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Happy weekend, all.
If you’re one of the many Pennsylvanians who already have applied for the Biden administration’s student loan relief program (or if you’re planning to) and you were sweating getting hit with state taxes for any help you might receive, worry no longer.
On Friday, the Wolf administration reminded the more than 1.7 million Pennsylvania borrowers who are eligible for the program that they won’t face any state taxes on the forgiveness — a position that’s in line with the federal government and other states.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced the policy last year as applications opened for the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and the Pennsylvania Student Loan Relief for Nurses.
The move on the latter programs was expected to save borrowers thousands of dollars in potential tax liability. At the time, Wolf said he thought it was “wrong to take what should be a blessing and turn it into just another burden.:
Borrowers applying for the new student loan program will save up to $614 in state taxes if they qualify for $20,000 in relief, the administration said.
“Student loan debt holds us all back. Individuals, families, and the commonwealth as a whole. President Biden’s Student Debt Relief Plan is a weight lifted off of shoulders and we will not burden Pennsylvanians who benefit from this relief with taxes at the state level,” Wolf said in a statement. “… I encourage everyone eligible to apply so that you can breathe easier and chase your dreams.”
Applications for the one-time relief are open until Dec. 31. You can apply here.
As always, your top five most-read stories of the week start below.
PHILADELPHIA — District Attorney Larry Krasner has responded to questions related to his office’s retail theft prosecution policy following Wawa’s recent announcement that it plans to close two of its Center City locations.
“For people who are not chronic, repeat, long-term or organized retail thieves of amounts that are not high … we ordinarily start those as summary offenses,” he said Monday during his weekly gun crimes update.
A summary offense is described as “the most minor type of criminal offense in Pennsylvania” where convictions are typically met with fines and defendants are not always expected to step foot in court, according to Community Legal Services of Philadelphia.
A summary offense can result in retail thieves sitting in prison for 90 days, however, the responsibility of charging people with summary offenses falls onto police officers, Krasner said.
“They have the charging function for summaries … and when that case goes to court, we are the ones in the court room prosecuting it,” Krasner said. “That has been available to the Philadelphia Police Department in the past but also available all five years, if there are some police who are not doing it, I don’t know what to tell you.”
Dear Christian siblings in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,
We write to you as Christian leaders called by God to serve God’s people and to witness to Jesus’ love and God’s grace in our lives. We place our trust in Jesus, just as you do, knowing that the earth is the Lord’s and that every person is fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image.
We also value our Commonwealth’s long-standing commitment to constitutional democracy and to religious liberty. As Christians, we are concerned about a grave threat to our religious communities and to the well-being of all Pennsylvanians: Christian Nationalism.
There has been a lot of talk in the media about Christian Nationalism, often without clarity about its meaning. We define it as an ideology that “demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian. It often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation.”
Many who propagate Christian Nationalism seek to dismantle the voting rights of Pennsylvanians, disenfranchise poor people, the elderly, people of color, women and LGBTQ people in order to further their political agenda.
This is not the way of Christ.
John Fetterman’s latest series of campaign ads takes the standard voter testimonial format and turns it on its head, with vignettes from Republican voters who say they prefer the very blue Democratic lieutenant governor over his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz.
“I’ve been a Republican all my life,” Vince Tulio of Montgomery County says in a video posted to Fetterman’s Twitter account. Tulio says he’ll vote for Fetterman because the Democrat was born in Pennsylvania and lived in the state his whole life. “I want to elect someone who has the best interest at heart for everyone in Pennsylvania, not when it’s convenient in an election year.”
In another video spot, Colleen Bixler of Westmoreland County says she’s “tired of Washington Republicans and Mitch McConnell,” and hits a key message of the Fetterman campaign casting him as a Washington outsider: “Fetterman won’t fit in in Washington. That’s the point.”
Pennsylvania’s position as an abortion battleground state is taking shape in the U.S. Senate race, with John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee, capitalizing on conflicting statements from Mehmet Oz, his Republican opponent, in the high-profile contest.
Fetterman, who said he would support codifying Roe v. Wade if elected, has recently focused on Oz, who clarified his stance on abortion this month, and his views on reproductive health.
Oz told reporters at a press conference in Philadelphia this month that he would not support criminal penalties for people who sought or doctors who performed abortions. Describing himself as “strongly pro-life,” he added that he supports exceptions for rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is at risk.
The clarification comes after audio from a tele-town hall, held one week before the May primary election, resurfaced and fueled questions about where Oz, who defended Roe v. Wade in 2019, stands on abortion access. In the recording, first reported by The Daily Beast, Oz said: “Life starts at conception.”
“If life starts at conception, why do you care what age the heart starts beating at,” Oz added. “It’s, you know, it’s still murder if you were to terminate a child whether their heart’s beating or not.”5. No, John Fetterman isn’t wearing a tie. And you need to stop talking about that | John L. Micek
So, this isn’t a “John Fetterman” column. And you know what we’re talking about here.
After more than two years on the statewide political stage, there’s already a well-established journalistic shorthand for Pennsylvania’s new lieutenant governor.
It’s the lather, rinse, repeat formula of “black clothes, bald head, tattoos, gosh he’s tall but skinnier, cheerleader for the struggling steel town of Braddock, Pa.” that’s launched a thousand profiles — including a recent one by NYMag.com.
And while all that’s true about Fetterman, it often feels like the media branding of Gov. Tom Wolf’s second-in-command overshadows the actual human behind it.
That’s a guy who’s deeply intelligent and thoughtful, who walks the talk on public service, is clearly committed to a very specific vision of progressive public policy — but also boasts a fluency with the “Cannonball Run” movies that verges on the forensic.
So, in short, one can’t help but wonder, doesn’t he ever get tired of being “John Fetterman?”
The answer came on a snowy morning last week where Fetterman, dressed in, yes, that gray work shirt and those black Dickies trousers, held court in his Capitol office sandwiched between the House and Senate chambers.
And that’s the week. See you back here on Monday. Have a great weekend.
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