HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- Lawmakers and Governor Tom Wolf appear to have come to an agreement on a $32 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that starts at midnight Friday. That doesn't mean the budget is done. A revenue package to balance it still isn't ready, and there are significant disagreements standing in the way of passing it. Still, politicians on both sides of the aisle lauded the spending plan, which passed a late-night Senate appropriations committee meeting with three dissenting votes. The House and Senate are expected to concur on it Friday, and send it to the governor's desk the same day. The spend number falls between Wolf's proposal and the House GOP's austere plan.
HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- You can tell it's budget week in Pennsylvania because, on any given day, you'll find the Capitol packed with lobbyists and advocates from around the commonwealth, pushing for a piece of the pie. They mill around the rotunda, waiting for news from lawmakers deliberating in chambers upstairs. This year, there's been precious little information getting out. "There's only been a handful--not even a handful, maybe just a couple of conversations on the budget," said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, a few days before the budget deadline. "It's a little different than previous years." Costa is a top member of his party, and yet two days before the end of the fiscal year, he really didn't know what Republicans were planning.
Chenango River Theatre presents 'Almost Heaven: Songs of John Denver' through July 30. Cast members and multi-instrumentalist Jenny Malone and Chris Blisset, who is also the director, tell us about show. The show is much more than a concert of songs, just a Bob Denver was much more than a songwriter, but also an environmental activist. http://wskg.org/audio/denver.mp3
For USGS wildlife biologist Karyn Rode, tracking and tranquilizing polar bears from a helicopter are just the first thrilling steps in her research. After acquiring various samples from sleeping bears, Dr. Rode’s unique understanding of what they eat and how quickly they metabolize nutrients allows her to determine the condition of each bear. Working with a team of scientists from the US Fish and Wildlife Service for nearly a decade, Dr. Rode’s monitoring of polar bear health has helped reveal how well populations are adapting to the rapidly warming Arctic. https://youtu.be/eWJT7BuRsWw
ALBANY (WSKG) - The state Assembly voted in the early hours of Thursday morning on a bill that takes care of some unfinished business in the 2017 legislative session. After Gov. Andrew Cuomo called a special session Wednesday, lawmakers agreed to extend the New York City mayor's control of the schools for two more years, and gave counties permission to charge sales tax for three more years. The Senate and Assembly had left those items unfinished when they ended the session June 21. Mayoral control was to expire Friday, and the major credit rating agencies were threatening to downgrade counties credit ratings over the uncertainty of the future of the sales tax. The Assembly also agreed to provide $55 million in flood relief to areas damaged by high waters on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The legislature had passed a $90 million flood relief package last week, but Cuomo didn’t sign it, indicating there were “problems” with the legislation. The bill would also help the financially ailing Vernon Downs raceway and casino in the Mohawk Valley.
HARRISBURG (WSKG) - State budgets have two basic parts: one outlines how much government will spend on its programs and expenses, and the other details where lawmakers are getting the money to pay for it. Last year, the GOP-controlled legislature compromised on a $31.5 billion spending plan, and then took two more weeks to come up with a revenue framework to fit it. Democratic Governor Tom Wolf let it become law without his signature, declaring at the time that "our budget is balanced this year, and we have greatly reduced the commonwealth's structural budget deficit." But a year later, that budget is $1.5 billion below estimates--the biggest shortfall since the 2009 recession. "It is pretty clear now that any rational person would come to the conclusion that last year's budget was not actually balanced," said Auditor General Eugene DePasquale at a recent press conference. He and Treasurer Joe Torsella have said that money is now so tight, the state may have to take out outside loans as soon as next month--a move that will likely have an adverse impact on its already-mediocre credit rating.
HARRISBURG (WSKG) - Some lawmakers and Governor Tom Wolf took a break from budget negotiations Wednesday to sign a high-profile package of bills into law. They significantly overhaul the commonwealth's animal rights legislation, and include a measure that has brought a lot of attention to the issue in the past year: Libre's Law. The bill signing saw more fanfare--and barking--than most. Wolf put his pen to paper on the Capitol lawn, surrounded by a large crowd of animal rights advocates and pets. His wasn't the only signature, either. Libre--the rescued Boston terrier puppy from Lancaster County who inspired the legislation--had his paw print inked on the page.
Celebrating a holiday is always more fun with festive decorations and fun props! Check out this Crafts for Kids collection from PBS KIDS to help you celebrate the Fourth of July. You'll find popsicle stick American Flags, Patriotic Stamped Cards, Party Poppers, and more. Bonus points: You already have these supplies at home. Just have to dig out that glue stick!
Ride-hailing apps are authorized to operate in upstate New York starting today. Apps like Lyft and Uber had been bound to the New York City area until now. James Pontez in Ithaca said he thinks it will be a popular job among college students. It gives them another option for temporary work. "I mean, I'm sure some people don't always want to deliver pizza," he explained, "Sometimes they'd rather pick up a person."
The Hanford Mills Museum celebrates Independence Day with demonstrations, a fishing contest, frog-jumping, and ice cream made by a steam-powered churn using ice from last winter's Ice Harvest. Executive Director Liz Callahan talks about the many events and hands-on learning opportunities available at the Independence Day Celebration. http://wskg.org/audio/hanford4th.mp3