Wolf aide to Penn State: Lobby for revenue increases

Published by Karen Langley on .

The Wolf administration struck an aggressive tone this week, and not just when the governor criticized Republicans in his budget address.

Shortly before Gov. Tom Wolf spoke Tuesday, his secretary of policy and planning, John Hanger, sent an email to Penn State trustees encouraging the university to lobby for the governor's proposed tax increases.

Hanger framed his email as a response to statements in which Penn State President Eric Barron said, according to Hanger's email, that Penn State will lobby for an appropriation, but not for increased revenues, on the grounds that lobbying for higher revenues would be partisan.

Hanger responded that supporting higher revenues is in fact a bipartisan position, one supported by "essentially all Democrats and some Republicans." By contrast, he said, those who oppose increasing state revenues "are almost exclusively conservative Republicans."

"Unfortunately, by its inaction, PSU is enabling the partisan position of no-new-revenues," Hanger wrote.

"Indeed, PSU's refusal to support new revenues is more partisan than lobbying for revenues, when the governor, Democrats and some Republicans support this approach," he continued. "More troublingly, the PSU position of refusing to lobby for new revenues also makes it more likely the budget will be balanced by massive cuts that will harm PSU among many others."

In his budget address Tuesday, Wolf argued that in the face of a structural deficit, Pennsylvania must choose between enacting new recurring revenues -- his budget proposes raising the personal income tax, among other levies -- or a future of budget cuts and increases in local property taxes.

Wolf's press secretary, Jeffrey Sheridan, confirmed the authenticity of the email, saying that Hanger's message "is very clear."

"Investing in higher education is important to Governor Wolf, but if the math does not add up, institutions of higher learning will not only miss out on additional funding increases, but they will likely again face massive cuts."

Penn State responded to a request for comment on Hanger's email with a statement from Lawrence Lokman, vice president for strategic communications.

"President Barron articulated the University's position, which is that Penn State's history and that of all of the state-related universities is to be non-partisan and to advocate for education, and higher education in particular," he said.

Lokman said Penn State is pleased the governor "continues to acknowledge the importance of investing in Penn State," but that the university's focus remains on the state's budget stalemate, which has left it without a state appropriation for the current year.


Date night with Marco Rubio

Published by Mike Pound on .

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. greets the crowd after speaking at a town hall meeting in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Thursday Feb. 11, 2016. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. greets the crowd after speaking at a town hall meeting in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Thursday Feb. 11, 2016. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

Having a hard time coming up with ideas for a Valentine's Day gift? Here's a suggestion: Pick up your sweetie, write a $5,400 check and hang out with Marco Rubio in Edgeworth.

The senator from Florida and Republican presidential candidate will be in town on Sunday – yes, on Valentine's Day – to attend a reception in his honor at the East Drive home of Patty and Jeff Kendall.

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Mr. Rubio, the third-place finisher in Iowa's Republican caucuses and the fifth-place finisher in this week's New Hampshire primary, will start the day at a town hall meeting in South Carolina, the site of the next Republican primary. But he'll finish it in Pennsylvania, where he has built some significant support for his campaign. Mike Turzai, speaker of the Pennsylvania House, endorsed Mr. Rubio last fall. Rick Santorum also endorsed Mr. Rubio after he called off his own presidential campaign after Iowa and U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey had what turned out to be the unenviable task of serving as a spinmeister for Mr. Rubio after the GOP debate in New Hampshire.

The Rubio campaign has said it expects between 50 and 60 people to attend, for a nifty total in the neighborhood of $200,000.

And if you're dateless on Sunday, have no fear – Mr. Rubio will be happy to accept your $2,700 donation to attend alone.


Hempfield teacher to challenge Ward in 39th

Published by Janice Crompton on .

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Hempfield teacher Carol Mintus announced today she will challenge state Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield for her 39th District seat.
Ms. Mintus,60, was a Republican until last year, when she switched her registration to Democrat "and has made it her mission to deliver on several issues that remain concerns among her constituency, education funding, property tax reform and corporate tax reform to name a few," she said in a press release.
"I dropped out of the Republican party because of the strong hostility, yes, hostility, towards education and gross inequity when it comes to corporate taxation," Ms. Mintus said. " 'Reform' is the number one word that will lead on my campaign. I believe that education needs fixed and funded properly, pension reform needs to happen - and quickly - as well as a big fix to property tax which has families and seniors spiraling into foreclosure. These are the top issues affecting our communities in Westmoreland County today. If those three issues are resolved responsibly, then Pennsylvania could be the shining example that is deserves to be."

Breakfast Sausage: 5 things to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Everybody dance now. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)Everybody dance now. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

1) Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders face off tonight on PBS, and it's probably safe to expect a testier debate, especially on the part of Ms. Clinton, than we've seen from the Democratic candidates in the past. That would be a logical part of a push to alter the message from Camp Clinton, which has to be smarting from the flood of, uh, advice from fellow Democrats following the Granite State Massacre.

2) Meanwhile, Mr. Sanders has become a delicious meme. And we're trying to figure out how to get Banh Mi delivered to the ER newsroom.

3) Super Tuesday is just three weeks away. And the sneaky stuff we saw in Iowa is going to look like amateur hour compared with the dirty tricks that are still to come.

4) Can Marco-Bot shake the notion that he's all style and no substance? We're not sure. Yes, he's being more accessible with the media, but he's still having a hard time straying from his script – and this, apparently, is the media's fault.

5) New Hampshire's other legacy: ending the candidacies of Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie. In the early debates, Ms. Fiorina often sounded like the smartest and most passionate person on the stage. But when she turned her passion towards Planned Parenthood – and her not-even-close-to-being-true claim that the "vast majority of Americans" supported defunding the group – her support started a slide that ended up with her polling better only than Jim Gilmore, who, surprisingly, is still a candidate. As for Mr. Christie? We still have the sneaking suspicion that he would have been the Republican Party's guy, had he run in 2012. But because of a single day in September 2013, a run for Mr. Christie came four years too late.


Surprise! Funny or Die launches fake Trump film

Published by Mike Pound on .


If you've found yourself drifting off into a neverland where the words President Trump actually sound plausible, you'll want to visit the video comedians at Funny or Die as soon as possible. They've released a fake movie about The Donald, based on his book "The Art of the Deal." 

Our Maria Sciullo has the story about the 50-minute video, which was a secret until it was released earlier today. And you'll find the full thing right here.