athwart the budget and hollering “You shall not pass!” It could easily happen again.

Delaware County Community College (WikiMedia Commons)

3. The Give Points.
So let’s assume, for a moment, that, in addition to everything else, Wolf proposes universal basic income, agitates for a state takeover of Al’s of Hampden, and announces his new WolfCare medical insurance program, what chits could there be for Republicans in trade?

Two words: WorkforceDevelopment.

As we noted at the start of budget season last year, workforce development is one of those phrases that’s squishy enough to mean whatever you want it to mean. Job training? Sure. College tax credits? Sure. A welder in every pot? That’s some weapons-grade workforce development right there.

Business leaders love it. Lawmakers love it because they can go home to their districts and brag that they’re bringing back programs that will get the kids into good-paying jobs and reinvigorate Main Street at the same time. And there’s undoubtedly some benefit to all of that.

Two weeks ago, Wolf rolled out a $12.35 million grant program to spur manufacturing research — something union Democrats and free-market Republicans both agree is a good idea.

Take that grant money, and maybe some corporate tax reductions (a debate that has now lasted longer than the entire run of the Big Bang Theory) and you have a starting point for discussion.

If there’s spare change for the state System Schools, more money for Penn State University, and other enhancements, who knows? There might even be some broad-based agreement.

We’re in for an interesting couple of months, to be sure.

Our Stuff.

Stephen Caruso leads our coverage this morning, with a look at what state lawmakers are doing to prepare in case the Supremes toss Obamacare. They’re asking Congress to fix it, of course. Caruso also gets you smart, fast on a new effort by state environmental regulators to reduce carbon emissions, even as they allow a carve-out for a big industry.

And in case you need it, Caruso has everything we know about Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal so far.

Elizabeth Hardison looks at the growing momentum to finally pass an LGBTQ non-discrimination bill after decades of false starts. She also has the details on an effort to limit the use of solitary confinement for Pennsylvania prison inmates. She also swoops in for the scoop with news that Wolf will veto a bill aimed at creating a nat.gas cracker plant in NePa.

From our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune, here’s a look at City Council’s effort to again nix a “Resign to Run” rule.

On our Commentary Page, Celeste Trusty of FAMM says targeted intervention, not more mandatory minimum sentences, is the best way to reduce gun violence. And state Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Philadelphia, who’s of Puerto Rican descent, says it’s time for statehood for his home island. The piece also appears this morning, en Español, en la Estrella-Capital. 

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and a proponent of Medicare for All

There was a satellite caucus in Philadelphia, and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vtended up winning it, the Inquirer reports.
The Wilkinsburg mass killing trial has gotten underway, the Post-Gazette reports.
Students at Dickinson College have staged a sit-in to protest what they say are inconsistencies in the way the liberal arts school handles sexual assault cases, PennLive reports.
Lisa Scheller, who’s challenging U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th Districtloaned herself more than half of the $550,000 she announced raising for her bid, the Morning Call reports.

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:
Two of Philadelphia’s remaining public housing towers are up for saleWHYY-FM reports.
County governments say a new state mental health law was written in such a way that it’s impossible for them to use it, the PA Post reports.
From, a look at how states help cities ward off cybercriminals.
Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg rallies in Philly tonight, PoliticsPA reports.
Glitches on Monday night means — at least for this moment — there’s no clear winner in the Iowa Caucus, Politico reports. Results could be released later today, according to the Washington Post.

What Goes On.
The House and Senate both come in at 11 a.m. today for a joint session for the Governor’s Budget Address, followed by the annual Reaction Derby on the LG’s Porch between the House and Senate chambers. But things really get rolling at 9:30 a.m. with the annual Budget Briefing pre-game in the Capitol Media Center. Also, at 9 a.m., in the surest instance of burying the lede we’ve seen for a while, the Legislative Audit Advisory Commission releases its audit of the 2018-19 budget during an event in Hearing Room 1 of the North Office Building.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Tim Briggs
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Melissa Shusterman
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Meghan Schroeder
5:30 p.m.: 
Reception for Sen. John DiSanto
5:30 p.m.: 
Reception for Rep. Mike Sturla
5:30 p.m.: 
Reception for Rep. Mike Zabel and Sen. Tim Kearney
8 p.m.: 
Reception for Rep. JoAnna McClinton
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out a truly ridiculous $14,750 today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to our former PennLive colleague, Morgan Roddy, who celebrates today. Congratulations, and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s new music from The Good Love. The song is called ‘Colour TV.’

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
The visiting Florida Panthers rallied in the third period, beating the Maple Leafs 5-3 during a trip to Scotia Bank Center.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.