Game Commission Starts Random Testing for CWD with Rifle Deer Season Underway

With rifle deer season in full swing, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has started taking some samples from hunter-killed deer.   The commission wants to make sure Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, has not spread into Pennsylvania. 

They’re taking samples of brain tissue from about four thousand hunter killed deer, collecting the samples from deer processors.  Spokesman Jerry Feaser says the testing is even more crucial with the disease found in Maryland.  He says the testing is focused throughout the state, but there’s a special emphasis on counties north of the Maryland line.  These include Bedford, Fulton, Franklin, Adams and York Counties.

Hunters are asked to report deer that are acting oddly or appear to be sick, and not take unhealthy deer. Feaser says deer that have their head or ears drooping down, are drooling or have a thick, rough hair coat could have the disease.

The commission does a random sample to make sure they’re getting adequate representation from across the state.  The testing requires brain matter from the deer. Feaser says for the most part, hunters don’t even know they’re collecting it.

CWD is fatal to deer and other cervids.  There is no treatment for it.   It has not been shown to affect humans. However, Feaser says hunters should still take precautions in the field, such as using gloves to field dress the deer and thoroughly washing knives used to field dress or butcher the deer.  He says those knives should not be used for other purposes.



***Photo by Joe Kosack, courtesy the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

PA’s Fiscal Watchdog Opposes Liquor Privatization Bill

Auditor Genral Jack Wagner

Auditor General Jack Wagner addressed the media on Wednesday.

The proposal to privatize Pennsylvania’s wine & spirits stores is a bad deal for taxpayers and customers alike, according to Auditor General Jack Wagner.   “Would you sell a reliable asset that brings in a profit of at least $100-million dollars a year… losing 5,000 jobs during tough economic times?”  Wagner asked.  “I don’t think so.”  Wagner shared his concerns with reporters in Harrisburg before traveling to Philly to testify before the state House Liquor Control Committee. 

Wagner calls the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board one of the few profit-making ventures in state government, and balked at estimates that Pennsylvania could generate an up-front windfall of $1 – $2-billion dollars by divesting its liquor stores.  “Wouldn’t it be an embarrassment if this legislation passed and we got virtually nothing for the LCB?”

While he’s not opposed to the concept of privatizing certain state operations, Wagner doesn’t think it makes sense in the case of the state-run liquor stores.  Wagner suggests modernizing the system as the preferred option, noting that state lawmakers need to take the handcuffs off of the PLCB. 

While the Auditor General doesn’t see the logic behind this privatization movement, Governor Tom Corbett says it starts with philosophy.  He says the LCB’s dual role of selling and regulating alcohol is a conflict of interest.  “We are enforcing the liquor laws, we are enforcing the drunk driving laws, we are enforcing the drinking laws, yet we have the main agency when it comes to liquor saying drink more,” Corbett told a recent Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon.  “Get out of the business.” 

The state House Liquor Control Committee is in the midst of two days of hearings on the privatization bill in Philadelphia.  HB 11 is scheduled for a committee vote in mid-December.

State Capitol Christmas Tree Arrives

The 22-foot state capitol Christmas tree will be lit on Dec. 6th.

The 22-foot state capitol Christmas tree will be lit on Dec. 6th.

Pennsylvania’s Capitol Christmas Tree arrived in the rotunda Wednesday morning, and was hoisted into place by a team of workers from the Department of General Services.   

Over the next few days the tree will be prepped and decorated in time for a tree lighting ceremony on December 6th

The 22-foot concolor was grown by Strathmeyer Forests in York County, and donated by the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association.

King of Prussia Mall to Expand

The largest shopping mall on the east coast will be getting bigger.   The expansion of King of Prussia Mall outside of Philadelphia will unite the two main shopping venues; the Court and the Plaza. 

Simon Property Group spokesman Les Morris says the project will add about 40 new stores, several restaurants, an upscale dining pavilion and customer lounge.  There’s no timetable set yet, because the group is still securing the needed approvals for construction.  He says they showed the plans to local officials in late October, and they’re very enthusiastic about it.

The project comes on the heels of work that’s already underway to convert the former Strawbridge building into a 100 thousand square foot space for 10 retailers, scheduled to open by the 2012 holiday season.

Morris says the timing of the new project coincides with the upcoming 50th anniversary of the mall.  The Plaza opened in 1963.   

Morris adds the new project is being fueled by retailer demand.


Obama to Talk Taxes in PA

President Obama will make a Wednesday appearance at Scranton High School, where he will urge Congress to extend and expand the existing payroll tax cut.  The legislation, dubbed the Middle Class Tax Cut Act, is actually sponsored by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA).  Without Congressional action, the existing payroll tax break of 2% will expire at the end of the year.  “Not extending the payroll tax cut would be raising taxes on middle income families,” Casey explained.    

Numerous GOP candidates have lined up to challenge Casey in his 2012 reelection bid.

Casey’s plan would both extend it and expand it to 3.1%.  “That kind of a cut would put $1,500 – as opposed to last year’s number of $1,000 – $1,500 into the pockets of the average family next year,” Casey said during a conference call with reporters. 

For instance in Cameron County, where the median household income is $36,536, the savings from Casey’s proposed payroll tax cut would be $1,133. In Chester County, where the median household income is $81,380, the savings would be $2,523. 

The bill would be funded through a surcharge on income that exceeds $1-million dollars, which is leading to likely Republican opposition.  Democrats are expected to bring it up for a test vote as early as this week.


PA Man Claims Powerball Jackpot

51-year-old Steven Lloyd of Harding, Luzerne County has claimed the 12th largest prize ever awarded by the Pennsylvania Lottery.  Lloyd describes his winning November 19th Powerball ticket as a random purchase at the Turkey Hill in Exeter.  He used the change from buying his coffee and granola bar to make the Quick Pick purchase.  “I said, oh, just put the five dollars on Powerball,” Lloyd explained during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Lottery headquarters in Dauphin County. 

Lloyd had to have his winning ticket validated at the Lottery headquarters on Monday morning.  “The Thanksgiving holiday weekend was the longest weekend of my life, because I had a ticket worth 30-some million dollars that I had to worry about for four or five days,” Lloyd said with a nervous laugh.    

The November 19th jackpot was $59.9-million dollar annuity, but Lloyd went with the cash option that grosses him $37.6-million dollars before taxes.  He may not be a regular Lottery player, but Lloyd is now the 14th Pennsylvanians to win a Powerball jackpot.  He wants to use his newfound wealth to “pay it forward.” 

The winning combination for the drawing was 09 – 16 – 17 – 28 – 30, Powerball 11.

Christmas Price Index is Up for “12 Days” Shoppers

If you actually wanted to give your “true love” all of the items in the holiday classic song “The 12 Days of Christmas”, it would cost you 3.5% more this year.   

The PNC Christmas Price Index shows the price of that partridge in a pear tree has gone up, as has the turtle doves, geese a laying and swans a swimming.    The price of swans a swimming rose 12.5%, turtle doves are up 25%, driving the higher costs.

Maids a milking, ladies dancing and lords a leaping saw no increase.  French hens held even.  Gold rings were down .8%.

Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investments for PNC Wealth Management, says the total cost of the items in the song has topped the 100 thousand dollar mark for the first time. Shopping for on line deals won’t help with this list; the total internet price is over 174 thousand, thanks mostly to shipping.

Dunigan says there is a correlation with the real consumer price index, and the Christmas Price Index can be used as an educational tool.  At, there are interactive tools for educators to use to engage middle and high school students at this time of year in lessons about economic trends.

Dunigan says the slow recovery is showing up in this index as well. He says weak demand is keeping prices down, which is why they saw only a moderate increase. Wages were flat in the index and he says we see that in the economy as well with wages up overall by just 1.6%.

It’s the 28th year for the PNC holiday season index.