February 2, 2024

A rodent from Punxsutawney arose before dawn this morning, was summarily yanked from his cozy bed and told to deliver a long-range weather forecast, despite the fact that he has ZERO advanced meteorological training whatsoever. And so, the ground pig shook off the cobwebs and predicted that spring will come early, which is awfully nice, considering winter never really came here in the first place. Nice job, Phil. 

It has been a year since a Norfolk Southern train derailment rocked East Palestine and western Pennsylvania. In those intervening 365 days, Congress sprang into action and passed wide-ranging updates to rail safety laws designed to BWAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Just kidding, nothing happened. 

Monthly jobs reports have become increasingly tedious over the past few years. Always the same story. Economists project X number of jobs will be created. Then 2X the projected number of jobs are created, and everyone is, like, “Whoa! We did NOT see that coming!” Rinse, repeat. Economists projected the U.S. would add 156,000 jobs in January, and that number turned out to be 353,000. The U.S. now has the largest non-farm payroll in history, and wages are up more than 4% in the past year. We might as well ask the groundhog to make jobs predictions from now on. 

The Republican National Committee scrapped a plan to crown Donald Trump as its “presumptive nominee” for president, much to the delight of Nikki Haley. Haley, who is likely about to get throttled in her home state primary (making Donald Trump the presumptive nominee), is expected to stick in the race until Super Tuesday. 

U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman are a bit vexed by President Biden’s decision to pause LNG expansion, we learned this week. Casey and Fetty, astute politicos that they are, realize that Pennsylvania is sitting on a metric crap-ton of natural gas and, consequently, a whole lot of energy-related jobs. As Pennsylvania is the absolute key to the Biden re-election efforts, we are gonna file this one under “why did you just fire a round into your own foot, Joe?”

GOP leaders in the General Assembly are calling on Gov. Josh Shapiro to support Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s attempts to seal off the southern border. Ah yes, Greg Abbott and Josh Shapiro, two men who have a ton of policy similarities. Hell, they are like peas and carrots. For his part, Shapiro maintains that Congress should be in the business of fixing the border. Yeah, Congress. How cute.

Shapiro started rolling out pieces of his 2024 agenda before he takes the stage for his annual budget address Tuesday. The governor unveiled plans for a new economic stimulus blueprint, clocking in at a cool $40 million. Expect that final number to be roughly five times that sum once General Assembly priorities and CNI cuts make it to the dance floor.

The governor also wants to divert more sales-tax revenue for mass transit, proposing $1.5 billion in new spending over the next five years. Amongst the GOP power structure in the General Assembly, that one is gonna go over like something you did in church as a kid that you found wildly funny, but ultimately earned you a smack to the head by your mother. 

Emergency service providers, such as our friends in the PA Professional Firefighters Association, are also on deck for a boost in financial support from Shapiro, who made the announcement this week in Johnstown. This is what we old heads call the “low-hanging fruit” of budget day. Because if you can’t be for this one, we don’t know what to tell you

Last but certainly not least, the governor laid down a plan to totally rebuild the way higher education is delivered and paid for by the state. Realizing that Pennsylvania is somewhere below Alabama in higher education support, Shapiro is proposing to move to performance-based budgeting instead of our normal way of higher education budgeting, which was to pick a number out a hat, propose it and then allow a third of elected lawmakers to kill it on a whim. 

Since Shapiro’s executive order establishing voter registration at driver’s license centers (something that has been MOSTLY popular), the new motor-voter plan numbers are in and – surprise – both parties are seeing essentially the same numbers of new registrants. HOWEVER, 35% of all new voters are choosing to be Independents. Just spitballin’ here, but maybe those folks should be allowed to vote in primary elections? 

Speaking of elections, the seventh PA House special election in the past year will go off a fortnight from now, with the balance of power in that chamber hanging in the balance. This special will be held in Bucks County, a place that is quite accustomed to being at the center of the political universe. See y’all in lovely Levittown soon! 

Over on the Triad Socials, give a hearty congrats to Todd Brysiak, who this week celebrated six years with us by being named one of the state’s top lobbyists by City & State magazine. The man is truly our unstoppable force. If you don’t know, you better ask somebody, son!  

Our own Sr. VP Mike Manzo put his brain salad to paper this week to preview the governor’s budget address. Peruse it here

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment, we take you Mumbai, where Indian officials finally released a pigeon after eight months in captivity because they suspected it was a Chinese spy. C’mon, Indian government. The Chinese have some of the most advanced online hackers, cyber spies and cyber terrorists in the world. If they were gonna spy on you, we assure you they aren’t gonna use a carrier pigeon. 

That’s what passes for news around here, as we anxiously await the Super Bowl for Pennsylvania political nerds, the governor’s annual budget address. Word has it that Taylor Swift may even be in attendance. Happy early spring to everyone, and from all of us at Team Triad, have a great weekend!