Radio PA Roundtable 05.10.13

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Brad Christman and Matt Paul remember the life and governorship of George Leader, who passed away Thursday at the age of 95. Also, the big money issues are moving on a faster track in Harrisburg…updates on pension reform and transportation funding.

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:


Governor Leader Dies at Age 95

leader2He was the second youngest man to serve as Governor of Pennsylvania, taking office at age 37 in 1955.  Governor George Leader, born in York County in 1918, is being remembered across the state. He died after a brief illness at age 95.

After Leader left office, he remained active on boards and commissions and offered his expertise at all levels of state government.  He and his wife also launched a network of senior care facilities.

Governor Tom Corbett ordered state flags lowered to half staff. He said Leader defied political labels and conventional thinking in his tireless work for Pennsylvania and its people.

Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn says Leader was a pioneer in modernizing state government and rooting out political corruption.

Senator Pat Toomey says Leader never stopped serving his country or Pennsylvania.

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel says if a man is measured by the impact he has on others, then Governor Leader was a giant in this Commonwealth. He says Leader not only funded a prison ministry, he participated in that ministry and improved the lives of thousands of inmates.

Wetzel says Leader worked with Governor Corbett and the Department of Corrections’ administration to push corrections reform.

A spokeswoman says Leader was still going to work up until two weeks ago. She says he lived a very full and active life.

Hoover Funeral Homes and Crematory was handling arrangements.


Governor Still Faces Low Numbers, But Senator Toomey Gets Boost in New Poll


Terry Madonna

Terry Madonna

Governor Tom Corbett is facing one fewer potential opponent next year with word that Republican Bruce Castor has decided not to run against him in the primary.  But   he’s still facing challenging approval ratings.

The latest Franklin and Marshall College Poll shows Governor Corbett’s job performance remains around 25% and more than half of those polled do not believe he deserves reelection.

Poll Director Terry Madonna says voters list the economy, jobs and schools among their priorities with privatizing liquor and lottery sales last on the list.  He says this creates a problem for the Governor, who has been talking about privatizing the management of the lottery and privatizing alcohol, he says  it does not resonate with voters as very relevant to them.

Madonna says the economy has also been a factor.  He says it’s often hard when you recommend cuts to popular state programs and the economy doesn’t seem to be moving forward very quickly. He says there’s an important correlation between governors who win reelection and the health of the economy.

Madonna says  Governor Corbett’s numbers lag behind the ratings of two previous governors, Tom Ridge and Ed Rendell,  at this time in their terms.

Madonna adds that the poll also shows some softening in support for liquor privatization. Although a plurality supports selling state stores, a third option is on the table- modernization. The poll shows 26% of voters support modernizing liquor sales.

Meanwhile, another Pennsylvania Republican saw his numbers go up in the poll.  U. S. Senator Pat Toomey  gained 9 points in his favorability ratings since February and now stands at 35%. More than 40% of those polled don’t have an opinion or are undecided.

Madonna says the gun background check debate in Congress did not hurt Toomey with the voters. The Senator was one of the architects of a compromise effort that failed to win final approval.

Madonna says 57% of the voters in Pennsylvania favor creating more laws to regulate gun ownership. 89% favor universal background checks.

Senator Pat Toomey

Senator Pat Toomey

PA High Court Deems Final Redistricting Plan Constitutional

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has unanimously ruled to dismiss the appeals filed by critics of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission’s 2012 Revised Final Plan.  In his opinion Chief Justice Ronald Castille suggested the question of municipal splits was “close,” but writes that the appellants did not prove the plan is contrary to law.

The state’s high court had previously rejected a 2011 version of the redistricting plan.

Four justices joined with Castille on the latest opinion, and Justice Saylor Thomas Saylor wrote his own concurring opinion.  Recently convicted, resigned & sentenced Justice Joan Orie Melvin did not participate. 

“I was happy that the decision was unanimous,” Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) told a group of reporters gathered in his capitol offices.  “There was not a single dissenting opinion and it’s a very diverse court.”

Senate Democrats were among the appellants and Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) released a statement calling today’s decision disappointing.  “However, Senate Democrats recognize that the court has now ruled and that it is time to move on in crafting policies that serve all citizens of Pennsylvania,” Costa’s statement concludes.    

The new legislative boundaries will be in effect for next year’s legislative elections.

Second Man to Set Foot on Moon Says U S Should Have Its Eyes on Mars

It has been nearly two years since the last space shuttle lifted off.  Where does the U S space program stand and where should it be aiming?  A new book from a renowned astronaut lays out a vision for a mission to Mars.

Buzz Aldrin was the second man to set foot on the moon, but he hopes his vision for the future makes a greater contribution.   It includes a goal of establishing a permanent base on Mars, using one of its moons as a stepping stone.

Aldrin says the United States needs a united space vision. He does not think we should focus on returning to the moon with NASA astronauts. Instead, he says we should play a leadership role in initiating a consortium for an international lunar base.

NASA has announced a plan to capture an asteroid, but Aldrin says that’s not going to get us where we need to be. He says it’s a wonderful thing to demonstrate, but does not lead us to the object of our attraction, the planet Mars.

Aldrin says the path to Mars includes private sector efforts such as Inspiration Mars, which aims to orbit a married couple around the red planet in 2018.

The book “Mission to Mars, My Vision for Space Exploration” was written with Leonard David, a veteran space journalist.


Pension Reform Plan Becomes Legislation

Bills that are about to be introduced in the House and Senate will reflect the comprehensive pension reform plan that Governor Tom Corbett outlined back in February.  “Should we be successful, this will be the most comprehensive pension reform package in the United States of America,” explains Senator Mike Brubaker (R-Lancaster), who will sponsor the Senate bill.  As Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Brubaker also vows to schedule a public hearing on the issue. 

Without pension reform, supporters say the only other options are deep budget cuts or sharp tax increases.  “We have to convince both sides of the aisle in the legislature that this isn’t a partisan issue, this is a future of Pennsylvania issue,” Governor Tom Corbett said while flanked by supporters at a lunchtime news conference in the capitol building. 

Pointing to the current $47-billion dollar unfunded liability across the state’s two big public pension plans, Corbett says each Pennsylvania household would have to write a check for $9,500 just to cover that cost.  He adds that without reform the state’s pension obligations will consume more than 60-cents of every new revenue dollar in the years ahead.  The state’s pension obligation is growing from $1.1-billion dollars last year, to $4.3-billion by 2016. 

So what would the Corbett plan do?  Starting in 2015, new hires would be enrolled in a 401(k)-style defined contribution retirement plan, instead of the traditional defined benefit pension system that exists today.  Current employees would remain in the defined benefit plan, but their future benefits would be reduced to help save the state $12-billion dollars over the next 30-years. 

Doing this, the Corbett administration says, will allow the state to save $175-million dollars in the coming fiscal year.  PA’s 500-school districts are scheduled to share in nearly $140-million in savings. 

But opponents say there are hidden costs that outweigh the potential savings.  “You would speed up the process at which all of the dollars that are currently there would be paid out,” state Treasurer Rob McCord says of the move to phase out the existing pension plans, “and the professional investment managers would have to move it all towards fixed income, highly liquid assets that have very low returns.”

The public sector unions continue to lead the opposition, pointing to a 2010 pension reform law they say is just now starting to yield results.  “We have more folks going into it, money going into the system for the unfunded liability, and our returns are doing better,” AFSCME Council 13 executive director David Fillman said on an afternoon conference call with reporters.  He’s referring to Act 120 of 2010, which reduced new hires’ benefits while requiring them to pay more into the system.  Fillman says 11,000 workers have been hires since the law took effect. 

Even if state lawmakers get past the wrangling over the dollars and cents of comprehensive public pension reform, the question of constitutionality will undoubtedly wind up before the state Supreme Court.  And that may be what’s giving Harrisburg the most pause with just eight weeks to go before the new fiscal year.

Governor Tom Corbett Returns on Monday

Our next installment of “Ask the Governor” is coming up on Monday, so NOW is the time to submit your question or comment for Governor Corbett. Click the Ask the Governor link at the top of and fill out the form to be included in our next program. is your direct link to the governor of Pennsylvania and all the latest news from the Radio PA newsroom. Governor Corbett appears monthly to answer your questions and talk about the issues that matter to PA residents statewide.

Funeral Details for Bishop McFadden

The following information is from the Diocese of Harrisburg:


The following funeral services for Bishop Joseph P. McFadden have been established. All are open to the public. The services will begin on Sunday, May 5 at 7 p.m. when the Body will be received at St. Patrick Cathedral, 212 State Street, Harrisburg, PA.

Bishop McFadden will lie in state until Tuesday evening, May 7 when a Rite of Transfer of the Body will be held. The coffin will be closed during all services and viewings will end at the conclusion of the evening prayer services.

The funeral service for Bishop McFadden will be held at the Holy Name of Jesus Church, 6150 Allentown Blvd, Harrisburg, PA on Wednesday, May 8. Services that day will begin at 8 a.m. with a Rite of Gathering in the Presence of the Body. The Solemn Funeral Mass will begin at 10:30 a.m. Burial will be at Holy Cross Cemetery in the Bishop’s Circle area.  The cemetery is located across from St. Catherine Laboure Parish, 4000 Derry Street, Swatara Township.

Monday, May 6 – St.  Patrick Cathedral, 212 State Street, Harrisburg, PA

8:00 a.m.         Rite of Gathering in the Presence of the Body

Viewing of the Body

12:00 p.m.       Mass

12:45 p.m.       Viewing of the Body

7:00 p.m.         Solemn Evening Prayer


Tuesday, May 7 – St.  Patrick Cathedral, 212 State Street, Harrisburg, PA

8:00 a.m.         Rite of Gathering in the Presence of the Body

Viewing of the Body

12:00 p.m.       Mass

12:45 p.m.       Viewing of the Body

4:00 p.m.         Rite of Transfer of the Body to Holy Name of Jesus Church

7:00 p.m.         Solemn Evening Prayer –  Holy Name of Jesus Church, 6150 Allentown Blvd, Harrisburg, PA 17112


Wednesday, May 8 – Holy Name of Jesus Church, 6150 Allentown Blvd, Harrisburg, PA 17112

8:00 a.m.          Rite of Gathering in the Presence of the Body

Viewing of the Body

10:00 a.m.       Closing of the Coffin

10:30 a.m.       Solemn Funeral Mass

Burial in Holy Cross cemetery