Pennsylvania Legislature OKs Budget, But Not Corbett Agenda

HARRISBURG – The main Pennsylvania state budget bill became law with Gov. Tom Corbett’s signature on Sunday night, as he acknowledged that the wider agenda he had sought with it of overhauling public employee pension systems, privatizing wine and liquor sales and increasing transportation funding has stalled until the fall.

Still, Corbett did not express disappointment, and instead sought to highlight the progress that occurred in the Legislature.

“I have to thank the people for what they’ve done and I certainly encourage them when they return in the fall,” Corbett told reporters shortly after the signing the bill at 10:15 p.m.  “Let’s get it done.”

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PEL: Scranton Needs More Than 12% Tax Hike

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scranton‘s state-designated recovery coordinator, Pennsylvania Economy League, has told city officials they need to raise property taxes next year higher than the 12 percent that the city budget for 2013 proposes. Exactly how much higher was not stated.

In a letter received Thursday, PEL Executive Director Gerald Cross notes that the city has not dedicated a tax millage toward paying for the city’s second unfunded debt package approved by a court this year, of $9.75 million. In that case, Judge Peter O’Brien, a senior visiting judge from Monroe County, on Oct. 31 ordered that a tax millage be dedicated to paying back this unfunded debt.

It was the same arrangement the city sought and received in January, when a different judge, Senior Monroe County Judge Jerome Cheslock, approved the city’s first unfunded debt, of $9.85 million, and ordered that this amount be paid back with a dedicated tax millage over 10 years.

The first unfunded debt package translated into the 12 percent tax hike in the proposed budget for next year, city officials have said.

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Murders, Shootings Up; Reading Police Chief Calls For More Funds

Editor’s note:  You can’t revitalize with high crime.  Glad to see the Chief is being proactive before crime returns to dangerous levels!

The number of homicides and shooting victims in Reading, which had dropped from 2001 to 2009, began to pick up again in the past three years, Police Chief William M. Heim told City Council during budget talks Monday.

Heim said part of the reason for the increase is fewer patrol officers and criminal investigators due to city budget cuts the past three years.

However, he and acting Capt. Madison Winchester said they believe that, with two dozen new officers coming out of training late this year, the crime numbers will start to drop again in 2013.

Dividing the time from 2001 to 2012 into four periods, Heim said major crimes dropped from a high of 7,268 in 2001-03 to 5,984 in 2010-12, although this year isn’t yet over.

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