Radio PA Roundtable 04.12.13

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Brad Christman and Matt Paul hash out the background check compromise ironed out by, among others, Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Pat Toomey. The governor is on a trade mission to South America and he checks in by telephone from Sao Paulo. And, Matt has an interview on the subject of “emotional eating.”

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:

Capitol Rotunda Light Fixture

Gov’s Tax Reform Plan under the Microscope

The Corbett administration believes the price of doing business in Pennsylvania is too high. So they plan to finally eliminate the capital stock & franchise tax as of January, and want to gradually reduce the state’s corporate net income tax from 9.99% – 6.99% over the next 12-years. 

“Governor Corbett’s broad-based tax reform proposal sets the stage for robust economic growth by developing a competitive business tax structure, as well as improving the process of collecting taxes and simplifying the tax code,” Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser told the House Finance Committee on Thursday.

But minority chair Phyllis Mundy (D-Luzerne) told Meuser there’s one glaring omission: the plan does not close corporate tax loopholes, like the Delaware Loophole.  Mundy is the prime sponsor of legislation that would do that via combined reporting, but Meuser suggests it would do more harm than good. 

Mundy also points out that the corporate tax breaks proffered by the administration would result in an $800-million dollar annual loss to state tax revenues when fully implemented.  “And I’m not at all sure – I wish I could believe – that these tax cuts for large corporations would result in enough job creation to overcome that deficit,” she says.

Meuser, however, says the economic growth spurred by the governor’s tax plan will mean $1-billion dollars in new state tax revenue by 2030.  “That comes from personal income growth, that comes from employment and that comes from sales tax revenues that are derived from those who are now working that weren’t before.”   

The state has the 2nd highest corporate net income tax in the nation and is one of only a few states that tax both business income and assets, in that the capital stock & franchise tax is a levy against a business’s assets regardless of whether it made money or not. 

The Corbett Tax Plan would also raise the cap on net operating loss deductions, allow for start-up business deductions, repeal the corporate loans tax and eliminate what Meuser describes as “nuisance taxes.” 

But everything is subject to the approval of the General Assembly, and as members of the Finance Committee exited Thursday’s hearing they surely noticed the protesters in the capitol rotunda who rallied against the Corbett plan and argued that corporate tax breaks do not create jobs.

Two PA National Guard Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan

An Apache helicopter went down in eastern Afghanistan, Tuesday, killing 34-year-old Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Ruffner of Harrisburg and 27-year-old Chief Warrant Officer Jarett Yoder of the Reading area. 

Few details are available but an investigation into the crash is underway.  “In general when it comes to a helicopter crashes there are three causes,” says Staff Sgt. Matt Jones with the Pennsylvania National Guard.  “It could either be enemy action, mechanical failure or pilot error and the investigation will determine which of those three causes – or combination of those causes – could have caused the incident.”

Officials can say that the soldiers were on a reconnaissance mission when the crash occurred, which is a typical task of the First of the 104th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion.  More than 300 soldiers from that battalion deployed to Afghanistan last August for a year-long mission. 

“The Pennsylvania Army National Guard has lost two of its own,” state Adjutant General Wesley Craig said in a statement.  “Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with the Ruffner and Yoder families… We celebrate the lives of these two Army aviators.  They died helping others to be free.” 

Yoder’s wife, Heather Garay-Yoder, also released a statement that says Jarett died doing what he loved and dreamed of doing. 

The fatal crash occurred Tuesday morning.  It is PA National Guard policy to wait 24-hours after family is notified to make these announcements public.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew Ruffner

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew Ruffner


Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jarett Yoder

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jarett Yoder

Sen. Toomey Brokers Deal to Close Gun Show Loophole

Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey is at the forefront of a bipartisan deal to expand background checks on gun sales.  The amendment Toomey crafted with West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin would extend the instant background checks to gun shows and online gun sales.  Exemptions would remain for many individuals’ gun sales.    

While he’s already catching flak from some fellow Republicans and the NRA, Toomey says he is not swaying from his conservative views.  “I don’t think trying to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals is gun control,” Toomey told reporters on a late morning conference call.  “I think it’s common sense.” 

Pat Toomey (R-PA)

Pat Toomey (R-PA)

When the gun bill before the US Senate is formally considered, the Toomey/Manchin background check plan will be the first amendment taken up by the chamber.  However, it’s still unclear what will ultimately happen with the underlying bill or the amendment.    

Toomey says his expanded background checks plan protects 2nd Amendment Rights and explicitly bars the federal government from creating a gun registry.  He also maintains his opposition to an assault weapons ban. 

Just as details of the Toomey / Manchin plan were being unveiled in Washington DC, Wednesday, Democrats in Harrisburg unveiled their own plan for universal background checks in the Keystone State.

House Republicans’ “Marcellus Works” Bills on the Move

The “Marcellus Works” package of bills is designed to spur job growth through the increased use of Pennsylvania’s home-grown natural gas, and the House Finance Committee has just advanced a series of tax credits for natural gas vehicle fleets, heavy-duty trucks and fueling stations. 

“With the high unemployment, we know that the Marcellus Shale industry – and now with the discovery of oil in this state – is a big plus for this Commonwealth,” state Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York) told the committee.  “It is time for us to start using our own resources to benefit Pennsylvania citizens.” 

Saylor is the prime sponsor of HB 301, which would provide tax credits for companies that utilize natural gas in their vehicle fleets. 

Several Democrats on the Finance Committee voted in favor of the bills, but minority Chair Phyllis Mundy (D-Luzerne) argued that corporate tax breaks do not pave the road to economic prosperity.  “We have gone way too far with this notion,” she says.  “This is trickle-down economics at its worst.” 

Up next for the tax credit bills is the state House, while five more “Marcellus Works” bills await possible Wednesday action in the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

Governor: 74 Jobs Coming to Pennsylvania from Brazil

As Governor Tom Corbett continues his trade mission to Brazil and Chile this week, he has announced the expectation of 74 new jobs to be located in Chambersburg, Franklin County.

The governor used a roundtable meeting to disclose the plan by Brazilian company Wipro Infrastructure Engineering to open its first U.S.-based manufacturing facility. The company produces hydraulic cylinders, with one of its major customers being Volvo, a company which also recently relocated its North American headquarters to south-central PA.

Governor Corbett’s three-city, two-nation trip continues through April 16th. It is privately funded through the Team Pennsylvania Foundation. The governor is still on the first leg of his tour, in Sao Paulo. He’ll also visit Rio de Janeiro and Santiago, Chile.

A Renewed Push for Reform in Harrisburg

A new package of reform legislation has been introduced at the state capitol, on the heels of the formation of a bipartisan, bicameral reform caucus.

If the goal is to be as transparent as possible, Republican state Senator John Eichelberger (R-Blair) says there’s no reason not to pass the nine bills unveiled on Monday.  “We have a bigger push now than we’ve had since I’ve been here, six years,” Eichelberger said at a news conference in the capitol rotunda.  “It’s a pretty substantial push.” 

One of the nine bills would require public officials to disclose all gifts that exceed $50 in value, compared to the current $250 threshold.  Another bill would expressly prohibit a governor or a member of the governor’s administration from accepting gifts from anyone who does business with the commonwealth

Senator Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia), who’s leading this latest reform push alongside Eichelberger, believes the state capitol still has problems with its public image.  “Too often our current laws allow for the appearance, at least, of cozy relationships between special interests,” Stack says.  “It’s dispiriting and it erodes the public faith in what we’re trying to do here.” 

Stack acknowledges that the nine bills unveiled on Monday do not represent an exhaustive list of government reforms, but he believes they represent a good first step.

Radio PA Roundtable 04.05.13

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Brad Christman brings you an interview with PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch and Matt Paul speaks with a supporter of legislation that would set minimum staffing standards for nurses in Pennsylvania hospitals.

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:

Marcellus Shale

State Announces Impact Fee Collections for 2013

The state has tallied the amount of money coming in for the second year of the Marcellus Shale Impact Fee.  The number is not as high as the first year.

The state has collected 198 million dollars through the impact fee this year, about 6 million less than last year due mainly to the lower price of natural gas.

Payments for some wells are still being challenged by those producers. Any additional payments received from the disputed wells will be updated on the PUC’s website.

Governor Tom Corbett says the fee has now brought in more than 400 million dollars since it was enacted. He says Act 13, which implemented the fee, has played a key part in making sure that the industry grows safely and responsibly.

Next “Ask the Governor” Program Moved to April 29th

The date for our next “Ask the Governor” program with Governor Tom Corbett, which was originally planned for April 25th, has been moved to Monday, April 29th. Click on the Ask the Gov link above to submit your question or comment for the governor today. Ask the governor about Medicaid expansion, transportation funding, the budget talks or any issue important to you.

Video links to archived Ask the Gov programs are available under the “Media” menu of