News & Brews June 2, 2021

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Budget season brings annual battle….

Amid constitutional amendments, the lifting of COVID restrictions, judicial primaries, etc., state budget season almost seems to be flying under the radar. But it is, indeed, budget season, with lawmakers engaged in their annual task of completing a budget, hopefully by June 30. The Center Square looks at this year’s budget battle, which, it reports, “comes not from a lack of funds, but rather how the General Assembly will spend the $7.3 billion in federal economic stimulus it received this spring from the American Rescue Plan.”

Some lawmakers hope to expand Hollywood handouts

It’s baffling enough that some lawmakers still think doling out millions of taxpayer dollars to filmmakers is a good idea, but now some lawmakers actually want to increase these handouts. Because, you know, apparently you’ve got lots of money to spare. Democrat Rep. Joe Ciresi (Montgomery County) and Republican Rep. K.C. Tomlinson (Bucks County) have introduced legislation to increase the cap on our film tax credit from $70 million to a whopping $125 million. Proponents of the Hollywood handout argue the tax credit produces a net economic gain, but an analysis shows the net return on investment is just 13.1 cents for every tax credit dollar spent.

Counties renew calls for election changes

PennLive reports that yesterday, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania held a news conference accusing the legislature of “inaction” on election reform and calling for changes including allowing counties to begin processing mail-in ballots before Election Day. The piece claims that last year, “state Republicans blocked legislation allowing for pre-canvassing; Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and other Democrats supported it.” What selective memory! PennLive seems to forget that also last year, House Republicans did, indeed, pass legislation that would have allowed counties to start processing mail-in ballots three days before Election Day. Senate Republican leaders introduced similar legislation. Gov. Wolf, however, threatened a veto. Coming back to the present, Rep. Seth Grove, chair of the House State Government Committee, said his committee will introduce a comprehensive election reform bill this month.

Philly does about-face on undated mail-in ballots

Last week, we shared that House Republican leaders threatened to impeach Philadelphia commissioners if they continued with their announced plan to count undated mail-in ballots in defiance of a state Supreme Court ruling. Well, yesterday—shortly after Gov. Wolf’s administration told them that ballots must be signed and dated in order to be counted—Philly election officials decided their brilliant plan to defy the law might not be so brilliant after all. Imagine that. As a result, undated mail-in ballots in the city will not be counted.

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