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Budget hearings in the Pennsylvania House ended with GOP lawmakers pushing back on governor’s plan

Matt Rourke

On today’s episode of The Confluence: Pennsylvania legislators held budget hearings following Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a $43.7 billion dollar fiscal plan; Jewish Family and Community Services President and CEO on how the community is looking to support those fleeing Ukraine; and a local author discusses how different social classes are portrayed in novels written by Black women.

State budget hearings have ended in the House 
(0:00 - 7:23)

Last month, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed the final budget of his administration—totaling $43.7 billion.

Immediately after Wolf delivered his budget address, Republican leaders in the GOP-controlled General Assembly reacted with terms such as “excessive” and “mortgaging the future.”

At budget hearings, however, such attitudes were only present during discussions of certain departments.

“I think the GOP was willing to buck terms like that when it came to higher spending that's being proposed for the state police, for instance, and maybe less so when it comes to agencies like the Department of Education,” says WESA’s Capitol Bureau Chief Sam Dunklau.

Wolf has argued the state is in a strong financial position to spend more money due to an influx of tax revenue at $2 billion more than expected, and another $2 billion in federal relief through the American Rescue Plan.

Many departments said they need an increase in funding to quell staff shortages, which have plagued the state’s Labor and Industry Department, among others.

Budget hearings continue in the Senate this week.

Jewish Family and Community Services is ready to accept and resettle Ukrainians, if needed
(7:28 - 17:10)

As the crisis in Ukraine unfolds, according to a tracker from the U.N. refugee agency, more than 2.8 million Ukrainians have fled their country. Some Pittsburghers might be wondering if our city will see some refugees from Eastern Europe.

Should Ukrainians be resettled in Pittsburgh, Jordan Golin, president and CEO of Jewish Family and Community Services Pittsburgh, says his organization would be ready to support them.

“Pittsburgh has a very large Ukrainian population,” says Golin. “We have a lot of people living here right now who have close ties to the Ukraine, myself included, my grandparents were from the Ukraine.”

However, Golin says the process could take months, if not years, for Ukrainian refugees to arrive in Pittsburgh, due to a lengthy vetting process, and the uncertainty of the current situation.

“Because there's a war going on as we speak, we don't even know if the Ukrainians will be considered refugees in the formal sense of the word, in the sense that they need to be resettled outside of the Ukraine,” explains Golin. “There is still a possibility that they may be able to return to the Ukraine once the fighting ends, in which case they wouldn't even really start the formal refugee resettlement process.”

Golin says the resettlement process typically starts with the United Nations, which determines whether Ukrainians can safely return to their home country or not.

In the meantime, JFCS has established a web page with resources for residents to seek support (for example, those with relatives in Ukraine), and where residents can offer support, from monetary to food and toiletry donations.

Pitt professor’s new book examines representations of class and relationships in literature by Black women
(17:13 - 22:30)

“Class Interruptions” is a new book by University of Pittsburgh professor Robin Brooks. Brooks writes about how relationships between people of different social classes are portrayed in novels by Black women writers such as Gloria Naylor and Toni Morrison.

Naylor’s book “Linden Hills,” for example, explores the relationship between Willie, a working-class Black man, and middle-class Lester, who lives in an exclusive, affluent Black neighborhood. Brooks spoke with 90.5 WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll.

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.
Boen Wang is a writer, audio producer, and MFA candidate in creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh. His written work appeared in The Sunday Long Read, The Fourth River, Inheritance, and elsewhere; his audio work won the “Best New Artist” award at the 2020 Third Coast International Audio Festival, was selected as one of The Bello Collective’s “100 Outstanding Podcasts of 2020,” and was shortlisted for the 2021 HearSay Audio Festival Prize. Visit his website at boen.cool.
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