News & Brews February 19, 2024

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State budget hearings kick of tomorrow

Grab your popcorn and calculators and get ready. State budget hearings in the House and Senate kick off tomorrow. Over the course of the next several weeks, lawmakers will have the opportunity to hear from and question various state agencies, as well as the governor’s office as they work to hammer out a spending plan before the traditional June 30 deadline. In his recent budget address, Gov. Shapiro proposed raising recurring spending by billions of dollars, with no recurring way to pay for it. So, that will undoubtedly be a point of questioning during the hearings. Click here for a schedule of Senate hearings and here for the House hearing schedule. And click here for more on the budget process from Lincoln Radio Journal.

In Pa., Biden wants to save democracy; voters want to afford groceries

The AP reports that in his campaign messaging to swing-state Pennsylvania, President Biden is focusing on ‘saving democracy’ from the threat that (he says) is Donald Trump. But the AP reports that Biden’s message simply may not work. The executive director of Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley—which includes a food pantry—says the people he sees are talking about the unaffordable prices of food and housing…not saving democracy. “I think so many people are already immune to that messaging, it won’t land as cleanly this election as it did in 2020. If he [Biden] keeps pushing that message, it might turn voters away.”

Sentencing this week for Johnny Doc’s allies

The Inquirer reports, “Some of ex-labor leader John Dougherty’s closest allies could be headed to federal prison if prosecutors get their way this week during sentencing hearings for three of his codefendants in his $600,000 union embezzlement case.” Scheduled for sentencing are former IBEW 98 official Michael Neill, former union political director and Johnny Doc affair partner Marita Crawford, and former union employee Niko Rodriguez. “The sentencing hearings come as Dougherty … is gearing up to face another trial on felony charges in March, his third in the span of as many years.” Johnny Doc was once considered the most powerful unelected politician in Pa. From 2010-21, he doled out more than $40 million in political spending (per campaign finance reports), with recipients ranging from Pa. Supreme Court candidates down to local office candidates.

Previewing key state Senate races in Pa. 

Spotlight PA takes a look at several state Senate races that it expects could be competitive, including Districts 37 and 45 in Allegheny County, District 49 in Erie County, and District 15 in Dauphin County. Democrats hope to flip the Senate, while Republicans have prioritized holding the Senate majority and retaking a House majority.

Op-Ed: ‘Shapiro’s budget shoves Pa. in wrong direction’

”Chock-full of startling spending increases and a myriad of new initiatives, Shapiro’s [budget] proposal would explode the state’s budget deficit and invite massive tax hikes on working Pennsylvanians.” So writes Commonwealth Foundation Senior Vice President Nathan Benefield in PennLive. “Shapiro claims his proposal does not raise taxes, yet it relies on new vice taxes to balance the budget and forces future tax hikes on working families.”

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