RadioPA Roundtable

Radio PA Roundtable 01.20.12

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting on the top news stories of the week. Professionally produced and delivered every Friday, Roundtable includes commercial breaks for local sale and quarterly reports for affiliate files.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:


“Guarded Optimism” in New PA Economic Report

Pennsylvania appears to be on the road to economic recovery, but experts caution the road is long and full hazards.  Pennsylvania’s new Independent Fiscal Office is out with its first ever Budget & Economic Outlook, which pegs the state’s “real growth” at 1.6% for 2012. 

There are reasons for optimism in the Pennsylvania economy.  “If you look at the balance sheets of the corporations, the profits are pretty healthy, the balance sheets are strong,” says IFO Director Matt Knittel.  “If you look at the banks, they’re beginning to lend once again.  If you look at consumers, they have brought down their debt balances and I think they’re in a stronger position now than they were a year or two ago.”     

Demographic trends pose real economic concern in the years ahead, as Pennsylvania’s senior citizen population is projected to grow by 25% over the next decade.  The working age population, meanwhile, is expected to contract by nearly 2%.  “Extrapolating these trends out five years we find that if current policies are left in place and current tax laws are left in place, then expenditures greatly exceed revenues five years from now,” Knittel tells Radio PA

The General Assembly created the Independent Fiscal Office in 2010 as a means to provide nonpartisan financial data.  It was funded for the first time in 2011, and required by statute to release its first report this month.  The IFO will release its state revenue estimates in May. 

Governor Tom Corbett’s Budget Office will need to base a proposed spending plan on revenue estimates much earlier than that.  Corbett’s 2nd budget address is scheduled for February 7th.

Critics Urge Administration to Reconsider Planned Food Stamp Asset Test

The Rendell administration did away with the state’s food stamp asset test in 2008.  Four years later, Governor Tom Corbett says restoring it would ensure food stamp dollars are used for those who truly need them.  “I think it’s incumbent if you are to get money from the government, than you should demonstrate your need for that,” Corbett said on Radio PA’s Ask the Governor program.

“I believe it’s incumbent for the people of Pennsylvania – those who are on welfare and those who are not on welfare – that we test for eligibility to make sure only those people who are eligible under the guidelines are entitled to get that.”

But an asset test would send the wrong message, according to Pennsylvania Hunger Action Center Interim Executive Director Laura Tobin Goddard.  “We know that having small savings, encouraging people to save, does help them to become self sufficient,” she says.

The proposed asset threshold for non-senior households would be $2,000.  Homes, retirement savings and first vehicles would be exempt.  Second vehicles would be exempt up to a value of $4,650.  Governor Corbett says there’s room for discussion about the thresholds, but their proposal simply returns to the asset test numbers that were in place in 2008.

The final decision rests with the US Department of Agriculture, which can either approve or reject the Department of Public Welfare’s request.  State House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) has already written Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging him to deny the administration’s request.

In part, that letter reads: “Despite the Corbett Administration’s assertions that reinstating the asset test will aid in Pennsylvania’s effort to root out “fraud, waste and abuse,” the fact is that few such problems exist with SNAP in Pennsylvania.  In fact, statistics show that Pennsylvania’s fraud rate in the program is among the lowest in the nation – a mere one-tenth of one percent.”

In a separate letter to Governor Corbett, Dermody urges him to reconsider the “ill-conceived” proposal.

Marcellus Shale Protesters

Will Lawmakers Reach Marcellus Shale Compromise in 2012?

The House and Senate each passed their own versions of Marcellus Shale impact legislation prior to the holiday break.  But Governor Tom Corbett says staff-level negotiations didn’t take a vacation.  “I think there’s been a great deal of movement by everybody, and I believe we’re going to get a bill done this session,” Corbett said on Radio PA’s Ask the Governor program.  “Particularly I would like to see a bill done before the budget address of February the 7th.” 

But some 20 environmental groups rallied in the capitol rotunda, this week, urging lawmakers to scrap both bills.  Among their biggest concerns are provisions that would limit the ability of local governments to regulate natural gas drilling.  “How can [the state] say that they have more expertise than a local community does over their environment, over their health, over what their people want,” says PennEnvironment’s Erika Staaf.  “I’m some areas the people might want a ban.” 

But Governor Corbett says uniform zoning rules are necessary to encourage investment and create jobs.  “Businesses, if there are going to invest in Pennsylvania – and they have been investing billions of dollars – have to know that there is consistency in the application of the zoning rules across the state.”  He says this is not a case of state government bending over backwards for the industry.

Congressman Todd Platts Term Limiting Himself

    Pennsylvania Congressman Todd Platts says he will not run for a 7th term in the U.S. House of Representatives. The south-central PA Republican cites his strong belief in term limits as his reason for calling it quits at the end of his term this year.

Cong. Todd Platts (R-19)


    Platts says he has sponsored 12-year term limit legislation in each and every one of his 6 terms and now the lawmakeris going to practice what he preaches. Platts says he truly loves his job and calls serving in Congress a “remarkable privilege” that he had dreamed of since the age of 14.  In making his announcement, Platts did not indicate what his next move would be professionally. Prior to being elected to Congress, Platts was a state legislator.

    Platts vowed to continue working hard for his constituents during his final year in office.

    A spokesperson for the state Republican party declined to mention any names of potential candidates for the 19th Congressional District seat.


Governor Corbett Helps Launch MLK Day of Service in Harrisburg

Governor Tom Corbett helped kick off the Central Pennsylvania Martin Luther King Junior Day of Service on Monday morning. He offered encouragement to several hundred students from Harrisburg and surrounding school districts, as they prepared to spend the day working on service projects in honor of Dr. King’s memory.

Governor Corbett said this kind of service can happen any time. He asked the students not to make serving the people of their community a one day event.

He told the students that this holiday is a bit different from other holidays, like President’s Day next month. Governor Corbett said we have sales in the stores on President’s Day, and Labor Day, which celebrates labor, is really a day off. He says only Martin Luther King seems to draw us out of our houses and into our communities to do volunteer work.

The Governor and Mrs. Corbett ended the day serving meals to the hungry alongside the Boys and Girls Club of Central PA.

2012 Farm Show: By the Numbers

Record crowds filled the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex from January 7th – 14th.  While an actual head count is impossible for the 24-acre, 11-buiding complex, officials say they parked 70,000 cars in official Farm Show lots.  That’s a 22% increase over last year. 

To satisfy the masses, the Pennsylvania Co-operative Potato Growers served up more than 270,000 doughnuts and 40,000 baked potatoes. 

Over at the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association booth, they used up more than 14,000 gallons of milkshake mix and 6,000 pounds of Mozzarella cheese. 

Right next door to the Dairymen’s booth at the PA Preferred Food Court, the Pennsylvania Mushroom Grower’s Cooperative sold more than 7,000 pounds of mushrooms.   And those are just a few examples.   

The record crowds did more than nosh on food court favorites, they witnessed 10,000 competitive exhibits, 6,000 animals and 300 commercial exhibitors. 

The Pennsylvania Farm Show Scholarship Foundation presented 26-students with $3,500 scholarships, and will surpass the million dollar mark in overall scholarships awarded in 2013. 

The 1,000 pound butter sculpture has been turned over to a Juniata County dairy farmer to be converted into 65-kilowatt hours of electricity.  That’s enough to power the farm for roughly three days. 

Just two days after the 2012 Farm Show closed its doors, it’s on to the next event for the Farm Show Complex.  The PA Draft Horse Sale will run Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Farm Show Food Court, Doughnuts

Potato doughnuts are always a big hit at the Farm Show.