The saga of the to-be-demolished Walnut Street parking garage in Bethlehem continued last night and this morning. What began Tuesday night ended Wednesday morning after more than six hours with the Bethlehem City Council voting on two proposals submitted to replace the Walnut Street parking garage, which is in the process of being torn down. Early this morning, City Council voted 5-2 to uphold the city's Historical Architectural Review Board's denial of a new 590 space parking garage. By the same 5-2 vote, Council overturned the review board's denial of a 527 space parking garage. Bethlehem City Council will next meet on Feb. 20.
Gov. Josh Shapiro's proposed $48.3 billion budget calls for a seven percent increase in spending. Shapiro says one way to help pay for that is to dip into the state's surplus. "It is not a badge of honor, nor is it something to be politically proud of for some lawmakers out there to say 'I took more money from the good people of Pennsylvania than I needed and then I just bragged about how I kept it in some bank account here in the Capitol'," Shapiro says. He says despite the spending increase, taxes aren't going up. "My budget is balanced. It does not raise taxes. In fact, it cuts them. Even if we fund every single one of the initiatives that I've talked about today and is contained in my budget, we would still have a $11 billion surplus at the end of June 2025," the governor says. Two big ticket items in the budget is pouring $1.5 billion into the state's mass transit agencies and an additional $1.1 billion in new spending on the state's school systems.
Republican lawmakers are greeting Gov. Josh Shapiro's $48.3 billion budget proposal with skepticism. Scott Martin is the Senate Appropriations Chairman and says one big flaw he sees is Shapiro's tax collection projections, which Martin says are way to optimistic. "Take a look at this budget. There's been a $10 billion swing in revenue projections from what they actually were projecting last year to this year," Martin says. Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman says Shapiro's desire to spend $3 billion from the state's reserves is the wrong approach as well. "If he wants to get rid of our surplus and our rainy day fund, we should then return it to the people who gave it to us in the first place and that's the taxpayer," Pittman says. Pittman says Republican will be willing to compromise where they can, but what they will not compromise on is the principals of their Senate majority and on their electoral mandate to contain spending.
A man who didn't even seek the job is the newest member of Northampton County Council. Northampton County Judge Craig Dally has chosen Jeffrey Corpora to fill the vacancy on Council that was created last month when Tara Zrinski resigned to become county controller. Corpora was not one of the 25 people who applied for the job. County Council could not agree on Zrinski's replacement and instead turned the issue over to the judge. Corpora's political experience is having served on the Nazareth Borough Council.
A former political candidate is facing more charges in a child pornography investigation. Prosecutors say 53-year-old Matthew Schutter is now back in custody after his bail was revoked Monday. He's charged with 40 more counts of sexual abuse of children and is accused of sharing photos and videos of abuse with others. The Lehigh County district attorney says some of the abusive images Schutter shared were of children who were under ten years old. He was a candidate for South Whitehall commissioner in 2021 and also ran to be a state representative two years ago.
The Lehigh Valley’s first drive-thru Wawa location will be open for business on Thursday. This standalone Wawa is along Hamilton Boulevard near the First Commonwealth Credit Union headquarters and Movie Tavern. Beginning Thursday morning at 8, it will begin serving customers. Wawa says the new building will provide fresh food in a drive thru experience and will operate from 5am to midnight every day and will be able to serve a dozen cars at one time.
A Monroe County man is recovering from emergency surgery after escaping a house fire. The blaze broke out yesterday morning at a home located along Cays Road in Jackson Township. Authorities say the man jumped from a second-floor window and broke his leg. A woman was also treated for smoke inhalation while two dogs and seven cats perished in the flames. The cause of the fire is still being investigated.
Gas prices in the Lehigh Valley stayed put over the past seven days. According to AAA East Central, the local price for a gallon of gas remained at $3.30 as of Tuesday. That's 35 cents below the February 6, 2023 price. Across the state of Pennsylvania, the price of a gallon of gas is $3.37 as of Tuesday, two cents higher than the previous week, but 39 cents less than one year ago.
Fundraising numbers are out in the Pennsylvania Senate race. Republican David McCormick out raised incumbent Senator Bob Casey, who is seeking a fourth term. McCormick raised $5.5 in the fourth quarter, including $1 million of his own money. That was more than Casey's nearly $4 million raised. However, Casey ended the year with $9.5 million in the bank, while McCormick had a little over $4 million.
The widow of a trooper who was killed in a DUI crash two years ago has filed a wrongful death suit against the driver, her mother and the bar who served her. Brittany Sisca's attorney says they filed the case Tuesday against 23-year-old Janaya Webb, who was sentenced to at least 27 years in prison in November. She pled guilty to striking 29-year-old Trooper Branden Sisca and Trooper Martin Mack, as well as pedestrian Reyes Rivera Oliveras, who the officers were trying to help get off Interstate-95. Webb's prison time had been delayed because she was pregnant, but her sentencing now has been set to happen this month.
Police say a scammer convinced a Pennsylvania woman with dementia to send them $3,500 to allegedly cover fees for winning the Mega Millions jackpot. The victim's daughter told police the incident occurred sometime between Jan. 10 and 30. The scammer contacted the 78-year-old woman of Lycoming County and convinced her she won the Mega Millions jackpot and then told the victim she was required to pay fees in order to receive her winnings. The victim mailed two checks totaling $3,5000. Police continue to investigate.