Posts

Radio PA Roundtable – February 20-22, 2015

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, a special interview with Jay Paterno, author of the book “Paterno Legacy: Enduring Lessons from the Life and Death of My Father.”

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting, commentary and analysis on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:

Radio PA Roundtable – February 13-15, 2015

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Governor Tom Wolf announces his plans for a 5% tax on gas drilling; Philadelphia lands a big party in 2016; and Penn State researchers have uncovered some concerning mental health trends among college students nationwide.

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting, commentary and analysis on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:

Ask the Governor (AUDIO) for September 2013

This edition of Ask the Governor was recorded on Thursday, September 26th, 2013 and featured comments on the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, legislative priorities for the fall, NCAA sanctions being eased at Penn State, gay marriage, the Pittsburgh Pirates playoff run and much more (including your emails). You can listen to the entire program on PAMatters.com and/or watch video clips of specific topics. And we now offer this audio version COMMERCIAL FREE. Click the play button to get started…

Is Penn State’s Board of Trustees Too Big?

Governance changes are ongoing at the Penn State Board of Trustees.  It’s already added a public comment period at meetings and imposed new 12-year term limits on members.  In May, trustee James Broadhurst tells lawmakers the board will take up the recommendations of the Committee on Governance and Long-Range planning that he chairs.  Those plans include changes in the status of the university president and governor, making both non-voting members of the board.  But Broadhurst says they are not recommending a change in the size of the board at this time.

“There is no model or best practice that speaks to the optimal size or makeup of a university board of trustees,” Broadhurst testified before the Senate State Government Committee this week.  Penn State’s board has 32-voting members.  If it votes to change the status of the president and governor, there would be 30-voting members. 

But trustee Anthony Lubrano fears the can will get kicked down the road until governance reforms are no longer a priority.  “Membership should be reduced to a number that allows for the inclusion and active engagement of the entire board,” Lubrano testified before the committee. 

For comparison, other Big Ten universities have much smaller boards (Ohio State 19, Michigan 9).  “They have to be actively engaged… this is a $4.3-billion dollar enterprise… this is serious business,” says Lubrano.    

Senate State Government Committee chairman Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) will call additional hearings as he tries to find consensus on whether, where and what legislative action is warranted when it comes to Penn State governance.

Governance Discussion to Include All State-Relateds

Former Auditor General Jack Wagner’s special report on Penn State’s governance will be the subject of a state Senate committee hearing later this month.  “It will be a look at whether there should be changes, and then whether the legislature should have a role in that,” says State Government Committee Chairman Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), who adds that the talks will eventually be broadened to include the other three state related universities as well. 

Smucker, who is also a member of the Appropriations Committee, got the ball rolling with a few questions for the universities’ leaders this week. 

Penn State President Rodney Erickson says their committee on governance & long-range planning will offer some suggested changes to the Board of Trustees later this month.  “Much has already changed with the structure and operations of the board, and there’s surely more to come.” 

None of the leaders of PSU, Lincoln and the University of Pittsburgh expressed concern over one possible reform, which would remove the president’s voting powers on their respective boards.  Temple’s president did not offer an opinion because he’s only been on the job two months, and hasn’t even attended his first trustees’ meeting. 

University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg did weigh in on another big recommendation in Jack Wagner’s Penn State report – reducing the size of the board.  “I don’t know how a small board could exercise proper oversight over an institution the size of Penn State or Pitt or Temple, unless they were going to be full-time board members,” says Nordenberg, noting that smaller is not always better. 

Penn State’s Board of Trustees has 32-members.  Pitt’s board has 36-voting members; Temple’s has 36-voting members; and Lincoln’s has 39.  For reference, Ohio State’s board has 19-members (2-non-voting).  The University of Michigan has 9-board members (1-non-voting).

Radio PA Roundtable 02.15.13

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Matt Paul catches us up on the Attorney General’s disapproval of the controversial lottery management contract. He’ll also chat one-on-one with State Rep. Scott Conklin (D-Centre) about all of the latest developments in the Penn State scandal. Plus a Pennsylvania Bishop discusses Pope Benedict XVI’s big announcement.

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:

[audio:https://s3.amazonaws.com/witfaudio/radiopa/Roundtable02-15-13.mp3]
Cash

Gov. to Seek Level Funding for Higher Education

With Governor Tom Corbett’s commitment to level-fund higher education in the new fiscal year, state-owned and state-related university officials are pledging to keep any tuition hikes as low as possible.  “This agreement, this working together, will allow our schools to better plan their budgets for the coming year and make the best use of their resources,” Corbett said at a capitol news conference.  “Their commitment should allow students, and particularly their families, to plan their own budgets accordingly.”  Corbett was flanked by the state’s higher education leaders as he made Friday’s announcement. 

This agreement – level-funding in exchange for minimal tuition hikes – is similar to a deal that was ultimately struck last year.  Corbett says it resulted in the lowest tuition increases in more than a decade.  “For example, Temple University did not raise tuition last year; Penn State had their lowest tuition increase in nearly 40-years.” 

The state appropriated nearly $1.6-billion to higher education in the current fiscal year, and Corbett is proposing the same amount for FY2013-14. 

State Senator Jake Corman (R-Centre) says level-funding is significant in what continue to be difficult budget times.  “As Appropriations Chairman I can tell you that this coming fiscal year… our cost-carry-forward items – such as Medicaid, debt service, corrections, things of that nature – will grow at a higher rate than what our revenues will grow next year,” he explains. 

This sort of early collaboration between Governor Corbett and the higher education community is a change of pace from previous budget cycles.  Two years ago, higher education received a near 20% cut, after even steeper cuts were initially proposed.  Last year, a level-funding deal wasn’t struck until long after Corbett proposed another round of stiff cuts

With that track record in mind, Democrats don’t seem too impressed with Friday’s announcement.  “By flat funding higher education, Tom Corbett is keeping in place harsh cuts from past budgets and ignoring cost of living increases,” says Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn, “Tom Corbett has the wrong priorities.” 

Corbett will discuss all of his priorities on Tuesday when he delivers his annual budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly.

Senate Votes to Keep PSU Fine In-state

With a unanimous vote, the state Senate has advanced legislation that would require Penn State’s $60-million dollar fine to be spent here in Pennsylvania.  Currently, up to 75% could be distributed to fund sexual abuse programs in other states

Senator Jake Corman (R-Centre) addressed the chamber before today’s vote:SB187

The first $12-million dollar installment is sitting in an escrow account, and has not been dispersed pending a lawsuit that Corman has filed. 

Governor Tom Corbett has filed his own lawsuit seeking to overturn all of the NCAA sanctions, but he tells us Penn State should still honor the fine by funding sexual abuse prevention programs & victims services within the commonwealth’s borders. 

Corman’s bill (SB 187) would also apply to future governing association fine levied on PA colleges & universities.  The House must take up Corman’s bill before it can be sent to the governor’s desk. 

Meanwhile, as the Senate was voting today, Judge John Cleland issued an order denying Jerry Sandusky’s post-sentencing motions.  The ex-assistant football coach is currently serving 30 – 60-years in prison for the sexual abuse of ten boys.