Everyone had something to say about Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget. How about your interest group? | Wednesday Morning Coffee

By: - February 5, 2020 7:25 am

Governor Tom Wolf today called upon Pennsylvanians to imagine a better commonwealth – one with a stronger workforce, better schools, safer communities, and more opportunities for everyone – and then laid out an ambitious agenda for his 2020-21 budget that moves Pennsylvania toward that vision. Harrisburg, PA– February 4, 2019 (Photo from CMS)

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Gov. Tom Wolf delivered a $36.05 billion budget plan to a joint session of the state House and Senate on Tuesday that hits most of the progressive sweet spots, replete, as it is, with a call for a higher minimum wage; a call for universal kindergarten; more money for gun violence reduction programs, and a grant program for college kids facing towering student debt.

As you might expect, everyone and their Aunt Tilly had something to say about the York County Democrat’s 6th fiscal blueprint, which seems destined for some rough sledding in the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

Because we couldn’t fit all those reactions into our already pretty dang comprehensive coverage of Wolf’s Very Big Day, we’re running some of our favorites below, just to, y’know, give you a flavor of what interest groups across the spectrum had to say about it.

Read enough of these, you’ll notice they take on a kind of Mad Libs-like vibe.

To wit:

Gov. Tom Wolf’s new budget is an ADJECTIVE proposal that will have an APPROPRIATELY APOCALYPTIC/PRAISING PHRASE effect on our industry. While there is much to like, we are forced to conclude that it DOES/DOES NOT PROVIDE NEARLY ENOUGH MONEY. To truly ensure quality service, the Legislature should VERB this proposal as soon as possible.”

Don’t believe us? Read on.

Governor Tom Wolf today called upon Pennsylvanians to imagine a better commonwealth – one with a stronger workforce, better schools, safer communities, and more opportunities for everyone – and then laid out an ambitious agenda for his 2020-21 budget that moves Pennsylvania toward that vision. Harrisburg, PA– February 4, 2019

“We recognize that Pennsylvania is now funding schools at a higher level than any year in the past. That same statement can be made for nearly every essential service funded in the state budget, including the State Police, Corrections, Child Welfare, Medicaid, and for the legislature itself. A highwater mark is only meaningful if it demonstrates that the state is meeting its obligation to all students. Based on the widely supported school funding formula, however, Pennsylvania is underfunding its school districts and continues to shift the obligation to support education onto local taxpayers.” — PA Schools Work

Clean water is critical to the health, wellbeing, and quality of life for all Pennsylvanians. Unfortunately, according to scientific assessments by the state, roughly 40 percent of rivers and streams in the Commonwealth are considered to be polluted. While this budget would reinvest in critical agencies and programs if approved by the legislature, it remains unclear how the state will close the over $320 million shortfall in investments toward meeting its obligations to clean up Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams. 
Ultimately, it’s up to state lawmakers to ensure that the funding is there to assist Pennsylvania’s farms, families, and communities to restore and protect our land, water, and air.” — Chesapeake Bay Foundation

“Our wages are just too low and as a result, there are thousands of open positions. Far too many Pennsylvanians with autism or intellectual disability – and their families – are suffering because one out of five DSP position remain open. We do not have enough DSPs or Frontline Supervisors to meet the growing demand. Without adequate wages, we cannot attract enough new DSPs and we continue to grapple with an incredibly high turnover rate. While we are disappointed in the proposed budget, we’re going to work with our lawmakers to make sure that the final budget addresses this growing crisis.” — Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disability

“We applaud and support the governor’s continued focus on addressing Pennsylvania’s workforce issues and closing an existing jobs skills gap. This is an issue that impacts businesses of all sizes across all industry sectors – in fact for the second year in a row, employers ranked it as their top of mind issue in the PA Chamber’s Annual Economic Survey … We remain concerned, however, about the administration’s aggressive proposal to more than double the state’s minimum wage to $15, which will increase labor costs and could lead to significant job loss.” — Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf delivers his sixth budget address to a joint session of the general assembly inside the House of Representatives chamber at the State Capitol in Harrisburg on Friday, December 13, 2019 (Photo from Commonwealth Media Services).

“Pennsylvania stands at a health care crossroads and we face big issues that require bold, creative solutions. We look forward to working with the Wolf Administration and lawmakers, tirelessly advocating on behalf of Pennsylvania’s hospital community and the patients they serve.” — Hospital & Health System Association of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania has essentially flat-funded Medical Assistance for more than five years and must stop ignoring nursing home residents who rely on Medicaid. That’s why today’s announcement that the latest budget proposal will continue to flat fund nursing home care felt like Groundhog Day all over again. Last year alone, there was a $632-million loss that hurt nursing homes’ ability to maintain high quality care, and retain and attract staff. We urge the Pennsylvania General Assembly to insert a 2% rate increase into the budget and provide an additional $17-million investment in Community HealthChoices to fund a quality incentive initiative.” — Leading Age PA.

“Today is yet another example of how Gov. Wolf is out of touch with parents across Pennsylvania. The governor was fortunate to have the resources to attend the schools of his choice, but his proposals would deny countless Pennsylvania families whose children are trapped in failing school districts their own options. Like Gov. Wolf, PSO supports teachers, especially those who work so hard in Pennsylvania’s charters schools. Unlike Gov. Wolf, we won’t put teachers unions above families and their children. School districts that have failed generations of their students had their chance. We cannot stand by and hope the status quo somehow improves. It’s time to provide all Pennsylvania families with options for educating their children.”  — National Coalition for Public School Options.

Admit it, you were playing Press Release Mad Libs in your head. You know you were.

Our Stuff.
While we’re celebrating our first anniversary as a news organization this morning with doughnuts and coffee, we’re going to leave you to read through our package of coverage from Budget Day 2020.

To get things going, here’s the Big Story from Staff Reporters Stephen Caruso and Elizabeth Hardison.

Associate Editor Cassie Miller has your five Big Takeaways from the nearly 45-minute-long address to a joint session of the state House and Senate. And if you prefer the raw text, yeah, we have the full speech too.

Gov. Tom Wolf spent the back quarter of his speech exhorting lawmakers to take action on long-stalled gun violence reduction measures, illustrating them with the death of a promising young man from Erie who aspired to join the U.S. Armed Forces.

Hardison and Caruso respectively run down the legislative reaction from Republican and Democratic leaders.

Here’s our analysis of the implications of Wolf getting his progressive mojo back after a 2019 budget address that some saw as too accommodating to Republicans.

And Hardison and Caruso wrap up a busy day with this story about a likely veto override battle between Gov. Tom Wolf and the General Assembly over a bill authorizing methane tax credits in NePA.

President Donald Trump used his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night to distort Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2019 veto of a school tax credit bill. Capital-Star Washington Bureau Chief Robin Bravender has a more complete rundown of the speech.

On our Commentary Page, a young woman who lost her mother to gun violence tells her story for Gun Violence Survivors Weekand calls on lawmakers to act. And if you really want to celebrate Black History Month, you should start by patronizing Black-owned businesses, writes Michael Coard of the Philadelphia Tribune.

(Capital-Star file)

The Inquirer
 looks at Bernie Sanders’ and Joe Biden’s fundraising ‘dominance’ in Pennsylvania.
The Post-Gazette looks at partisan divisions among Pennsylvania lawmakers in their reaction to the #SOTU.
Republicans have a gender gap, as Veep Mike Pence rolls into central Pa. for a Women for Trump event, PennLive reports.
The Wolf administration found a new way to pay for State Police coverage — here’s how much, via The Morning Call, your hometown will pay.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:


WHYY-FM breaks down the charter school reform proposals in the Wolf budget.
And there’s no election reform money for counties in the Wolf budget, the PA Post reports.
Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg pitched his electability during a rally in Philly on Monday night, PoliticsPA reports.
Former U.S. Rep. Kwesi Mfume beat out Elijah Cummings’ widow in a Democratic primary for the late Maryland congressman’s seat on Tuesday night, Roll Call reports.

What Goes On.
The House and Senate both come in at 11 a.m. to finish out a quick session week.
10:30 a.m., Main Rotunda: Rally on the inadequacy of medical marijuana
12 p.m., Media Center: Rep. Jake Wheatley on Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
1:30 p.m., Main Rotunda: Rep. Danilo Burgos holds a Dominican Independence Day event.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Chris Quinn
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Sen. Vincent Hughes
8 a.m.:
 Breakfast for Sen. Larry Farnese
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Sen. John Sabatina
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Adam Ravenstahl
Ride the circuit, and give at the max today, and you’re out $14,000 today.

Gov. Tom Wolf
 heads to Carlisle, Pa., for a 1:30 p.m. event at Carlisle High School, where he’ll talk to students about college expenses — and probably put in a word or two for the $200 million grant program he floated on Tuesday.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s some new music by English rockers Tiña, who we were hipped to by the NME and who sound exactly like the kind of band that the NME would love. The song is called ‘I Feel Fine.’

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Washington’s Alex Ovechkin 
notched his 698th career goal as the Capitals rallied to beat Los Angeles 4-2 on Tuesday night.

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.