Katie Meyer

Capitol Bureau Chief

Katie Meyer is WITF’s Capitol bureau chief, and she covers all things state politics for public radio stations throughout Pennsylvania. Katie came to Harrisburg by way of New York City, where she worked at Fordham University’s public radio station, WFUV, as an anchor, general assignment reporter, and co-host of an original podcast. A 2016 graduate of Fordham, she won several awards for her work at WFUV, including four 2016 Gracies. Katie is a native New Yorker, though she originally hails from Troy, a little farther up the Hudson River. She can attest that the bagels are still pretty good there.

Ways to Connect

House Republican Leader Dave Reed speaks to reporters after Wolf's announcement that he'll let the unbalanced budget pass.
Katie Meyer / WITF

(Harrisburg) -- Governor Tom Wolf has allowed an incomplete state budget to become law without his signature after a marathon negotiating session yielded no agreements between his administration and GOP leaders.

Talks broke down over a few hundred million dollars of revenue out of the $32 billion spending plan.

Nearly $30 billion of the 2017-18 package is already accounted for. It's the remaining $2 billion or so that's causing lawmakers a headache.

Harrisburg capitol building with an American flag in the foreground.
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

You can tell it’s budget week in Pennsylvania because, on any given day, you’ll find the Capitol packed with lobbyists and advocates from around the commonwealth, pushing for a piece of the pie.

They mill around the rotunda, waiting for news from lawmakers deliberating in chambers upstairs.

This year, there’s been precious little information getting out.

Harrisburg capitol building.
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

State budgets have two basic parts: one outlines how much government will spend on its programs and expenses, and the other details where lawmakers are getting the money to pay for it.

Last year, the GOP-controlled legislature compromised on a $31.5 billion spending plan, and then took two more weeks to come up with a revenue framework to fit it.

Democratic Governor Tom Wolf let it become law without his signature, declaring at the time that “our budget is balanced this year, and we have greatly reduced the commonwealth’s structural budget deficit.”

Harrisburg Capitol building.
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

State lawmakers have made no secret of the fact that next fiscal year’s state budget, which is due Friday, will be a hard one to enact.

The commonwealth’s contending with a roughly $3 billion structural deficit, and its reserves are tapped out. It’s also facing skyrocketing pension and human services costs, and for the last year, it’s been relying on a line of credit from the Pennsylvania Treasury to pay off immediate expenses.

So how did we get here?

Many of these fiscal issues can be traced back to the 2008 housing market crash.

photo: AP

(Harrisburg) -- Thanks to months of behind-the-scenes negotiation, a significant pension bill is on a fast track through the state legislature.
It easily passed the Senate Monday, though even its supporters acknowledge that it doesn't come close to fully fixing Pennsylvania's pension woes.
The commonwealth is carrying about $70 billion in unpaid pension debts, and the costs of paying it off have put significant strain on the state's budget, as well as school districts' spending plans.

photo: AP

(Harrisburg) -- State senators gathered in the Capitol on Sunday evening to move a bill that’s been dogging the legislature for the last four years, in various forms.

It would rework the structure of the state’s two heavily indebted public pension systems, a change the bill’s supporters say mitigates risk to taxpayers.

However, the proposal does little to reduce the state’s massive pension debt.

Like several previous GOP pension proposals, it would shift the state’s retirement plan to a three-tiered 401-k-style system—effectively reducing benefits for new hires.

Graham Spanier walking up courthouse stairs, surrounded by TV cameras
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

(Harrisburg) -- After over 6 hours of discussion and several questions to the judge, the jury in former Penn State President Graham Spanier’s child endangerment case ended its first day of deliberation without a verdict.

They’re deciding if Spanier knowingly endangered children when he and colleagues failed to report football coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children to authorities.

The 12 men and women are reconvening Friday morning. Judge John Boccabella has said he aims to have a decision before the weekend.

Former Penn State president Graham Spanier surrounded by reporters
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

(Harrisburg) -- In the Dauphin County Courthouse, the child endangerment case against former Penn State President Graham Spanier is entering its second phase. The prosecution has rested, and now it’s the defense’s turn.

The case will resume Thursday, although it’s unclear who Spanier’s lawyers plan to call and whether the defendant himself will speak. 

The information presented over the last two days has spanned nearly two decades, beginning with Penn State’s first child abuse investigation of Sandusky in 1998.

Tim Curley
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

(Harrisburg) – The primary witnesses for the prosecution are testifying Wednesday in the child endangerment trial of former Penn State President Graham Spanier.

Spanier’s charged with failing to act aggressively enough to prevent football coach Jerry Sandusky from serially abusing young boys.

One of those witnesses—former Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley—handled the case alongside Spanier, and has already said he wishes he did more.

Graham Spanier walking up courthouse stairs, surrounded by TV cameras
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

(Harrisburg) – Both the prosecution and defense have begun laying out their arguments in day two of the trial of Graham Spanier—the former Penn State president whose tenure included the years assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky serially abused young children.

The case being set up revolves around whether Spanier’s decision not to inform child protective services of Sandusky’s abuse was criminal—or just a bad judgment call.

Former Penn State president Graham Spanier surrounded by reporters
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

(Harrisburg) -- There’s just one criminal trial left in court related to the child sex abuse case that has surrounded former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky since 2011.

It's the trial of former Penn State President Graham Spanier, who is charged with handling the abuse improperly. 

When allegations that Sandusky was abusing young boys surfaced in 2001, Spanier and others didn't report it to authorities, opting instead to handle it as an internal matter.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

 

For months now, Governor Tom Wolf has been promising a radical departure in his budget proposal for next fiscal year.

On some counts, he delivered on Tuesday.

Gone from Wolf's plan are the broad-based taxes the Democrat attempted to pass in his last two budgets. Instead, the proposal is balanced largely on a little more than $2 billion in efficiency savings.

"Harrisburg," Wolf said in his address at a joint legislative session," has been living beyond its means. Households can't do that, and neither can we."

Kane in handcuffs with police
AP Photo

(Harrisburg) -- On a fall morning at Widener University in Harrisburg, Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican John Rafferty were trying to make the case for why they should be elected as the commonwealth's new Attorney General.

Both touted their experience, integrity, and commitment to the office. Both listed plans for their tenure--Shapiro wants to hire a diversity officer, for instance; Rafferty advocates creating more specialized units, like one for animal abuse.

And again and again, both returned to a now-familiar refrain: "I'm not like Kathleen Kane."

Torsella and Voit head shots
Photos by AP and via voitforpatreasurer.com

(Harrisburg) -- Pennsylvania's seen some big spending in its political races this election cycle.

Its US Senate race is the most expensive in the country, out-of-state money has poured into its Attorney General race, and millions have been sunk into presidential ads around the commonwealth.

But there's only one contest where the amount of money involved is in the hundred billions: state Treasurer.

The winner of that office will manage all of Pennsylvania's assets and investments, contend with the commonwealth's debts, and inherit an office marked by corruption.

Toomey and McGinty at debate
AP Photo / Matt Rourke

GOP incumbent Pat Toomey and Democratic challenger Katie McGinty met in Philadelphia Monday night for a second and final debate.

With two weeks to go until Election Day, the candidates in the country’s most expensive US Senate race are within two points of one another in an average of recent polls.

Tension between the two was high onstage at Temple University.

Amish in front of trucks full of hay.
Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo

With Election Day less than two months away, the Trump campaign is doubling down its efforts in Pennsylvania. The commonwealth is on the short list of states the Republican has to win in order to clinch the election.

Trump’s currently lagging in state polls, though the margin may be shrinking. But his campaign is hoping turning out more people who don’t vote regularly may help him out.

One pro-Trump PAC is taking that idea to the extreme. It’s targeting a voting group that doesn’t even use the internet—the Amish.

So, who are these voters?

Gov. Tom Wolf
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Governor Tom Wolf is saying he thinks more can be done to cut down on marijuana arrests in Pennsylvania.

In an interview on WITF’s Smart Talk, Wolf said in some municipalities, decriminalization is already underway. He noted that prosecutors are using their discretion to downgrade punishments for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

However, the governor said more “systematic” action still needs to be taken.

head shots of John Rafferty and Josh Shapiro
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

It’s been a bumpy few weeks for leadership in the state Attorney General’s office.

Kathleen Kane resigned, and her first deputy Bruce Castor has taken over. But Governor Tom Wolf has nominated his inspector general to the position.

The candidates for the November AG election are taking pains to distance themselves from the tumult.

Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican John Rafferty both independently called the Kane scandal a “sad chapter” for the state.

A proposed bill is looking to change how Pennsylvania draws its legislative and congressional districts

The bill’s sponsor, Monroe County Republican David Parker said the measure would cut down on gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is prevalent in Pennsylvania—it’s when legislative maps are drawn to benefit a political party.

Parker said the ultimate results don’t benefit constituents.

“When these districts become so large and kind of snake around and are odd shapes, it’s difficult for them to truly represent everybody in the whole district,” he said.

Kathleen Kane with police officers
Clem Murray/Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, Pool

A day after a jury convicted Attorney General Kathleen Kane on all nine criminal counts, she says she’s resigning. Tomorrow is set to be Kane’s last day in office.

Kane’s charges include felony perjury, which carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

Kane’s defense lawyers are vowing to appeal. But she’s not sticking around the AG’s office while it happens.

Kane announced the resignation this afternoon, saying, “I have been honored to serve the people of Pennsylvania and I wish them health and safety in all their days.”

Katie McGinty and Pat Toomey
Jacqueline Larma/Matt Rourke / AP Photo

With less than 100 days until Election Day, a new poll is showing the Pennsylvania US Senate race is neck and neck.

The poll, which was released publicly Thursday morning by Franklin and Marshall College, has Democratic challenger Katie McGinty leading GOP incumbent Pat Toomey by a hair.

She has a one-point lead over Toomey among likely voters, but an eight point lead among registered voters.

Poll Director and professor at Franklin and Marshall, Terry Madonna, said the presidential election is having an outsize impact on the Senate race.