Turzai: Sign the budget

Published by Karen Langley on .

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai had some direct words last night on the question of the unsigned state budget.

The House late Monday sent Gov. Tom Corbett a $29.1 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that began Tuesday. Corbett announced he would withhold his signature while he reviews the plan (which cut spending from some of his proposals) and reminded legislators that he wants a bill reshaping pensions for future state and school workers.

Asked late Wednesday night about the possibility of Corbett vetoing the budget, Turzai said: "This budget is an outstanding budget. It's no tax increase. It's on time. It's responsible. It reflects the priorities of Pennsylvania. The budget ought to be signed."

He said, too, that it's now up to Corbett to deliver the final votes needed to pass a pension bill.

Turzai: "I invite Governor Corbett to get us the remaining votes because he has the capital as governor to get it done. We are very close. Typically what happens is governors close it. We need Governor Corbett to close it. He has that ability to do it because he's governor. We are very, very close to public pension reform."


DAs blast Kane

Published by James O'Toole on .

The Inquirer's Craig R. McCoy and Angela Couloumbis continue to be all over the controversy over Attorney General Kathleen Kane and her headline grabbing statements on the investigation of Jerry Sanduskey. From their latest:

"The leadership of the association for district attorneys in Pennsylvania on Tuesday criticized state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane for comments that "disparaged" the prosecutors who convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky.

"The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, in a statement endorsed by its executive committee, said that recommendations made by a law professor who investigated the Sandusky case were "overshadowed by the attorney general's continued public attacks on the successful work of career prosecutors."

" 'The focus on winning the news cycle must end,' the committee said in the statement

"It also chastised Kane for making remarks that have 'already been proven to be incorrect.'

"That was an especially blunt shot at Kane, whose office last week admitted she misspoke when she said that the prosecutors had failed to bring charges on behalf of one of Sandusky's victims.

"A day later, her staff acknowledged that the victim in question had testified at Sandusky's trial and that the former Penn State assistant coach had been convicted of molesting him.

"Late Tuesday, Kane responded in a statement, saying that she had highlighted valid points made by the consultant that were critical of the Sandusky probe.

" 'There is no question that there were inexplicable delays and failures to take basic investigative steps early on in this investigation," she said.''


Wolf, 47; Corbett, 25

Published by James O'Toole on .

His budget is stalled and so are his poll numbers.
The latest Franklin & Marshall College survey shows Gov. Tom Corbett continuing to trail far behind his Democratic challenger, York businessman Tom Wolf.

 The state's voters give the incumbent dismal job performance assessments.  His Democratic challenger led the governor by  margin of 47 percent to 25 percent among 502 registered voters surveyed between June 23 and June 29.

Just 27 percent of the voters said they thought Mr. Corbett's job performance was "good,'' or "excellent.''   That was even worse that the job performance spread for President Obama, whose positive job reviews totaled 34 percent, up slightly from his 30 percent rating in January, the lowest job approval for the president throughout the F&M surveys since he took office.

Mr. Wolf led in every region and almost every demographic category tracked by the survey.  He trailed in Allegheny County 43 percent to 31 percent.  That's a heavily Democratic county, but one Mr Corbett carried in his 2010 victory over Dan Onorato.  In normally Republican central Pennsylvania, Mr. Wolf led 46 percent to 26 percent, and in the vote-rich Philadelphia suburbs, the Democrat was ahead, 39 percent to 31 percent.

The Republican led only among Republicans, 55 percent to 19 percent, and self-described conservatives, 52 percent to 14 percent.


Light and fog

Published by James O'Toole on .

Starting Tuesday, every television station in the country was required by the Federal Elections Commission to post online what is known as its political file, the list of campaign commercials and who is paying for them.

Previously, outside of the nation's largest fifty television markets, anyone who wanted to study that public information had to go physically to the stations that sold the ads.  It was the next step in a process to make this information more widely available that began two years ago with the FEC's previous disclosure order to stations in the bigger markets.  That order covered roughly 230 stations.  The expanded order that went into effect this week brings more than 2,000 stations under the disclosure mandate, according to the Sunlight Foundation, which helps track the ad spending through a variety of analytic tools available on its web site,

In a release heralding the next chapter of ad data, the foundation called it, "a rare victory for transparency in a political system increasingly innundated with dark money.''


Coghill ousts Wagner in the 19th

Published by James O'Toole on .

In a major changing of the guard in Pittsburgh's Democratic politics, longtime Chairman Pete Wagner stepped down from the helm of of the 19th Ward Monday night in the face of a challenge from his recent adversary, and onetime ally, Anthony Coghill.

Mr. Wagner, the father of Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner, and brother of former state Auditor General Jack Wagner, had led the South Hills ward, one of the city's largest, for 28 years.  He held off a challenge from Mr. Coghill four years ago, but confided just before last night's meeting began in a Brookline American Legion hall, that his head count showed that he end up a few votes short.

Mr. Coghill supported Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto against the ward chair's brother, Jack, in last year's Democratic mayoral primary, one of many times they had clashed in the sometimes Byzantine world of Brookline politics.  He recruited new faces to run for committee seats in the May primary, arguing that Mr. Wagner's leadership lacked energy and effectiveness.

Mr. Wagner opened the reorganization meeting still wielding the figurative gavel he had held for nearly three decades.  He defended his record and criticized Mr. Coghill's ambitions, contending that they were rooted in a personal feud over Mr. Wagner's refusal to back his former ally, Mr. Coghill, in a city council race.  Then he surprised many in the room by announcing that he would not seek another term. "A lot of young people feel I'm a dinosaur after 28 years he said.  "I don't agree with that.''

But Mr Wagner had played one more card in his dispute with Mr. Coghill before leaving the stage.  He distributed copies of a twitter message in which the author,  identified as @pittsburghpolitical, claimed that Mr. Coghill had used a homophobic slur in referring to Mr. Wagner.  Jim Sheppard, who would unsuccessfully run against Mr. Coghill in the ward ballotting a few moments later, claimed that Mr. Coghill had used the words "sissy,'' and ''faggot'' in a conversation about Mr. Wagner.

 Mr. Coghill, heatedly denied the charge, in just one of a series of raucous exchanges that preceded the voting. After Mr. Wagner left the Brookline Boulevard hall, Mr. Coghill easily won the ward leadership with 46 votes.  Mr. Sheppard, a former employee of Luke Ravenstahl who said he now works for Ms. Wagner, received 28 votes while one of the ward's elected committee members held out and voted for Mr. Wagner.