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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf looks to final year in office and impacts of COVID-19

On today’s episode of The Confluence: Governor Tom Wolf reflects on another year in the pandemic, and his administration’s efforts to address the ongoing opioid crisis and raise the statewide minimum wage; and a look at how inflation is impacting local organic farms.

Gov. Wolf about to enter final year in office, looks to economy, other priorities
(0:00 - 17:28)

Governor Tom Wolf is about to enter his final year in office, as he is term-limited. Although the pandemic has continued to dominate conversation, Wolf says there is optimism for focusing on other efforts.

“The economy is roaring back to life,” says Wolf. The state’s unemployment rate was 6% in October, down from 7.3% a year earlier. But the labor force, those with jobs and those actively seeking work, dropped by 44,000 from a year ago.

“I would really like to see the minimum wage increased, and I’d like to see the unemployment rate continue to drop quickly in Pennsylvania so that more and more people are getting back to work and the economy is hitting on all cylinders,” says Wolf.

He also hopes to see more attention paid to issues present before the pandemic.

“The opioid epidemic is something that did not get the priority it should have, and we’re moving back to that,” says Wolf.

In his final year in office, Wolf’s administration will also see some changes in leadership. Monday morning, it was announced that Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam will be leaving the administration at the end of this year.

“If you recall, Alison became secretary when Rachel Levine, the prior secretary of health, was called to Washington, [D.C.],” says Wolf. He lauds Beam for shepherding the COVID-19 vaccine rollout across the state.

Keara Klinepeter, the current executive deputy secretary, will replace Beam.

Inflation is hitting organic farmers, forcing some to diversify their business
(17:30 - 22:30)

Inflation is at its highest since 1990, and people are paying more for just about anything you can think of: groceries, electricity, even cars.

90.5 WESA’s Susan Scott Peterson reports that inflation is also driving up prices on fertilizer, seed and tractor parts, things you might not be thinking of, unless you’re a farmer.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.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. 

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Rebecca Reese is a production assistant for The Confluence.
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