Days from PA budget figure?

Published by Laura Olson on .

After another round of afternoon budget talks, top Republicans in the state Legislature say they're closer than when they went in -- but still haven't agreed on how much the state can afford to spend next year.

Gov. Tom Corbett, once the two-part negotiating session wrapped up, said he believes that the administration, House and Senate officials have made progress toward bridging their $300 million or so gap.

"I would hope that we would get there in the next day or two," he told reporters.

Asked whether he agreed with the governor's assessment that agreement on a spending figure was close, House Speaker Sam Smith, R-Punxsutawney, replied: "Sure."

This afternoon's discussion, however, appeared to focus more on "broad concepts" and less on "mathematical" aspects, according to Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware.

Pileggi described the ethane tax credit proposed for Shell Oil Co. and others interested in locating processing facilities here as the governor's "number-one priority" and an "essential" part of the budget process. Corbett replied: "That's a fairly accurate description."

More to come tomorrow morning, following the next round of closed-door talks.


Manchin, other WVa Dems skip DNC

Published by Tim McNulty on .

West Virginia's top Democrats -- Sen. Joe Manchin, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and US Rep. Nick Rahall -- are all skipping the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this fall. The party's standard bearer ain't too popular down there of course, and all three face reelection this year.

From the WV MetroNews:

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and Congressman Nick Rahall, who all face reelection battles this November, have decided to skip the Democratic National Convention in September.

The decisions of the three to stay home come after increasing pressure from Republicans to declare whether or not they support President Obama for reelection.  Rahall, who represents West Virginia's Third District, has already said he backs the President, but Manchin and Tomblin have refused to commit.

The West Virginia Delegate Selection Plan rules suggest that unpledged delegates had to declare who they planned to support.  It appeared that the deadline for the declaration was Tuesday.

Tomblin’s campaign spokesman Chris Stadleman said of the decision, “As he has said, he has serious problems with both Governor Romney and President Obama.  The Governor feels that his time is best spent working in West Virginia to move our state forward instead of attending a four-day political rally in North Carolina.”

Manchin, in a prepared statement, said, "I intend to spend this fall focused on the people of West Virginia, whether that's representing them in my official U.S. Senate duties or here at home, where I can hear about their concerns and ideas to solve the problems of this great nation. I will remain focused on bringing people together for the next generation, not the next election."


Ward, judge nominees move forward

Published by Laura Olson on .

A Senate panel this afternoon sent Gov. Tom Corbett's judicial nomination of his former chief of staff for a hearing, moving a step forward in the process to confirm Bill Ward as a common pleas judge in Allegheny County.

That hearing on the appointments of Ward and Paul Cozza, another candidate for the Allegheny County bench, is scheduled for tomorrow in Harrisburg

That progress is in spite of skepticism from state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille regarding whether the appointments are necessary, telling the Harrisburg Patriot-News recently that the county's caseload has declined.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, said after the panel vote that the process for filling vacancies has traditionally been "at the discretion of the governor." He added that senators have read the chief justice's comments, but have not received any direct communication from Castille.


Ferlo sees red

Published by Tim McNulty on .

38th Senate District

Chris Briem at Null Space shows just how hard it will be for Jim Ferlo to stay in the state Senate if the latest maps are allowed to stand. The new 38th is Republican-performing and should be a cakewalk for (presumably) Randy Vulakovich. From Chris:

So the story is that while there is some very odd renumbering going on, the district of Jane Orie's tenure has been morphed to stretch into the city of Pittsburgh in order to cover the residence of the Jim Ferlo. Thus a fiction to say that Ferlo's district was not eliminated. Jim Ferlo's district, for the longest time held by one Len Bodack Sr. (Jr last we heard is working for the PWSA) stretched out along the Allegheny River Valley is pretty much kaput. So there is a special election coming up for the remaining term of Jane Orie which will be based on the geography of the existing district... but then the redistricting kicks in and then what is going to happen? The North Hills of Allegheny County is pretty much the core of the county's Republican Base and the new district pretty much covers it all. Thus the early prognostication that it is a Republican seat to lose. Yet it also sticks into the city and adds some core Democratic Party votes that were not part of the district before.

(Speaking of going red, let's see if Vulakovich brings up Ed McCaul's attack line from 1991.)


Corbett speaks: Romney in PA

Published by Karen Langley on .


From the Saturday evening notebook, dateline Cornwall, Pa. -- After introducing Mitt Romney at a rally here, Gov. Tom Corbett took questions from reporters. Here are a few things he had to say.

Asked what advice he would give Romney about campaigning in Pennsylvania:

"Obviously he has to travel the entire country, but I would tell him that, as he well knows, if he wins this state, he's going to win the election. And I believe it's winnable."

How does Romney do that?

"He's got to do it by getting his message out there. He has to spend some time here. I mean, I think you're going to see him spending time in all the swing states. Spend some time here, hit the right events, hit the various locations. You know, central Pennsylvania, western Pennsylvania, I think he can do very, very well in. He's not going to win Philadelphia, we know that. I haven't come close to winning Philadelphia. But he can compete in the rest of the state."

Is Pennsylvania a swing state?