Radio PA Roundtable – August 2, 2013

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, the impact of the state legislature’s continuing failure to address critical transportation funding issues; a hearing on funding for 9-1-1 call centers; and closing arguments in the Voter-ID trial in Harrisburg.

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:

New Weight Restrictions Likely on Hundreds of Pennsylvania Bridges

The legislature was unable to agree on a transportation funding package before the summer session break.  Now, lawmakers have been told  that  the consequences are coming soon.

State Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch told the state senate Transportation committee during a hearing Wednesday that the lack of additional funding will mean fewer contracts let this year and more restrictions on aging state and locally owned bridges.

PennDOT structural engineers are evaluating over one thousand state owned bridges and Schoch says there are an equal number of locally owned bridges that are also candidates for weight restrictions.  He expects about half of the bridges will see new restrictions starting this summer

Schoch says they have no choice with no new funding for reconstruction and replacement.

Schoch says the restrictions will mean longer commutes for haulers, school buses and emergency vehicles.     He also told the transportation committee that even if lawmakers approve a funding plan in the fall, this construction season will already have been lost for projects that might have been started with the additional money.

In other testimony, an analysis by the American Road and Transportation Builders Alliance says fewer contracts could cost the state’s economy more than one billion over five years and jeopardize thousands of jobs.

The organization’s chief economist adds that commuters, first responders, school buses and trucks cross structurally deficit bridges in Pennsylvania an average of 51.5 million times per day.

Radio PA Roundtable – July 5, 2013

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, all the ramifications from last weekend’s legislative activity on the state budget and the other major issues Governor Tom Corbett put on lawmakers’ plates this year (HINT: they didn’t eat their vegetables). Also, the governor and the head of a major union are pointing fingers at each other. Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

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 – July 3, 2013 (entire one-hour program)

We now offer the ENTIRE one-hour Ask the Governor audio program right here on Now, you can listen to the entire program and/or watch video clips of specific topics. Click the play button to get started…


This program was recorded Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 and includes discussions on the following topics and more: The state budget and the failure of the legislature to pass transportation funding, alcohol privatization or pension reform; Medicaid expansion; flooding in Clearfield County; Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary recognition; listener emails and much more!

Capitol View from East Wing

Why Republicans Need Democrats Today

Pension reform is on the back burner and a deal for the state budget appears to have been reached. That leaves alcohol privatization/expansion and transportation funding as the two remaining major issues lawmakers were planning to deal with before their summer break. (Yes, Medicaid expansion is also back on the table).

It’s the transportation package that is now on life support. One might wonder how this is possible given Republican across-the-board control of the House, Senate and Governor’s office, but the GOP is fractured, especially in the House where Conservatives led by Butler County’s Daryl Metcalfe came out against the transportation plan late this week. They objected to motorist fees and other charges they deemed a pseudo tax increase.

That means House Speaker Sam Smith and Majority Leader Mike Turzai have to find Democrat votes in the chamber if transportation funding is to become a reality, but this is a little more complicated than a simple vote whip. Democrats in the House, knowing they have some power in their hands for the first time since the GOP took control of the chamber several years ago, are leveraging their position in an attempt to derail any alcohol privatization or expansion plan. Publicly, Democrats say they won’t support the transportation plan because it is inadequate. Privately, reports have surfaced that Democrats received emails this weekend from unions representing state store workers urging them to hold out on transportation in order to kill alcohol privatization.

And the chess match continues.

Transportation funding was arguably the most critical of the major issues lawmakers were expecting to address on this final week of June, the funding especially important given the deteriorating state of the Commonwealth’s roads and bridges.

With the state budget seemingly wrapped up, lawmakers could elect to remain in Harrisburg beyond Sunday to try to work out their remaining issues. Governor Tom Corbett also has the power to call for a special legislative session if he wants to force lawmakers’ hands on any or all of the remaining unresolved issues.


House Committee Clears Transportation Bill With Major Amendments

The state House Transportation Committee has approved a highway, bridge and mass transit funding bill, making significant changes to the senate version.

The amended bill would provide nearly 2 billion annually for transportation by year five, primarily through a three step phase-out of the cap on the oil company franchise tax. The bill also increases the tire tax, vehicle lease fee and jet fuel tax. It would raise the fine for failure to obey a traffic control device from $25 to $75.

Counties could assess a 5 dollar per vehicle registration fee for local transportation needs, and municipalities could increase the realty transfer, earned income and sales and taxes to raise money for mass transit.

Another significant change from the Senate bill is the sunsetting of the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Act 44 obligation to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The 200 million dollar a year transfer for roads and bridges would stop immediately.  The 250 million dollar annual contribution for mass transit would continue for eight years then be replaced by money from vehicle sales tax revenues.

The bill eliminated the higher driver’s license and registration fees and a 100 dollar surcharge on traffic violations contained in the original senate version.

Representative Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks) was a “no” vote. He says they may not get another bite at the apple again for some time, since the last major transportation funding bill was passed in 1996.  He says the bill does far too little to seriously address the state’s transportation problems.

But Transportation committee chair Dick Hess (R-Bedford) says it was a yeoman’s job to craft something to benefit Pennsylvania economically, while not overburdening consumers.  He says there will be an opportunity to amend the bill on the house floor.

Christman Blog: What’s Your Work Philosophy?

It’s January and you return to your very well-paid job from a nice holiday break – a month and a half holiday break. Certainly everyone can relate to that.

Your boss welcomes you back and then informs you that he has several big and important projects for you to complete by mid-year. In fact, some of them are so important that the very financial future of the company is at stake. The good news, though, is that you have 6 whole months to make it happen.

What is your approach?

Do you jump into action, prioritizing and tackling each project independently and thoughtfully, spreading the work out so that you have adequate time to devote to each initiative? After all, this is very important. Remember…the entire company is trusting and counting on YOU.

Oh, did I mention that you can’t get fired for another year and a half? Yes, no matter how badly you bungle things, short of breaking the law, you’re guaranteed to be employed through December of 2014.

So, maybe you take a different approach to your assignments this year. Perhaps you spend 5 months and 23 days arguing with co-workers, demanding you get your way on everything and enlisting outside special interests to come in and bad-mouth anyone else’s ideas. Then, 6 days before your boss’s deadline, and with none of your work actually done, you can try to squeeze everything into one week before heading out the door bragging about how well-deserved your three month summer vacation is, regardless of how many of your projects are left unfinished. Why, you might even issue a press release boasting of your accomplishments.

Those are two possibilities for your approach to this important work assignment. Guess which one your state lawmakers took on the major issues of transportation funding, pension reform, alcohol privatization and the state budget in 2013.

Oh, sure, there was lots of talking, followed by more talking and then concluding with…talking, but here we are – 6 days before the expected end of the fiscal year – and not a single major initiative is finished in Harrisburg. Not one. In fact, a birdie is whispering in my ear that it’s quite possible this final week of the fiscal year is about to get off to an even rockier start than expected.

The games people play…with your company. With your money…

There is a silver lining to all this. Remember that boss I mentioned? Well, that boss is you. Remember that when you watch your employees’ performance in Harrisburg this week. Remember it when you’re looking at the condition of your company, also known as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Most of all, remember it when you pull the curtain in November of 2014 and issue your worker evaluations, and don’t be fooled by those clever employees, who know about the power you hold in 2014 and will certainly try to convince you, maybe even bribe you, into believing that they are valuable members of the team and deserve to be retained for another 2-to-6 year contract. They’ll fill your inbox with full-color memos (produced on the company printer you paid for, by the way) detailing what they think, which usually fills up more space than would detailing what they accomplish. They’ll smile in your presence and tell you everything is just fine and dandy with your company.

But you’ll know better because you’ll remember everything you’ve seen this year…


(Brad Christman is the News Director of Radio Pennsylvania and a veteran of 19 state budget seasons in Harrisburg)


Ask the Governor – June 10, 2013 (complete 1-hour audio program)

Starting this month, we will be placing audio from the complete Ask the Governor” programs on Now, you can listen to the entire program and/or watch video clips of specific topics. Click the play button to get started…



This program was recorded Monday, June 10th, 2013 and includes discussions on the following topics and more:
-The Philadelphia building collapse investigation
-The budget talks
-Liquor privatization efforts
-Pension reform
-Transportation funding
-The return of Pennsylvania’s original copy of the Bill of Rights
-And listener & web viewer emails


Our next program is scheduled for July 3rd. Submit your question or comment today by clicking on the Ask the Governor link at the top of this page. Be sure to include at least your first name and the town where you live, and please be brief.