The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed a federal budget plan, clearing the way for President Donald Trump’s tax cut/tax reform initiative, which is expected to add $1.5 trillion to the national debt. On the upside, the tax cuts will be the largest in the history of the entire civilized world, or so we have been told. It remains to be seen how quickly GOP Congressional leaders can pass such a plan while simultaneously being insulted by a President of their own party.
The country will likely spend most of this weekend going through the JFK files, which were released to the public for the first time on Thursday. One can only hope that the release does not spawn another dreadful, six-hour Oliver Stone movie.
As is the norm around here, when the General Assembly finally sets its collective mind to a task, it can often move with startling alacrity. Such was the case this week as the House and Senate traded votes on a flurry of budget-related bills, essentially closing out the budget for the 2017/2018 fiscal year. It may be a day late and a few dollars short (depending on who you ask) but it is mercifully over. Here are the highlights, courtesy of our pals at Pennlive.
The last vote of the budget season was the toughest, as the state House finished up two days of debate on a major expansion of gambling by passing the bill Thursday morning. Pennsylvania will now become the fourth state in the country to legalize internet gaming (yeah, maybe a little Shameless Client Plug for our friends at the Poker Players Alliance and the Stars Group!)
The House and Senate also gave a long-awaited thumbs up to $650 million in state funding for Temple, Pitt, Penn State, Lincoln and the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary school. The sighs of relief could be heard from the Ohio line to the Delaware River this morning as Governor Wolf affixed his signatures. Is it too early for another Shameless Client Plug shout-out to our friends at Penn? No? Great! Temple adjunct Professor Roy Wells also breathed a sigh of relief, as he can continue to mold young minds at that school’s capitol campus when he is not running the state’s top public affairs firm!
The cornerstone piece of this year’s revenue plan also sailed off to Wolf’s desk, as the House and Senate completed a tax package that relies mainly upon $1.5 billion in borrowing, using the state share of tobacco settlement money as collateral, so to speak. In a flash, Pennsylvania went from the era of tax-and-spend to borrow-and-spend.
Speaking of taxes, also included in that bouillabaisse of taxes was a hefty new levy on fireworks, which in and of itself means we are now taxing the Fourth of July. Tucked into the bill, however, were provisions that will allow a truly massive expansion of who can sell explosives, and where. So yeah, it’s always good to make explosives more readily accessible to people who have spent the holiday weekend drinking beer and shots of Fireball. America, baby!
One tax escaped the final package however, to the shock of exactly no one who ever sets foot in the state capitol. The much-talked-about-and-never-enacted severance tax on natural gas drilling ended up on the cutting room floor, despite closer than ever to the governor’s desk. As questions loom as to whether or not the General Assembly has any inclination to return to Session anytime soon, gas drillers are probably safe until 2018. That being an election year, maybe 2019. Or 2020…
A state House committee this week delved into the national crisis that is illegally registered immigrants casting ballots. According to testimony, as many as 544 such ballots have been cast in the 35 statewide elections since 2000. For some context, 93 million total ballots were cast during that period. 544 out of 93 million, folks. Glad we got that all cleared up.
Philadelphia residents got a big win in this year’s budget fandango, as a provision in one budget-related bill will allow for greater enforcement of Philly’s Stop-and-Go liquor establishments. The city has been clamoring for such enforcement powers for years, so this is a win for everyone who is forced to live near one of these fine purveyors of spirits.
On the other side of the state, Pittsburgh also notched a big public policy win in its battle to replace lead water lines. Included in a budget companion bill is language that will allow public funds to be utilized to replace these lines, which will necessitate yet another Shameless Client Plug for our pals at Westview Water.
The legislature this week also passed resolutions in support of President Trump’s energy plan, which will could potentially be a savior to nuclear power. If you like electricity, and we know you do, this should be good news. https://www.philly.com/philly/business/energy/pa-legislature-throws-its-support-behind-trump-energy-plan-20171026.html
Astute readers may recall that Governor Wolf had already been taking steps to balance this year’s budget if the General Assembly failed to do so. Chief among his options was a plan to borrow against the state’s liquor tax collections, which could have generated around $1.25 billion in cash. Alas, along comes an Harrisburg-based think tank, who filed suit against such a move this week. Heaven knows, we need some more lawsuits around here. Killjoys.
Philadelphia Magazine this week trotted out its list of Philly’s 100 Most Influential People, which is so chock full of Triad friends and clients, we had to tell you all about it!
For the first time ever, a majority of PA Republicans support the legalization of marijuana, a recent poll found. Overall, 64% of Pennsylvanians now favor legalizing the kind bud, which would no doubt generate scads of cash. Paging next year’s budget crisis…
In our We Can’t Make This Up file, we give you something Agent Mulder knew all along: UFOs are apparently real, or so says a few top officials in the nation’s space space (get it?). UFOs and the JFK files, all in one week. It was a good week to be a conspiracy theorist.
That’s what passes for news around here as we finally put the 2017/2018 to bed. It was a cranky little bugger for sure! Stay tuned for next week when absolutely nothing will happen! From all your pals at Triad, have a great weekend!
The Triadvocate is a publication of Triad Strategies, LLC, a bipartisan lobbying, public affairs, strategic communications, grassroots advocacy, issue management consulting firm located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh