Jake Corman

Taxpayers Foot Huge Bill To Run Pa.'s Full-Time Legislature, But Are Blocked From Many Details

May 12, 2021
About $20 million went into Pennsylvania lawmakers' pockets over four years in the form of reimbursements for meals, mileage subsidies, per diems, and other expenses.
Leise Hook / For Spotlight PA

Over the next year, The Caucus and Spotlight PA will examine and make public specific areas of spending by the legislature as part of their ongoing efforts to follow the money and track taxpayer dollars. Be the first to know by signing up for Spotlight PA’s free newsletters.

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania legislature got to work at 1 p.m. on March 18, 2019.

Three and a half hours later on that Monday afternoon, lawmakers had adjourned.

State Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) pitches voters on voting up a pair of constitutional amendments that would limit the governor's future emergency powers on Apr. 20, 2021.
Sam Dunklau / WITF

 

(Harrisburg) — Voters in the May 18 primary will get to weigh in on two ideas to change how different branches of state government could exercise their powers during an emergency.

Both of them would amend Pennsylvania’s constitution. One would limit a governor’s disaster proclamations to three weeks at a time, while another would make it easier for state lawmakers to vote them down.

Solar panels in a field
Anne Danahy / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s targets for renewable energy are set to max out this year unless the General Assembly takes action, and Republican leaders seem ready to leave increasing goals for green energy up to the private sector.

The state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards require utilities to buy certain amounts of power from renewable sources. For example, utilities now have to get 8% of their power from “Tier 1” energy sources like wind and solar.

Every year, the Governor of Pennsylvania and the General Assembly have to agree on budget. But this year, lawmakers are also tackling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Added to that are hot button issues including the outcome of the presidential election and legislative redistricting. WPSU's Anne Danahy spoke with two elected leaders from Centre County: Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff.

TRANSCRIPT

A male voter at a voting booth with a "Vote" sign
Alex Brandon / AP

 

The U.S. Census Bureau said Friday that it will get redistricting data to the states by the end of September, not the end of March as originally planned, a hold up that Pennsylvania Republican leaders say could lead to a delay in next year’s primary.

 

“When you’re making decisions in life, it’s always good to have information as early as you can," said Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, who is one of the Republicans who will serve on the state’s redistricting commission.

 

State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman sitting in the WPSU radio studio
Min Xian / WPSU

A proposed amendment to Pennsylvania’s Constitution that would change how Supreme Court and appeals court judges are elected could have been on the state ballot as early as May, but Senate President Pro Tem Jake Corman said he expects there to be greater review of the issue first.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed the proposal in the 2019-20 session. A Constitutional Amendment has to pass in two consecutive sessions before it goes to voters as a referendum. 

 

An aerial shot of the completed Potters Mills Gap Project.
Hawbaker, Inc.

 

On Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation hosted a celebratory ribbon-cutting along State Route 322 east of State College. After six years, the Potters Mills Gap Project to widen the road there from two to four lanes is finished. 

 

Harrisburg capitol building with roses.
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

 

Currently, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges run for election and retention in statewide races.

 

But, under a Republican-backed proposed Constitutional Amendment, the state would be split into regions. Justices and appeals court judges would no longer be statewide, but instead would be selected by region.

 

Senate majority leader Jake Corman, a Republican from Centre County, said representation across the commonwealth is unequal.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman sitting in the WPSU radio studio
Min Xian / WPSU

State Senator Jake Corman fielded questions on COVID-19 during a telephone town hall Wednesday, pushing back on parts of Gov. Tom Wolf’s response to the pandemic.

Wolf signed an order Wednesday allowing the state to transfer personal protective equipment and other medical supplies from one health care provider to another that needs them.

 

“This will allow us to move key equipment, like personal protective equipment and ventilators to high population, high impact areas," Wolf said.

 

Dave Bohner speaking at a podium at "Save Our Spikes"
Anne Danahy / WPSU

Playing ball is what the State College Spikes and their fans hope they’ll still be doing in 2021

But, that’s in doubt. 

Major League Baseball has proposed ending affiliations with 42 minor league teams, including the State College Spikes. But, Pennsylvania politicians and community leaders are pushing back, kicking off a campaign Thursday to save the Spikes.

Panelists discussed potential solutions to the rural broadband crisis as a part of the Influencers Project hosted by the Centre Daily Times at the State Theatre on April 24, 2019.
Min Xian / WPSU

A variety of potential solutions exist to address the widespread lack of broadband internet access, such as community cooperatives and “white space” technology, which delivers internet similar to that of 4G, according to 14 panelists who participated in discussions of the rural broadband crisis on Wednesday. The “Influencers Project” was hosted by the Centre Daily Times at the State Theatre in downtown State College.

Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman (left) and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (right) took turns discussing the rising cost of college education at Penn State's University Park campus on Thursday, April 11, 2019.
Min Xian / Keystone Crossroads

Third highest in the nation.

That’s how Pennsylvania ranks in the price of attending a public university according to the most recent report from College Board, with an the average cost of $14,770 for in-state tuition and fees in the 2018-19 academic year.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman sitting in the WPSU radio studio
Min Xian / WPSU

WPSU's Anne Danahy spoke with state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman about issues ranging from recreational marijuana to the prospects of raising Pennsylvania's minimum wage. Corman represents the 34th district, which includes Centre, Mifflin and Juniata counties and parts of Huntingdon County. He has served in the Senate since 1999, and won reelection last year. In 2014, Corman became Senate majority leader, making him second in command in the Senate.

Two Centre County commissioners talk with Gov. Tom Wolf
Anne Danahy / WPSU

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced Wednesday the state is going to build the stretch of U.S. Route 322 in Centre County known as the missing link. The project will cost $670 million dollars and will, Wolf said, make “the long-awaited route connection a reality.”

“As they say, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step and that’s what we’re doing here,” Wolf said while making the announcement in a hotel outside of State College where the current two-lane highway runs.

Republican incumbent of the 34th State Senate district, Jake Corman, left, is facing a Democratic challenger, Ezra Nanes, in this year's midterm elections.
Min Xian / WPSU

 

It was a Wednesday afternoon in the Toftrees neighborhood in State College. Ezra Nanes was canvassing and ran into a college student outside his house.

 

“Are you at Penn State?” Nanes asked. The young man told him, yes, and it’s expensive to go to school there.

 

Shaun Dougherty, left, urged Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman to pass SB261, which would open a two-year retroactive civil lawsuit window.
Min Xian / WPSU

The state House passed a bill last week to help protect victims of child sex abuse, which victims and advocates are urging the state Senate to support.

Shaun Dougherty, a survivor of child sex abuse, said the current laws in Pennsylvania did not protect him after he was abused.

On Friday, Dougherty delivered a request to Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman at his office in Bellefonte, along with the Senator’s Democratic opponent in the midterm election, Ezra Nanes.

Pam and Toby Short with the letter they brought to State Sen. Jake Corman asking him to help pass redistricting reform.
Emily Reddy / WPSU

Redistricting advocates in Centre County are making a last-ditch effort to change how Pennsylvania’s Congressional districts are drawn.

It’s a week past an unofficial deadline to keep redistricting reform on track for 2021. That’s when maps will be redrawn.

But a group from “Fair Districts PA—Centre County” went to Senator Jake Corman’s office in Bellefonte on Thursday to urge him to keep working. The state constitution says the bill must be passed and advertised in newspapers by August 6.

Old Main building at Penn State
WPSU

In-state students at Penn State may be spared a tuition increase in the upcoming school year. 

Part of the state budget that’s on the table is a 3 percent increase in funding for Penn State and the other state-related universities. The university says it will keep tuition flat if it gets a 3 percent increase in funding from the state.

Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman says he expects the Senate to take up the budget Friday. The state House approved in Wednesday.

PA Budget Passes After Fast-track Negotiation

Jul 14, 2016
Lawmakers with paperwork
Marc Levy / AP Photo

After two days with an underfunded state budget, lawmakers have approved a revenue plan to balance the $31.5 billion spending bill.

 

Governor Tom Wolf has signed it Wednesday evening, putting an end to the 2016/17 budget process.

 

Wolf said the action saved the commonwealth from a repeat of last year’s budget debacle.

 

“Today’s passage of a revenue package means we avoid another lengthy impasse,” he said in an official statement. “Our budget is balanced this year, and we have greatly reduced the budget’s structural deficit.”

 

Gov. Tom Wolf giving budget address to full room.
Chris Knight / AP Photo

Democratic Governor Tom Wolf offered up some tough talk for the GOP-controlled state Legislature in his second budget address, scarcely mentioning the details of his proposed $33.3 billion plan.

“Usually this speech is an opportunity to lay out an ambitious agenda for the year ahead,” Wolf said. “But I can’t give that speech. Not under these circumstances.”

Wolf’s proposal calls for $2.7 billion in new and higher taxes to close a budget gap and funnel more money into education, human services, and mandated spending.

State Workers Protest Pension Changes

Jun 5, 2015
People entering Sen. Corman's office.
Mary Chuff / WPSU

State employees gathered at Senator Jake Corman’s office in Bellefonte Thursday to protest Senate Bill 1 and its proposed changes to the current pension system.

Around a dozen people gathered to protest Corman’s bill, which would restructure the current pension system for state employees into a 401(k)-type plan. Cheryl Little showed up to try to talk to Corman. She chairs a chapter of SEIU Local 668, a social services union.

Jake Corman
Chris Knight / AP Photo

Pick your favorite issue or cause in Pennsylvania: public education, services for the poor, tax breaks for businesses.

Chances are, there's going to be less money for any of these moving forward because the state's public employee pension bill is growing exponentially, with a current unfunded liability of $53 billion.