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Report Shows PA Revenues Down Across The Board

HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- The latest financial reports for the commonwealth don't contain much good news. With two months remaining in the fiscal year, the Department of Revenue is reporting a shortfall that has ballooned to more than a billion dollars--the worst budget gap since 2010.   That pushes the projected structural deficit up too. It's now over $3 billion. Independent Fiscal Office Director Matthew Knittel said the revenues were weak in nearly every category, with "two exceptions: tobacco taxes, and insurance premium taxes."

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Gambling Terminals Get House Hearing As PA Searches For Revenue

HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- A state House panel is considering a plan to help fill significant budget gaps that have been left open for gambling revenue.  The House Gaming Oversight Committee held a public hearing Monday on a longstanding proposal to legalize video gambling terminals in bars and other businesses. The bill being discussed is House Bill 1010, which would allow up to 35,000 terminals in bars, social clubs, and other such businesses. Proponents say it could earn $100 million in its first year, and $500 million annually once it's fully implemented. Democratic Representative Mike Sturla of Lancaster County--one of the bill's biggest proponents--said it makes policy sense too, since many thousands of the terminals are already operating illegally. "Instead of turning a blind eye to an illegal industry that's going on in the state of Pennsylvania...this really does clean it up for everyone, and lets everyone play on a level playing field," he said.

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Trump Attacks Media In Defiant Pennsylvania Speech

HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- President Donald Trump held a rally in Harrisburg for his hundredth day in office, fresh off a frustrating week in Washington.  After pushes to resuscitate the House GOP's healthcare bill and pass a spending plan for the year, neither got much traction. A government shutdown was averted for at least a week. But nevertheless, it was a defiant Trump who arrived at the Farm Show Complex, and an enthusiastic crowd that embraced him. The president kicked off his speech to a mostly-full arena with an airing of grievances, directed at one of his favorite targets. "The media," he said, "deserves a very, very big fat failing grade" for covering his first 100 days in office.

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Pennsylvania Releasing Names Of Potential Marijuana Sellers

HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- The Department of Health has revealed a few new details on the lengthy rollout of its medical marijuana program. The names of dozens of potential dispensaries have been released, though officials won't say where exactly they'll be located.  The deadline to apply for licenses to grow or sell marijuana was March 20th. Health Secretary Karen Murphy said the department received over 500, and has so far reviewed 258. The list of processed applicants is available online, and includes corporate names like "Holistic Pharma" and "Keystone Medicinals," as well as which of six state regions they're located in. Asked whether the DOH plans to release addresses where these growers and dispensers could set up shop, Murphy said no--not until they decide which 12 growers and 81 dispensers to license.

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PA Auditor Stunned By Accounting Problems With Jobless Benefits

HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- The office of Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has finished a long-awaited report on state spending in the unemployment compensation system. It began in January after the Senate decided not to extend a dedicated funding stream for the system over suspicion of mismanagement. The move prompted nearly 500 layoffs.  DePasquale called his findings "stunning," saying the system has extreme problems and blaming them on two administrations' worth of mismanagement from the top levels of the Department of Labor and Industry. Over the four years the UC system received state funding, it spent over $178 million of the money, but DePasquale said it's impossible to tell where it went because of shoddy accounting. "The reality is, we don't know how they spent the money...about whether they did everything right, or everything wrong over the last four years," he said.

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PA House Takes Another Crack At Charter Schools

HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- The state legislature is returning to one of its toughest recurring issues--charter school reform. Among the provisions laid out in the latest omnibus proposal to get onto the House floor are a standardized application process for schools seeking charters, more consistent school performance rubrics, and an extension of the charter review period from five to ten years. As often happens, public school and charter school advocates are divided on it. Ana Meyers, executive director for the state Coalition for Public Charter Schools, said the proposal needs work. In particular, she opposes a $27 million funding cut for online-only charters.