Author Archives: Joe Doc

Wishing You And Yours A Safe And Happy Thanksgiving

Pa. AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder, and the entire staff of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO wish everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving Holiday!

Many of us will be traveling to celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday with family and friends. Please make it a safe trip and enjoy the Holiday. We all have plenty to be thankful for and please remember those families and people who are in need. Please help to share the blessings of this holiday with them.

Remember that when you are shopping for Thanksgiving, please support your fellow union members by purchasing Union-made, Pennsylvania-made, and American-made products and remind your family members to do the same. Also please support your union brothers and sisters when you do you’re shopping for the Holiday season and throughout the entire year by Buying Union, Buying Pennsylvania, and Buying American made products and services. Our purchases are the most direct way we can protect and create good jobs here in Pennsylvania and the United States. Let’s show our solidarity and support for each other.

The following two web-sites will help you Buy Union in Pennsylvania and in the U.S.A. and; additionally, the AFL-CIO posted this Union-Made in America Thanksgiving Shopping List last November.

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Fear not, Trump will still crash and burn in the ’16 primaries

by Dick Polman

- Month after month, the GOP’s execrable bullhorn artist remains perched atop the polls, and there’s growing concern that the guy might actually win the nomination. Various super PACs allied with the party establishment keep threatening to bomb him with ad campaigns (we’re still waiting), and Republican regulars are freaking out at the prospect of an autumn ’16 debacle that features landslide losses in every voter category except celebrity-besotted angry white people.

But fear not, Republicans. There still seems to be a firm ceiling on Donald Trump’s detestable appeal. I’ve long felt that he’ll fade when the game truly gets serious – when voters start paying close attention and seek to get the maximum value for their ballot – and this week I’m happy (and relieved) to report that two smart, sane political observers are saying much the same. If we turn out to be wrong, feel free to hold it against us. But I’ll bet we’re right.

Nate Silver – the poll numbers-cruncher who called the ’12 race for President Obama in mid-October, at a time when the Romney people were hilariously convinced that they had the race in the bag – has posted a new piece that plainly states what it so often overlooked: Trump’s first-place status is far weaker than it seems, because, as we political junkies tend to forget, most likely Republican voters have barely tuned in yet. Trump is on top, for now, mostly because people know who he is (a reality TV star), and the media magnifies whatever emanates from his big mouth.

“Right now,” Silver points out, “he has 25 to 30 percent of the vote in polls among the roughly 25 percent of Americans who identify as Republican. That’s something like 6 to 8 percent of the electorate overall, or about the same share of people who think the Apollo moon landings were faked.”

And that 25 to 30 percent support is deceptively high; just because those people say that Trump is awesome, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll march into the voting booth. Silver reminds us that most of the current surveys “cover Republican-leaning adults or registered voters, rather than likely voters….It’s not clear how much overlap there is between the people included in these surveys, and the relatively small share of Republicans who will turn up to vote in primaries and caucuses.” It’s still too early to query likely voters, because “if past nomination races are any guide, the vast majority of eventual Republican voters haven’t made up their minds yet.”

Silver looked at the exit polls for the last four competitive Iowa caucuses – the Democrats in 2004 and 2008; the Republicans in 2008 and 2012 – and found that 65 percent of the voters made up their minds during the final month. (We’re still more than two months away from the Feb. 1 GOP caucus.) And in the last four competitive New Hampshire primaries, 71 percent of the voters made up their minds during the final month. (We’re still more than two months away from the Feb. 9 GOP primary.)

Which brings us to David Greenberg, an historian based at Rutgers. In a new magazine piece, he points out that early polls, conducted one year away from the general election, have traditionally given us only “fleeting impulses of an electorate that remains overwhelmingly disengaged.” And when pollsters query people who are disengaged, the respondents tend to gravitate to the candidates they’ve heard of. As Greenberg notes (and he heard this from pollsters), “Many people who are actually undecided…will cough up a name when a poll-taker calls and prompts them.”

Right now, Greenberg writes, “only about 10 to 20 percent of voters are tracking the campaign closely. Normal people tend to tune out the arcane, minute developments that the Twitterati are quick to label game-changers. Believe it or not, they have better things to do.”

So, here are past samplings of the disengaged elecorate: One year away from the 1976 election, the Democratic frontrunners was Ted Kennedy (buried in single digits: Jimmy Carter). One year from the 1988 election, the Democratic frontrunner was Jesse Jackson. One year from the 1992 election, Democratic voters wanted Mario Cuomo (sitting at six percent: Bill Clinton). One year from the 2004 election, the Democratic fave was Howard Dean; before Dean, it was name-recognition favorite Joe Lieberman. One year from the 2008 election, the Republican frontrunner was Rudy Giuliani. The early autumn Republican favorite, one year from the 2012 election, was pre-oops Rick Perry.

Could Trump be the exception? Conceivably. But Silver believes that Trump’s current support constitutes his ceiling; the racist rants that thrill Trump’s fans tend to “alienate” the rest of the Republican electorate. And Trump’s favorability rating, among Republicans in general, remains somewhere between “middling” and “miserable.” All told, Silver rates Trump’s nomination prospects at “considerably less than 20 percent.”

Sounds about right. On the other hand, I just heard this prediction from Bill “Stop Me Before I’m Wrong Again” Kristol: “Trump is not going to be the nominee.”

That, from the same guy who predicted that Bush’s Iraq invasion would compel the Sunnis and Shiites to make peace; who predicted that Obama wouldn’t win “a single” ’08 primary; that Giuliani would run again in 2012; that Scott Walker would be a major player in 2016….what better evidence can we get that Trump is destined for a big beautiful nomination?

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Here’s Your Union-Made in America Thanksgiving Shopping List


Before you put together your Thanksgiving dinner shopping list, check our list of union-made in America food and other items that are essential to a traditional family Thanksgiving feast. Speaking of thanks, a big “thank you” to the Union Label and Service Trades Department (ULSTD), Union Plus and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor’s resource site, Labor 411, for compiling their extensive catalogs of union-made products.

Here are some of the best union-made Thanksgiving eats and cookware from the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM); Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers (GMP); Machinists (IAM); United Steelworkers (USW); and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).

- Appetizers

Kraft/Nabisco crackers—BCTGM

Nabisco (Mondelez) crackers—BCTGM

Keebler (Kellogg) crackers—BCTGM

- Turkey

Boar’s Head—UFCW


Foster Farms—UFCW


- Side Dishes

Ocean Spray whole berry cranberry sauce—IAM

Birds Eye vegetables—UFCW

- Bread

Pillsbury crescent rolls, frozen and ready to bake rolls/breads—BCTGM

Pillsbury pie crusts—BCTGM

Stroehmann bakery products (for stuffing)—BCTGM

- Dessert

Sara Lee pumpkin, apple pie—BCTGM

Mother’s Kitchen cheesecakes—BCTGM

Nabisco (Mondelez) cookies—BCTGM

Rich Products pies and cakes—BCTGM

- Cookware/Cutlery

Cutco knives—USW

All-Clad cookware—USW




Anchor Hocking—GMP

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Alert: Be Prepared To Take Action As Budget Negotiations Come To A Head


- Negotiations continue over the details of a budget compromise announced a few weeks ago.

The State House approved a Liquor Privatization bill that is virtually identical to the bill vetoed by Governor Wolf in June. It is expected that this bill – House Bill 1690 – will be used to privatize liquor as part of the budget negotiations.

A similar tactic is underway in the State Senate on pensions in which extremists will attempt to phase out good pensions for public service workers. Be prepared to Take Action on funding for schools, good pensions, privatization, raising the minimum wage and a fair and responsible budget.

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PHL airport workers walk off the job

By Alison Burdo

- Several local elected officials joined dozens of Philadelphia International Airport workers who demonstrated Thursday morning to call for a higher wage and better working conditions.

The strike, which started with a wave of contracted PHL employees walking off the job Wednesday night, includes baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, cabin cleaners and other service workers.

Lending their support to the fight were several Philadelphia City Council members, including Bobby Henon, Curtis Jones and Maria Quiñones-Sanchez, as well as Helen Gym, who will become a part of City Council in January. Mayor-elect Jim Kenney said he will join the workers for a rally at noon Thursday.

Many of the workers began receiving $12 an hour, Philly’s minimum wage standard, earlier this year, but only after the city reached a lease agreement with the airport.

“It is an increase from what we had, but it is still not where we need to be at,” said Montrell Groves, a baggage handler who was among the group gathered outside the airport Thursday morning. “Twelve is still not a living wage.”

Groves said he receives the $12 rate, but several of the contractors still do not pay their workers that wage. He also points out many of the non-union workers are under intense pressure, worried they could lose their job at random.

32BJ Service Employees International Union said the group has spent the last three years trying to organize, but the contractors often fired workers who have expressed interest in unionizing.

Representatives from PHL and American Airlines, which has a hub at the airport, have declined to comment on previous rallies by the contracted workers since they are not their employer.

To draw attention to their working conditions, the workers – some who began picketing as early as 5 a.m. Thursday – joined a national effort, dubbed “Strike 4 Families,” that happened at airports in Chicago, Boston, New York, Newark, New Jersey, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, according to 32BJ SEIU.

After the nationwide day of demonstrations, the workers will return to their jobs Friday, the union said.

But Groves said the battle will continue “until we can get everything we’re asking for.”

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Letters: Extend subway to the Navy Yard

- RECENTLY, I joined a group of business leaders and bipartisan elected officials – including U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, U.S. Reps. Bob Brady and Pat Meehan, state Sen. John Rafferty, state Rep. Bill Keller and Mayor-elect Jim Kenney – to announce funding for a new study to explore extending the Broad Street Line subway into the Navy Yard, a growing employment hub in Philadelphia. When was the last time so many Democrats and Republicans joined forces to support any project? The Navy Yard employs more than 11,000 at more than 140 firms, and PIDC has aggressive expansion plans in the coming decades.

The Navy Yard is the size of Center City, yet its full potential is limited by a lack of transportation infrastructure and inadequate parking in the absence of efficient public transportation. The studies required to advance this project may take longer than constructing the original line did in the 1920s, but we can’t afford to wait any longer to move this project forward. I urge our region’s business leaders and elected officials to make this important project a top priority and capitalize on the current momentum so we can get shovels in the ground as soon as possible.

John J. Dougherty

Business manager, IBEW Local 98

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How a ‘Right to Your Job’ Law Could Help Unions Fight Back Against ‘Right to Work’

BY Shaun Richman

- The sword of Damocles hangs over the head of the American labor movement. This spring the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on Friedrichs vs. CTA, a case that could end automatic union membership in all government jobs. If this “right to work” effort goes the way the right wing hopes, it would be followed by an aggressive and well-funded direct mail and robo-call campaign to encourage public sector employees to “give yourself a raise” by dropping their union memberships and ceasing to pay dues or fees.

Misleadingly titled “right to work” laws prohibit unions in the private sector from negotiating fees for the services they are compelled to provide to all workers they represent. They are designed to reduce unions’ income and power. First introduced in 1947, these laws used to be limited to the former slave states of the Confederacy. But in recent years, a coordinated right-wing drive has expanded these laws to a majority of states, including union strongholds like Michigan and Indiana. Thanks in part to such laws, unions today represent only 7 percent of private sector workers. But factoring in the public sector raises total union density to 12 percent. Unions with substantial public sector membership—AFSCME, SEIU, the teachers unions—are the last remaining large, powerful unions in the U.S. Friedrichs is nothing less than an assassination attempt on the union movement.

Opening the doors to the union

Labor lacks a bulletproof vest, but unions are developing contingency plans. We can probably expect to see some unions begin to offer at-large memberships to supporters regardless of profession, employment status or bargaining rights. And why not? According to a recent Gallop poll, 58% of Americans support unions and want to see them strengthened. Research shows that one in three American workers would vote for a union at their workplace if an election were held today.

But a union election won’t be held today at most workplaces. Vicious employer resistance and retaliation, a broken legal process and declining union resources stand in the way of most workplaces winning the majority vote that is required in our all-or-nothing union representation system.

Of course, the workers who want a union want… a union. They want an organization that can help raise their wages and improve their benefits, protect them from arbitrary and capricious firings and gives them voice in how things get done at work. All that a union can provide an at-large member right now is discount AT&T cell phone plans and pet health insurance. At-large memberships are not likely to lead to millions of new union members.

But there might be a couple hundred thousand people willing to pay 10 bucks a month to belong to a movement. Potentially faced with the immediate loss of exactly that many current members, that’s an attractive proposition to unions. The key will be to actually bring a movement into people’s homes, and that means connecting at-large union membership with advocacy and legislative campaigns.

A “right to your job” movement

Opening up the labor movement and pursuing new rights for all workers would help get labor out of the box of thinking mostly about unionized workplaces and appearing to be a special interest. Unions’ recent embrace of ambitious efforts to raise state-level minimum wages to $15 has so far been at the heart of these efforts. Upwards of 24 million working people would receive a raise if the pathetic federal floor of $7.25 an hour was raised to just $10, so the Fight for $15 has a huge built in constituency beyond just fast food workers.

Unions should add to this a state-by-state effort to change the legal standard of employment relations to “just cause.” “Just cause” is the principle that an employee cannot be fired unless it’s for a good reason—basically, that the punishment (losing your livelihood) should fit the crime (stealing, lying, just not being good enough at the job). This often means that an employee has been given some advance notice of her supposed shortcomings and an opportunity to improve and/or be presented with the documentary evidence to back up the employer’s claims of sub-standard performance with an opportunity to contest it.

This is very commonly negotiated into union contracts. Non-union workers generally labor under an “at-will” standard of employment, a holdover from English common law that basically tells a worker, “Congratulations, you are not a slave. That means you are free to quit your job—and your boss is free to fire you.” It’s a kind of liberty, I guess, but not one that’s particularly appealing.

The only job protection that at-will employees currently have is to try to shoehorn their case into one of a handful of legally “protected categories” of workers: be a woman, be a racial minority, be over the age of 42, be disabled, be a whistleblower. And even if a case does fit in one of those categories, a worker can only receive some financial recompense—generally not retaining her job—if she can prove that she was fired because of their protected status. It’s a lousy framework, but the best that an at-will employee has.

Richard Kahlenberg and Moshe Marvit advocate for union activists to be added as a protected class through an amendment to civil rights laws. They do us a favor by getting unions to think outside of the National Labor Relations Act for labor law reform. But their proposal is still too limited. We should not merely be fighting for “special” rights for union activists. As union density has declined, the remaining unionized workplaces come to be seen as islands of relative privilege. Bosses and the media exploit this and try to whip up a degree of working-class support for stripping our last few rights away, seen most clearly seen in the public debate around teacher tenure protections (which is simply the just cause standard by a different name).

Imagine how quickly the debate would change if unions fought for and won meaningful job protections for all workers in a state! Call it a “right to your job” law. Such a law would lay bare just how cynically manipulative and hollow the so-called “Right to Work” laws are.

To be meaningful, such just cause laws would have to include some kind of a court in which to hear cases. This could be as simple as mandating private mediation and arbitration or as complex as creating new state regulatory agencies to hear such cases. If workers did have a court in which they could defend their employment, unions would have something real to offer at-large members as a part of joining the union. And with that offer comes the potential for substantial membership growth.

A radical departure for labor

Attempting to legislate job protections, pay and benefit increases for large groups of workers who probably won’t become dues-paying union members would be a radical departure for the American labor movement. Unions have, for historical reasons, preferred to make their gains in contract bargaining. The early labor movement, in the 19th century, did work to pass laws on wages, hours and factory conditions. They saw most of those laws overturned, as well as many of their strikes and boycotts enjoined, by conservative courts that viewed unions’ efforts as violations of private contracts and disturbances of interstate commerce.

As a result, unions across the political spectrum entered the 20th century with a profound distrust of government and political parties. While labor’s great upsurge of the late 1930’s did bring unions into the political arena, it coincided with the effective end of the New Deal and the inability to expand the welfare system with benefits like national health insurance. Unions turned to their own collective bargaining for employer-sponsored benefits instead of the government. Such efforts were initially a kind of stopgap measure, pursued in the meantime while hoping to eventually secure government-provided benefits. But when the government froze wages during World War II, unions bargained for more and more “fringe benefits” to make up for the loss.

The labor movement that emerged in the post-war era had won a massive private welfare system for its members. Union leaders considered this a “union advantage” that would help “sell” new organizing. The only major benefit that labor did work to legislate in that era was Medicare and Medicaid (After all, it’s pretty hard to bargain with employers for people who don’t work for them). With one in three workers in a union during the post-war period, even non-union employers had to try to match those benefits to remain competitive. This private welfare system worked for a generation, but it was all too vulnerable when less than one third of workers were organized to defend it.

The labor movements of other countries strike more of a balance between negotiating rights and benefits for their members and legislating them for all workers. This is particularly so in countries where unions formed labor parties or aligned with socialist parties. And when rights are enjoyed by all, they are defended by most. Think of France and the massive protests over austerity proposals to slash pensions and benefits in 1995 and 2010. Would you believe that French union density stands at a mere 7 percent?

Unions tend to think of legislatively gained rights and benefits as easily lost if the wrong governor gets elected or a bad mid-term flips control of a statehouse. We should instead view labor’s legislative agenda as another way of bargaining for the common good. It is a way of broadening our base, opening wide the doors of our movement, to win and protect a standard of living that we all deserve.

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Wage theft ‘czar’ on the way for Philly

By Tom MacDonald

- Philadelphia City Council is getting serious about wage theft — the illegal under payment or non-payment of wages. A bill proposed by council to create a city office to address the issue has some teeth.

Councilman Bill Greenlee said the bill allows for revoking the business licenses of those who fail to pay their workers all they are owed.

“It has penalties and fines in there. We give the wage coordinator pretty good discretion in taking action,” Greenlee said. “We’re not looking to tar and feather anybody, we’re looking to get people paid what they are supposed to be paid.”

Nadia Hewka of Community Legal Services said a Temple University study estimates about 92,000 cases of wage theft occur each week in Philadelphia.

“Be it failure to pay overtime, classification of workers as independent contractors and simple failure to pay, shaving hours or deducting hours, all the ways employers do what we call wage theft,” Hewka said.

Mayor Michael Nutter now has the bill for his review.

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Take Action! Tell The State Senate To Raise The Minimum Wage!

By The Pa. AFL-CIO

- Budget negotiations on the hill have picked up in recent days, with word of a budget compromise in the works and new activity on several legislative initiatives as members of the legislature seek to take advantage of the rumored break-through. One of those items which maybe working its way back onto the agenda is the minimum wage. An overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians support the modest increase to $10.10 per hour, and indexing the minimum wage to inflation. Bills which would enact that change have been languishing in both the House and Senate all year, stuck in committee – but now is the time that we can put pressure on the Senate to finally move their version of the bill as part of the comprehensive budget bill.

Go To:, To Contact your Senator today. Tell them that you want them to support a $10.10 minimum wage for ALL workers in Pennsylvania, and that you want that minimum wage indexed to rise with inflation, so that we will not need to take action every few years just to keep minimum wage workers from falling back into poverty.

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Hashing out the nitty-gritty in the very tentative, detail-scarce Pa. budget framework

By Kevin McCorry

- After a scare Tuesday, leaders in the Pennsylvania Capitol said that the framework of a state budget agreement is still intact.

The tentative agreement includes a $400 million increase to K-12 public education this year.

On Monday, Wolf administration officials claimed that a two-year agreement would boost preK-12 public education by $750 million. Republican leaders insisted that nothing had been set in stone beyond the current fiscal year.

For a few hours Tuesday, the Senate Republican leadership stirred up doubts about the structural integrity of the deal – saying everything was again “up in the air.”

Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican leaders allayed anxiety by hosting an impromptu press gaggle late Tuesday committing to the framework of a one-year pact.

Pressure has mounted to reach an agreement more than four months after the June 30 budget deadline. School districts across the state have had to borrow money just to keep their doors open. Social services agencies have been hurt, and lawmakers have expressed fatigue as the budget battle has superseded all other agendas.

Wolf and the leaders of the Republican-held House and Senate believe they can shake hands on a budget before Thanksgiving, but the deal is far from finalized and many of the details are yet to be worked out: namely, the source of the education funding boost.

There’s talk about raising the state tobacco tax, hiking the bank shares tax and possibly shifting gambling revenue into an account that would help school districts pay down pension debt – which has become a major cost driver in recent years.

But Wolf and GOP leaders have reached consensus on an agreement to fund a $2 billion statewide property tax reduction by hiking the state sales tax by 1.25 percent.

Everywhere but Philadelphia and Allegheny County, the sales tax would rise from 6 percent to 7.25 percent.

In Philadelphia, because the sales tax is already inflated locally, it would jump to 9.25 percent. In Allegheny County, for similar reasons, it would move to 8.25 percent.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and City Council President Darrell Clarke both said it would be premature to comment on this proposal.

State Rep. John Taylor, R-Philadelphia, agreed, but said he’d seek “some sort of exemption” to spare the city from increases “that will put us at uncompetitive levels.”

Sources close to the Wolf administration say that there could be a way to keep the sales tax rate down in Philadelphia by lessening the property tax reduction.

As is, advocates for the poor are upset with this deal for its regressive nature. With property taxes potentially going down, while sales and cigarette taxes go up, this aspect of the pact would disproportionately hurt disadvantaged Pennsylvanians.

“As much as we desperately need income for Philadelphia schools, we need to start looking away from taking money from low income people,” said Kate Goodman, an organizer for 15 Now Philly, which advocates for a higher minimum wage. “Sales tax impacts poor people who are buying basic goods more than wealthy people who have other assets.”

Lawmakers in Wolf’s own party have pushed back on this point as well.

“We want this done by Thanksgiving. We know there are people who do not agree with everything, and the governor is more than willing to have conversations with them,” said Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan.

Pushback on ‘taxpayer protection’

Despite this debate, the deal seems at first glance to be a huge win for public schools, but the comprehensive picture is more complicated.

There would be a big, new state influx of education spending. Basic education would get $350 million in new money. Special ed would get an added $50 million and pre-K will likely see a boost but leaders haven’t yet reached consensus there.

Republican leaders, though, have a key additional demand.

“One of the things we require is some sort of taxpayer protection,” said Jenn Kocher, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman.

Now, there’s nothing definitive on this yet, but an idea gaining traction would require a local referendum for any property tax increase – no matter inflation or rising fixed costs.

Under this proposal, anytime a school board wanted to raise taxes, it would have to win favor by popular vote – a prospect that has education advocates very worried.

A coalition of 50 ideologically diverse groups sent a letter to stakeholders this week denouncing the idea as “poor, reckless policy.”

The fear here is that in getting a win in short-term statewide education funding, Wolf could bless a plan that would potentially handcuff school districts locally in a way that could be damaging over the long term.

“People in communities don’t always appreciate what is taking place and what is required to properly educate the students in their community,” said Jim Buckheit, executive director of The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, one of the groups to sign the letter.

“It’s a challenge in Pennsylvania because less than 20 percent of households have school-aged children. So you’re going to have a lot of people who don’t have an interest in what occurs in a local school district, even though it’s a vital function of government.”

The Pennsylvania Business Council also laments the idea.

“Often at the spur of the moment, quick solutions, easy solutions seem appealing. In the long run they often don’t pay off,” said David Patti, president and CEO of the PBC. “There are unintended consequences, and regret is big, but undoing bad decisions is difficult. I think this is one of those bad decisions that people will regret later on.”

As part of the framework agreement, the Wolf administration said that one of the governor’s campaign-trail priorities – a tax on natural gas drilling – is now off of the table for this year.

Other Republican priorities, though, are in the mix. Some sort of change that reduces pension benefits for future state employees seems imminent, but details aren’t being released publicly.

The same can be said for some sort of shift to the current composition of the state liquor store system.

Both sides also tentatively agree on a 5 percent increase to higher-education spending.

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