News & Brews February 24, 2021

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Why Wolf’s budget proposal is really a $6 billion tax increase

The Tax Foundation’s Jared Walczek takes a good look at Gov. Wolf’s proposed 46% personal income tax hike and explains how Wolf’s plan would increase taxes by $6 billion per year and give Pennsylvania the ignominious distinction of having the highest combined flat-rate income taxes in the country. (Remember, Wolf has said he’s not raising taxes, except when he’s raising taxes. See Q&A beginning at around the 17:20 mark and continuing through 19:05.)

Op-Ed: Why we should curb gov’s emergency powers

House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (Centre and Mifflin counties) has an op-ed in the Morning Call highlighting actions lawmakers have taken to spur both short-term and long-term recovery from the pandemic. He explains, however, that “[t]he best recovery legislation can only be effective if Pennsylvanians have confidence their jobs will not be taken away, their businesses will not be shut down and their livelihoods will not be taken away again by executive fiat.” Voters will have the chance to secure this confidence at the ballot box in May, when they’ll vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that will “ensure the people, speaking through their representatives in the General Assembly, have a say in whether to extend any state of emergency and the extreme executive authority attached to it.”

Alarm over Wolf’s administration’s ‘prejudicial’ ballot language

Speaking of the proposed constitutional amendment to rein in executive overreach, this morning, Senate and House Republican leaders will hold a press conference “to address the Wolf Administration’s use of politically charged and prejudicial language in the ballot question asking voters if the state constitution should be amended to limit future emergency declarations to 21 days unless extensions are approved by the General Assembly.” While voters will vote on the amendment, the Wolf administration determines the wording of how the amendment is presented to voters on the ballot. The press conference will be at 10am this morning and will be live-streamed at and on Facebook.

A win for transparency…over Wolf’s objections

The Commonwealth Court has ruled against Gov. Wolf’s attempts to keep secret the names of individuals who applied to fill vacancies on open judicial seats. The Wolf administration had argued that applicants should be treated like those who apply for government employment, who can do so privately. But the court disagreed with this premise, as judges are elected except in cases where the governor nominates them to fill vacancies. As such, those who apply for nominations should be treated just like anyone else running for office. This means the public has a right to know who they are. The Lancaster LNP explains the background of this ruling and what it could mean not only for judicial vacancies but also for local offices filled by appointment.

Wolf’s head-scratching answer on nursing homes

You can’t make this up. Yesterday at a press conference, a reporter asked Gov. Wolf if he thought his administration’s decision early in the pandemic to send COVID-positive patients in hospitals back to nursing homes was the right thing to do. First, Wolf said that wasn’t the administration’s decision. Then, Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam basically corrected him to say there was a state order following federal guidelines. Then, Gov. Wolf claimed to have no knowledge of that. Watch the clip here.

Proposed amendment would change how LG is selected

A move is underway that could change how Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor is selected. Currently, voters choose candidates for governor and lieutenant governor separately during the primary election. Under a proposed constitutional amendment introduced by Sen. Dave Argall (Schuylkill and Berks counties), gubernatorial candidates would choose their LG running mate after the primary election, with approval required from their party’s state committee. Spotlight PA has more. (Here’s some trivia: I’m originally from Jersey, and we didn’t even have a lieutenant governor until 2010. Still today, some Jerseyans wonder why voters decided to create the office that the state managed to do without for a couple hundred years.)

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