Treasurer Might Not Sign Off On Lottery Payments to Private Manager

The State Attorney General is still reviewing a deal to give management of the Pennsylvania Lottery to a private firm.  The state Treasurer is also doing his own review.

Treasurer Rob McCord says he’s still weighing whether his department will cut checks to the new lottery management firm even if Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office clears the contract.  McCord says his department plays a fiscal review role.

McCord is concerned about the expansion of lottery games without legislative approval  in a contract with Camelot Global Services. He says he’s looking at it with increasing concern in deciding whether his office would distribute funds to Camelot.

Governor Corbett, appearing Friday on Radio PA’s “Ask the Governor” said  there would be no reason for the Treasurer to withhold payments to the private manager.  He adds he would have a long conversation with the treasurer about holding up due contracts if they’re approved by the attorney general.

The Governor, a Republican,  indicated he was not concerned by the new Democratic Attorney General’s review of the agreement.

Corbett Signs Budget Ahead of Deadline

Governor Willing to Discuss Restoring Some Funding Next Year

Governor Corbett is reacting with caution to word that the state’s revenue figures are starting to show improvement.  He says the numbers are encouraging.

However, the Governor adds that just as predictions were made in February anticipating a higher year end deficit based on the facts then, these new projections are based on the facts today, which could change quickly.

Earlier in the week, the Independent Fiscal Office projected a year end deficit of about 300 million. In February, the Governor’s office had projected a gap of more than 700 million.  April’s revenue collections came in 99 million dollars over projects.  At the end of last month, the state was running 288 million dollars  behind projections.

Some lawmakers are calling for funding to be restored to the proposed budget for the next fiscal year, based on the improved numbers. Governor Corbett says he’s open to discussion with the legislature about restoring some cuts, but wants to be cautious.

With less than two months to go in the fiscal year, the Governor was asked about the prospects of a second on-time budget.  He says he believes it will be done on time, and hopefully it won’t be ten minutes before midnight (see photo above of last year’s budget signing).  He says talks with legislators have been cordial and very productive.

Highmark, UPMC Agree to Another Extension

A contract extension will allow more time to work out issues surrounding a dispute between insurer Highmark and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.   Governor Corbett says Highmark and UPMC will extend their agreement through the end of 2014.

The extension came after the Governor appointed David Simon, Vice President and Chief Legal Officer of Jefferson Health System in Southeastern Pennsylvania, to act as a mediator.  Governor Corbett thanked Simon and    members of the General Assembly for helping resolve the dispute over in-network coverage.

The dispute began after Highmark announced a takeover of the West Penn Allegheny Health System.      UPMC said that made Highmark a direct competitor to its system.

While Corbett did not sit at the negotiating table, he says he did encourage officials from both sides to find a resolution, or the state would get it done for them. He says he and the legislature were in agreement they were not going to let the people of Western Pennsylvania  live in with anxiety over the situation, keeping in mind both institutions were nonprofits that had received a great deal of benefit from that status.

He says they sent a clear message that these two institutions had a tremendous responsibility to deal with their disagreements and not affect the people of Western Pennsylvania the way they were.

The Governor’s office says Highmark and UPMC will be negotiating access to unique UPMC services beginning in 2015, including Western Psychiatric Institute, certain oncological services and community hospitals.

State House Gives Final Approval to Voter ID Bill

On a 104 to 88 vote, the state house has concurred with senate changes to the Voter ID bill and sent the measure to the Governor’s desk.  Governor Corbett was scheduled to sign it this evening.

The vote came after debate over three session days.  HB934 will require voters to show an approved photo identification when voting, starting with the November General election.  The new procedure is expected to get a dry run in next month’s primary.

Opponents call it a solution in search of a problem, arguing there’s little evidence of widespread voter fraud.  Democrats in the state house voted against the bill and said it would suppress voting, especially among groups that do not already have an approved photo ID.

Supporters say it’s a way to help ensure “one person, one vote” and  deter voter fraud.

The measure is expected to face a court challenge.  The bill was opposed by civil liberties groups, the AARP and the NAACP.

President’s Approval Numbers Remain Weak in Pennsylvania According to New Poll

The job approval rating for President Obama is more negative than positive in Pennsylvania and more than half of the voters believe it’s time for a change according to the latest Franklin and Marshall College poll.

The President’s approval rating rose slightly from the August poll to the October poll, from 34% to 37%.   52% of the state’s voters believe it’s time for a change than believe the President deserves re-election (42%).

The President still comes out ahead in match ups against Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum. But poll director Terry Madonna says Pennsylvanians are not focused on the presidential election yet, since the primary is not until April. He says the Republican candidates are not well known and there has not been a lot of activity by the candidates in Pennsylvania.  He says the Republican field is still unsettled.

Madonna says the president, in a sense running against himself, is in trouble.  He says typically when they find this situation in polls; they find an incumbent who is going to have a tough fight on his hands.  He expects Pennsylvania to remain very competitive and play its role as a battleground state.

The poll shows President Obama leading Rick Perry in Pennsylvania 40% to 20%. In a match up with Mitt Romney, the president leads 35% to 26%. Going head to head with Rick Santorum, President Obama leads 38% to 25%. Against Herman Cain, the President’s lead is 38% to 24%. There were a large number of voters who were undecided.

Madonna says President Obama’s weak job performance is directly related to the continuation of the recession and the lack of optimism voters have about getting out of it anytime soon.  He says the American people tend to hold the party in power and the President of the United States responsible.

Pennsylvania’s two U. S. Senators also have approval ratings that are more negative than positive.  Senator Bob Casey’s approval rose 6 points from August to 38%, Senator Pat Toomey’s approval; rating was 32%, up 3 points from August.

The poll also looked at Pennsylvania issues.  The state legislature’s approval rating is only 22%, compared to 38% for Governor Corbett.  Half of those polled think the state is headed in the wrong direction.

While Governor Corbett’s approval rating is still below where Ed Rendell or Tom Ridge ranked at this point in their tenures, Madonna says it’s not as markedly low as previous surveys.  The rating rose 6 points from August.

Madonna says they have seen a steady erosion in support for the legislature somewhat influenced by the pay hike grab in 2005.  He says the prosecutions known as Bonusgate have also had an impact. But it’s the most positive rating for the legislature since the summer of 2009 and it’s almost twice as high as the rating Congress gets in most polls, which hovers around 12%.

The poll also asked voters to prioritize some of the top issues facing the state, and more than half pointed to fixing the roads and bridges as the most important or one of the most important issues. 43% ranked passing a tax on natural gas as an important priority, followed by school vouchers (39%), changing the way electoral votes are distributed (30%) and privatizing state stores (17%).

Pennsylvania Give Low Marks to State, National Leaders

The latest Franklin and Marshall College Poll shows  President Obama, Governor Corbett and Pennsylvania’s two United States Senators, Bob Casey and Pat Toomey,  are all in the 30% approval range for job performance among Pennsylvania adults.

The President’s rating stands at 34%, the Governor’s at 32%, Senator Casey is also at 32% and Senator Toomey is at 29%.  Poll director Dr. Terry Madonna blames the relatively low marks on the disdain voters have for the polarization and politics taking place at the state and national level, when it comes to debts, deficits, budgets and programs.

Results in the approval ratings were divided along party lines.  88% of Republicans give President Obama a fair or poor approval rating, compared to 50% of Democrats, who give Governor Corbett a 73% fair or poor rating compared to 46% of Republicans.

 Dr. Madonna says the recession has become personal.  There was a big drop in the number of people generically citing the economy as the top concern.  There was a huge uptick in the number citing unemployment and personal finances.

Only 41% of those polled believes the President deserves re-election. Fifty-two percent of Pennsylvania voters believe it’s time for a change.  But among those voters, President Obama leads Republicans Mitt Romney by 6 points, Michelle Bachman by 19, Rick Perry by 11 and former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum by 8 points.

Dr.  Madonna says 80% of independents give President Obama a fair or poor approval rating and independents are a key to winning the state.  He says the President’s polling numbers indicate Pennsylvania will be competitive and Madonna also believes the state will be competitive and reasonably close.

The poll also looked at two hot topics in Pennsylvania; the privatization of liquor sales and taxing of natural gas extraction. There’s strong support for taxing companies that extract natural gas, with 64% strongly or somewhat favoring a levy.  Fifty-six percent support selling state owned liquor stores to private companies.

Dr. Madonna says the poll shows 66% have a favorable view of the drilling industry, but respondents were split on whether the potential economic benefits outweigh the possible environmental damage.  They were very clear on additional drilling on state forestland; 54% strongly oppose it.

Dr. Madonna says 72% of those polled feel that the proceeds of a tax on natural gas extraction should be shared between the state and local communities.

The survey was conducted August 22-29 and the sampling error is +/- 4.3 percentage points.

Sate Capitol View from Commonwealth Ave.

New Debut Date for “Ask the Governor”

Governor Tom Corbett is scheduled to make his debut appearance on “Ask the Governor” on Thursday, June 9th. Gov. Tom CorbettVideo segments of the program will be available on starting that day and the program is also airing on radio stations statewide through the Radio Pennsylvania Network.

Visit our “Ask the Governor” page to submit a question or comment for Governor Tom Corbett, then check back regularly for program video and announcements of future show dates.

Ask the Governor” is a production of Radio Pennsylvania in association with

First Lady Susan Corbett and Governor Tom Corbett

Governor Tom Corbett is out of the hospital

Governor Tom Corbett is out of the hospital, two days after surgery for a nagging back problem. The Governor was released this morning from Allegheny General Hospital. Orthopedic specialists Dr. Mark Fye and Dr. Patrick DeMeo treated him Monday for spinal stenosis. The condition results in compressed nerves and leads to persistent pain.

The Governor told reporters as he left the hospital this morning that he had been in pain while walking for the last 6, 7 or 8 months. He says it started bothering him during the last two campaigns, and he decided he couldn’t put the procedure off any longer. A smiling Corbett told reporters the first thing up Tuesday, walking around, not to feel pain going down both legs, he’s very thankful for the surgeons and staff. He says the hospital has treated him very well.

The Governor will work from his Pittsburgh area home as he recuperates, and he expects to return to Harrisburg on Monday.

His office says the 61-year-old Republican underwent a series of medical tests in preparation for the surgery and is otherwise considered to be in excellent health.