Amorphous progress reported by budget negotiators after pension meeting

Amorphous progress reported by budget negotiators after pension meeting

While it may just be a feeling, legislative leaders and Gov. Tom Wolf again touted progress toward reaching a pension deal following a Thursday negotiating session on the topic.

“We had a good conversation, we’re making some progress on two really important issues: the pensions and education,” said Gov. Wolf. “We obviously have differences…but I think we had a good conversation, good discussion.”

House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) noted that while pension reform and education funding are two items the negotiators have focused on over the last two days as necessary components of the final budget, differences still exist in those areas.

“We’re still working through those differences, we’re hoping to do so in a timely fashion because there are a number of other issues that need to come to the table before we can have a final budget agreement,” he told reporters.

Thursday, August 13, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Budget negotiations forge ahead with new proposals coming on pension reform, education funding

Budget negotiations forge ahead with new proposals coming on pension reform, education funding

Top legislative leaders from the four legislative caucuses met with Gov. Tom Wolf Wednesday afternoon to discuss matters related to resolving Pennsylvania’s seven-week old budget stalemate and left the meeting to review new proposals offered by the administration dealing with pension reform and education funding.

The negotiators will meet again Thursday morning to discuss the new plans and see if they can find a way to forge ahead and agree to a spending plan.

“I think we made some progress,” Gov. Wolf said about the Wednesday meeting. “We’re going to get together at 10:00 tomorrow morning, we have some information [Budget Sec. Randy Albright] is going to be presenting to the leaders, both parties, so we can have a continuation of this tomorrow.”

While the governor stopped short of saying there was any sort of a breakthrough in negotiations, he remained optimistic saying again, “We made progress."

Wednesday, August 12, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
Educators, administrators pan state assessments at House hearing

Educators, administrators pan state assessments at House hearing

The House Education Committee held a marathon hearing Wednesday getting input on state education assessments from frontline players who deliver and develop the tests. Most testifiers panned the state assessments as costly, unnecessary, and misapplied.

The committee’s aim was not to take testimony on any specific bill, but to get a ground-level understanding of what the tests do, how they’re viewed, and whether students are prepared for them.

“What we wanted to hear today is what exactly we Pennsylvania are required to do in terms of testing as far as the federal government requirements are concerned, what’s been going on at PDE and the Board of Education, but also to hear from different teachers, superintendents, and board members as to exactly what’s going on in each of the districts,” said Chairman Stan Saylor (R-York). “Let’s hear from individuals who are involved in the testing day in and day out to give us an explanation.”

It was noted the topic of state assessments has drawn a lot of interest lately, particularly in terms of preparedness for the exams after the adoption of Pennsylvania CORE standards in 2013.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views

House members return to session with deep divides

The House of Representatives returned to Harrisburg Tuesday for a rare mid-July voting session and rank-and-file members of that chamber expressed frustrations and divides as deep as those in their leadership responsible for negotiating a new spending plan.

Rep. Lee James (R-Venango) told The PLS Reporter that while his district hasn’t seen the mailers sent to mainly Republican House districts in the southeast, he reported those of his district are happy with his vote in support of the Republican-crafted budget plan.

“I’m trying to hold the line on increasing taxes and that’s their main concern,” he said.

While he said he received about 100 “canned presentations” from school teachers, after he explained to people why he voted the way he did many reported that their union did not tell them about what the governor’s revenue plan would mean for them.

Giving a literal thumbs down to whether he’d support new revenue sources, Rep. James indicated new taxes are a non-starter for him.

“It’s kind of a non-event out in the western part of Pennsylvania as long as I hold the line on taxes,” he stated.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views

GOP House member unveils budget alternative

Standing alone Thursday, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) unveiled what he called a “middle of the road” budget alternative.

“I’ve been here a long time, I’ve been through a lot of these debates on the budget and I think it’s time we start to get serious about doing this,” he said at Thursday morning’s news conference unveiling his proposal. “It doesn’t appear to me that much progress is being made.”

Thursday, July 16, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
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