Takeaways From The State Of The Union And The State Of PA

Feb 5, 2020


On today's program: What Pennsylvanians should know after the State of the Union; one local business thrives in the film economy; takeaways from Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2021 budget, and how Republicans are reacting; and a remembrance of TV personality Quentin Crisp. 

President Trump takes shot at Governor Wolf during SOTU
(00:00 — 11:50) 

With primary season now underway, President Donald Trump used his State of the Union address to speak to issues central to people and places he’ll need to secure victory in the general election in November. 

Pennsylvania and its leaders were referenced twice by name. Trump said:

“Countless American children have been trapped in failing government schools. To rescue these students, 18 states have created school choice in the form of opportunity scholarships. The programs are so popular that tens of thousands of students remain on a waiting list.

One of those students is Janiyah Davis, a fourth-grader from Philadelphia. Janiyah's mom, Stephanie, is a single parent. She would do anything to get her daughter a better future, but last year, that future was put further out of reach when Pennsylvania's governor vetoed legislation to expand school choice to 15,000 children.

Janiyah and Stephanie are in the gallery. Stephanie, thank you so much for being here with your beautiful daughter. But Janiyah, I have some good news for you. I am pleased to inform you, your long wait is over. I can proudly announce tonight that an opportunity scholarship is going to you and you will soon be headed to the school of your choice.

Now I call on Congress to give 1 million American children the same opportunity Janiyah has just received. Pass the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunities Act, because no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing government school.” 

The Morning Call reporter Laura Olson says lots of questions remain about where the funds for Davis’ scholarship may come from, but school choice has long been a priority for Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who hails from another swing state: Michigan.

Trump touted successes in manufacturing, high employment, recent trade deals and high production in oil and gas, as well as a decline in the number of opioid overdose deaths in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio, although deaths are rising outside the Rust Belt in California, New Jersey, Missouri and South Carolina.

Manufacturing jobs are up nationwide year over year, but dropped in the commonwealth in 2019 by 5,700 according to the state Department of Labor and Industry. Trump credited oil and gas output to a “bold regulatory reduction campaign." Just last month Trump finalized a rollback of a major Obama Era rule that clarified which waterways can be regulated by the Clean Water Act.

The President briefly mentioned deficiencies in infrastructure, high-speed internet in rural areas and a future mission to Mars, but offered little detail on how his administration might weigh in. He also suggested the White House would promote litigation against sanctuary cities. Pittsburgh never pursued the designation, but Philadelphia and other municipalities are.

90.5 WESA government and accountability editor Chris Potter says listeners should expect more in the way of campaign lines in the coming days, especially messages targeted to African Americans and residents of swing states like Pennsylvania.

Local restaurants “reel” in the cash from the film industry
(13:15 — 17:44) 

When Hollywood comes to Pittsburgh to make a film or television series, it provides a financial boost to some local businesses. 90.5 WESA’s Maria Scapellato sat down with one such business owner, Pittsburgh Smokehouse’s Andy Wincko.

The Netflix thriller “Sweet Girl” starring Jason Momoa has been providing Wincko with a steady stream of business since it began shooting in Pittsburgh last fall. 

“When they’re filming, it’s about 25 percent of my business, and that’s a lot. I’m basically on call for them. Whenever they want it, I deliver,” Winkco says. 

Gov. Wolf unveils latest budget proposal
(17:45 — 33:34) 

Times are flush in Pennsylvania — at least, according to Democratic Governor Tom Wolf’s latest budget proposal. The governor is pitching a $36.1 billion spending plan to the Republican controlled legislature.  That’s a four percent increase —$2 billion— more than the budget that was approved for the current year.

What does that mean for taxes, education, health care and more? Keystone Crossroads reporters Katie Meyer, Brett Sholtis, Avi Wolfman Arent and Emily Previti explain. 

Also in Gov. Wolf’s budget proposal was a familiar call to raise the state’s minimum wage. State House majority leader Republican Bryan Cutler says his colleagues are still open to the recently passed Senate legislation that would bring wages to $9.50 by 2022. 

“I understand that it cleared the Senate very quickly,” he says, but “finding that sweet spot where you can get 102 members to agree on anything can sometimes be challenging.” 

Cutler, who could be a contender for Speaker of the House, also weighs in on infrastructure investments and a proposed $200 million in scholarships for students at Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities. 

Local stage show working to keep gay icon's legacy alive
(33:40 — 38:40) 

Quentin Crisp was a wit, author and TV personality of the 20th century. He was also a gay icon—open about his sexuality back when that was rare. Crisp is less well known today, but one local performer seeks to keep his legacy alive. 90.5 WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll reports on the new stage show “Quentin Crisp: The Last Word.” 

90.5 WESA’s Caroline Bourque and Caldwell Holden contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.