President Trump this week hopped across the pond to attend the annual NATO summit, pausing to excoriate our allies for their lack of financial commitment to the alliance before having very nice dinner. Upon his exit, Trump announced he had secured a larger financial commitment from the allies in attendance, something that was definitely news to them. Trump is now off the Helsinki, where he will attend a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. We are sure there will be nothing controversial AT ALL happening at that little soiree.
Congress this week continued its investigation-o-rama by dragging Trump-loathing FBI agent Peter Strzok over the coals for his intemperate text messages. Congress can’t seem to pass immigration reform or infrastructure funding but, man alive, can they put on a sideshow. And for the record, “Strzok” is obviously too hard of a name to pronounce for most of our sitting members of Congress.
After 10 lean years, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania now has a little cabbage in its savings account, thanks to Gov. Tom Wolf’s $22 million transfer of loot into the Rainy-Day Fund. Critics of the governor were quick to be, um, critical, but Moody’s seems to believe it’s a pretty big deal.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has told county officials across the state that they have to replace their voting machines by the 2020 elections. The cost of that little endeavor could be north of $125 million. This year’s state budget contained $14 million to address the problem. Now, we are not mathematicians here at Triad, but those two numbers aren’t even in the same zip code. Democracy, it turns out, is not free.
Protestors once again gathered outside Governor Wolf’s residence this week to complain that the governor won’t call a legislative special session to force lawmakers to undertake redistricting reform. If Governor Wolf could “make” the General Assembly do anything, we can assure you the last three budgets would have looked quite different. So again, dear protestors, maybe get some sort of primer on how special sessions work before wasting your time out on the sidewalks of York County. It is hot out there, and you could get dehydrated.
A top Wolf Administration official this week slammed the federal government for proposed cuts to a program that helps Americans sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, a program that President Trump apparently doesn’t even believe still exists. Which, to be fair, may explain his administration’s hesitance to fund it. Trust us, he’s not funding Planned Parenthood either.
Governor Wolf also launched his PA SMART initiative, a $50 million program to help train Pennsylvania kids for the jobs that actually exist in the state, instead of the jobs we kinda wished were here. The program will focus on career and technical training and STEM skills, among other areas, and was a bipartisan product of this year’s budget agreement. Hey Congress, see what can be accomplished when you work in a bipartisan fashion?
Speaking of STEM skills, a robot cat has come to Pittsburgh to teach those very skills to the wee ones. We assume it does not need a robot litter box, but it will still probably bite you if you touch its robot tummy.
A state overseer has laid out a plan to get Harrisburg out of Act 47 status, detailing ways to fill a projected $12 million annual budget hole. With no more parking garages to lease, it looks like the answers are taxes, and then maybe some taxes.
The late, great state Rep. Bud George was once quoted on the House Floor as saying, “Talk is cheap, but it takes money to buy whiskey.” Well if that is the case, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey’s bar is stocked quite a bit better than that of his challenger, Congressman Lou Barletta. Casey rolls into August with a 10-1 fundraising advantage over Barletta, with the midterms getting larger in the windshield.
Over in the gubernatorial race sandbox, Governor Wolf’s challenger, Scott Wagner, has seized upon Wolf’s comment about the basic education funding formula, suggesting that if Wolf had his druthers, about 250 school districts would have few dollars next year. We are not sure if this line of attack will stick, but at least this race is showing somewhat of a pulse.
In another installment of our Shameless Client Plug segment, check out our good pal Bob Latham from the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (the people who build your roads and bridges), talking about how important it is for the General Assembly to pass a bill to legalize automated speed enforcement in construction zones. A bill to do just that has, somewhat inexplicably, bounced around the House and Senate like a volleyball, never actually making it to Governor Wolf’s desk.
In our We Can’t Make This up segment this week, we take you to California, where a man discovered that a bear had slurped up his margarita and then decided to lounge around in his hot tub. The bear reportedly then grabbed the man’s iPhone and ordered some guacamole and chips from a local restaurant.
That’s what passes for news around here on a gorgeous Friday the 13th! We hope to see you back here next week with all the news you can bear to read! From all of us at Triad, have a great weekend!