POLS ON THE STREET: Bipartisan Agreement in the ’Burg – Let’s Take off!

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GOV. TOM WOLF congratulates State Rep. Danilo Burgos on signing his bill to ease obtaining professional licensures for workers who already have an equivalent license in another state.

Buoyed by a vibrant economy, the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf passed a budget on time, for once.

It was easy to do in 2019. Commonwealth revenues are up, making it easy for legislators to increase spending for popular causes while eschewing any tax hikes.

The 2019-2020 budget amounts to $almost $34 billion, a 1.8% increase. It includes a $432-million boost in total education spending and $97 million more for the Department of Human Services. Most impressively, it shows the good sense, rare in Harrisburg, of investing $300 million in the Rainy Day Fund – vital to enable the government to survive the next recession (there will always be recessions).

The governor took a few hits – some expected, some less so. His Restore Pennsylvania program, which would have funded infrastructure projects with a severance tax on shale gas, did not make it; neither did his proposal to raise the minimum wage. Republicans held the line on both causes, which are opposed by major industry donors.

But Wolf vowed to press on next year; by election season, some Republicans may feel their campaign funds are fat enough to afford wavering on some of these measures, especially the crowd-pleasing minimum-wage hike.

The governor was positive but philosophical about the outcome. “In divided government you have to advocate aggressively, you have to negotiate hard, and you also have to do what’s best for all of the people you serve.

“You have to do everything you can to promote the most forward-looking agenda you can conceive, and to prevent regressive policies from becoming law. You have to fight for every inch to help all of the people,” he said.

“This is the job I was elected to do. This is a job I take seriously. This is a job I’m honored to have.”

The legislature is now off duty until Sept. 17.

General Assistance Slashed amid Nationwide Stink

HONORED at City Hall, Lynne S. Carter, first female officiating boxing judge for over 35 years, received a mayoral citation, a Liberty Bell and a City Council proclamation. She has officiated over 800 bouts around the world. Many more documented fights. L-R, Sheila Hess; Carter; and Council Members Jannie Blackwell and Blondell Reynolds Brown; and former Majority Leader Marion Tasco. Photos by Leona Dixon

A little mystifying was the GOP’s move to fulfill its longstanding vow to eliminate General Assistance for single adults. This relatively trivial line item is an ideological bugbear for conservatives but eliminating it risks firing up low-turnout voters next year.

The last-minute parliamentary maneuver undertaken by Senate Republicans to kill it triggered an unseemly but effective riposte by freshman State Sen. Katie Muth (D-Montgomery), who read a moving letter from a GA recipient over the loud objections of Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre). Corman was technically correct: The presiding officer, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, was required by Senate rules to interrupt Muth’s speech to hear him.

But it was a political disaster. Videos of the incident went viral, drawing national-news attention of the worst sort for Corman. It was an own-goal flub of the worst sort for Senate Republicans that will haunt them in campaign ads next year.

For his part, Fetterman, who has no legislative experience, surely would benefit from some summer training in parliamentary procedure – the main function he was elected to carry out.

Wolf’s Quandary: Voting Money vs. Straight-Ticket Votes

Republican lawmakers stuck Wolf with a difficult call by inserting into a bill to fund new voting machines a proviso that would eliminate straight-ticket voting.

Wolf badly wants the former, given universal concern about possible vote hacking in 2020. But Democrats badly do not want the latter, since straight-ticket voting benefits Democrats more than Republicans, there being more Ds than Rs in the state.

As we went to press, the governor still had not made up his mind about whether to sign SB 48. But observers are betting that smart politics will trump good government. Democrats at the national level want to haul the Keystone State back into the blue lineup that year; in the end, we predict Wolf will heed that call.

Pa. AFL-CIO Backs Superior Ct. Dems

The Executive Council of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, representing more than 700,000 members and 45 affiliated unions across the Commonwealth, voted to endorse in the Superior and Commonwealth Court.

BUILDING TRADES leader John Dougherty received an award from IATSE Local 8 President Michael Barnes, L, as Barnes’s union celebrated its new 10-year contract with the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

By a unanimous vote, the vice presidents, Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder and President Rick Bloomingdale, endorsed Amanda Green Hawkins and Dan McCaffery for Pennsylvania Superior Court. The Council also voted to support the retention of Superior Court Judges Anne Lazarus and Judy Olson, and Commonwealth Court Judges Kevin Brobson and Patricia McCullough.

The AFL-CIO described its endorsement as “fighting to shift the balance of power back to working people. Not just with supporters of organized labor, but with champions of organized labor. Card-carrying union member of the United Steelworkers, Amanda Green-Hawkins is an incredible advocate for the rights of working people. Through our Path to Power candidate recruitment and education program, we hope to inspire union members to take up the call for public service.”

“We are proud to endorse candidates for public office that are dedicated to serving the working people of their community. When we come together, we have the power to create real and meaningful change,” Bloomingdale stated.

“We are working every day to encourage union activists and develop them as leaders in their townships, boroughs, cities and counties. Every elected office has the potential to better the lives of workers in their community whether serving in local, State government, or in the judiciary,” added Snyder.

In Council Race, Wolf Goes for Trump

REPUBLICAN City Council at-large candidate Matt Wolfe made an early show of support for Donald Trump.

On the heels of President Donald Trump’s announcement of his candidacy for re-election in 2020, City Council at-large candidate Matt Wolfe endorsed the President and pledged his full support.

“President Trump has been good for America and good for Philadelphia. He deserves re-election,” said Wolfe. “The Trump tax cuts are the major driver in our expanding economy which has led to lower unemployment rates.”

While Wolf’s stand may not be popular with most Philadelphia voters, it may raise his profile among Republicans as they assess their slate of at-large candidates.

Wolfe continued, “Despite what you hear from local progressives, the President’s policies and initiatives have been great for Philadelphia. Opposing sanctuary cities and safe-injection sites, supporting law enforcement, tax relief for the middle class and historically low unemployment for the African American community. And Trump appointed U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain has stepped up to protect us where DA Larry Krasner and Mayor Kenney has refused to do so.”

Polling shows that the president is extremely popular amongst those in the Republican Party.

Liberty City Board Changes

Over the past couple months, Liberty City LGBT Democratic Clubs regrets to announce that the following individuals have chosen to end their time on the board: Anne Wakabayashi, Liberty City co-chair; Alexander Olson, Liberty City co-chair; and Kristina Furia, Liberty City treasurer.

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