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Giovanni Auletta 

FILE - In this Friday, Oct. 23, 2015 file photo, Lindsey Vonn, of the United States, left, and teammate Mikaela Shiffrin stand at the finish area at the Rettenbach glacier, ahead of Saturday's women's giant slalom Ski World Cup race in Soelden, Austria. Separated in age by about a decade, Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin head to the Pyeongchang Olympics as the past, present and future of ski racing in the United States and around the world. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta, File)

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Wolf renews battles on natural gas, minimum wage in budget

HARRISBURG — Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s election-year budget plan unveiled Tuesday will renew battles with the Republican-controlled Legislature over imposing a tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas and increasing the minimum wage.

Wolf’s budget plan, his fourth and final first-term proposal, would boost spending by about $1 billion, or 3 percent, to $33 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The higher spending would go toward public schools, skills training, pension obligations, prison costs and social services for children, the elderly and disabled.

The budget holds the line or delivers small increases for many services and agencies.

Wolf, who is seeking a second term in November’s election, will count on an improving fiscal picture — potentially aided by December’s federal tax overhaul law — to pave a smoother budget process after three years dominated by protracted partisan stalemates over how to plug gaping deficits.

In an 18-minute speech to a joint session of the state House and Senate in the Capitol, Wolf, who briefly donned a Philadelphia Eagles cap, reeled off a list of his perceived accomplishments in office. But he also nodded to his battles with the Legislature’s Republican majorities, which have rejected billions of dollars in tax increases sought by Wolf and forced him to adopt more austerity in budget-making.

“Sometimes, we’ve worked our way to a compromise. Sometimes I’ve been forced to move forward on my own,” Wolf said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

Wolf will not seek an increase in sales or income taxes, but the new budget plan would rely on about $250 million from a new Marcellus Shale tax — Wolf’s fourth straight attempt to impose one — and $100 million in savings in human services programs that administration officials say would come from reduced demand because of an increase in the minimum wage.

Wolf wants to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour, which would be the nation’s highest state-level wage in 2018, up from the federal minimum of $7.25.

Republicans pushed back on Wolf’s proposal for a Marcellus Shale tax and a $1 billion spending increase.

“Our governor seems to have an insatiable appetite for spending and taxes,” said state Rep. Stephen Bloom, who represents Cumberland County. “His job-killing energy tax proposal is terrible for Pennsylvania consumers and job creators. We have been successful in fighting off Gov. Wolf’s reckless tax-and-spend agenda for the past three years, and I remain committed to doing so again this year. I will continue to advocate for fiscally responsible alternatives that spend within our means and prioritize our hard-working taxpayers.”

House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, said he likes the idea of Wolf’s proposal for more money for computer and industrial education, but he also said Wolf’s spending proposal — made to look smaller by moving some Medicaid costs out of the state’s main bank account — contains questionable components that will lead to tax increases in the future.

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said he’s disappointed Wolf didn’t propose more money for state related universities — like his hometown Penn State — and community colleges, but also said he doesn’t expect the budget to get any new sources of money.

“We will have to roll up our sleeves and reduce the spend,” Corman said.

Three weeks of budget hearings begin Feb. 20.

Wolf projects no deficit next year, although independent analysts have cast doubt on the administration’s contention that Pennsylvania’s entrenched post-recession deficit is gone. Wolf’s proposal comes on the heels of a budget agreement last fall that relied heavily on borrowing and other one-time cash maneuvers to backfill Pennsylvania’s biggest shortfall since the recession.

Wolf’s budget projects an expansion of lottery games, approved by lawmakers last October, to allow keno and virtual sports games in bars and lottery games online.

Wolf also will make a second request for municipalities to start paying a $25 per-person fee for the state police coverage they receive, a total of $63 million a year. Like a Marcellus Shale tax and a minimum wage increase, the state police fee has been blocked by Republican lawmakers. In the meantime, the state police budget still will rely heavily on highway construction and safety dollars paid by motorists.

Imposing a natural gas tax, Wolf told lawmakers, would put Pennsylvania on par with other major gas-producing states whose severance taxes are largely footed by out-of-state consumers.

“When we fill up our cars or heat our homes, we’re paying for Alaska’s schools or Texas’ roads,” Wolf said. “And I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember ever getting a thank you note from any of the taxpayers in either Texas or Alaska.”

Wolf will seek an increase for programs to help high schools and colleges teach high-demand computer and industrial skills. That, he said, would “help make Pennsylvania a better place to learn, a better place to work and a better place to do business.

Wolf touted Philadelphia and Pittsburgh landing on the short list for Amazon’s second headquarters and said businesses don’t come to states that don’t invest in schools, skills training and transportation infrastructure.

“We’re doing all of these things, and I am hopeful Amazon will come here, build here and expand here,” Wolf said.

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Redd's owner optimistic about Carlisle restaurant's future after blaze

The smoker in the kitchen at Redd’s Smokehouse BBQ was doing its thing Monday afternoon preparing pork for an event the restaurant was catering the next day.

Then came the malfunction and a fire that turned the kitchen into a blazing inferno in less than 10 minutes, according to owner Nick Mauldin. Thanks to a fast response from area fire companies, the fire was contained to the kitchen and basement.

“We were very fortunate to have such a quick response from the fire department,” Mauldin said. “If they were five minutes later, we would have lost buildings downtown.”

The restaurant will need to close while the kitchen is restored, but the damage to the building was contained in such a way that the residents of the apartments above Redd’s were not displaced.

Mauldin said the restaurant is closed on Mondays, and the kitchen manager who was working evacuated safely so there were no injuries.

Now, Mauldin’s biggest concern is for his employees, about a dozen of them, who are looking at about six weeks of being out of work.

“I worry for them, and I worry for what it will look like when we come back,” he said.

The remediation team is already at work, but Mauldin knows he would have had plenty of people to help do the work, if necessary. The Redd’s Facebook page is full of offers from the community to assist, and Chef Exclusive, a catering business located next to Redd’s, gave Mauldin the use of its kitchen to finish the catering job for Tuesday.

“Even if our restaurant burnt down, we honored our commitment,” Mauldin said.

Redd’s neighbor to the north, Market Cross Pub and Brewery, has offered its assistance.

“We are devastated for them,” said Market Cross owner Ashleigh Goss Corby. “They are such kind people and, as neighbors, we have offered assistance and support for anything that they may need. We hope the restoration process is speedy and painless for them.”

Redd’s is looking at options to give its employees some work by possibly offering a buffet at an alternate location during this weekend’s Ice Arts Fest.

Mauldin is taking the whole experience in stride, confident that the setback will eventually prove to be a net positive for the business.

“I think it’s going to work out well, and, in the end, it will be a ‘meant to be’ thing,” he said.

Michael Bupp, The Sentinel 

Redd’s Smokehouse BBQ in Carlisle will be closed while its kitchen is repaired after Monday's fire.

Michael Bupp, The Sentinel 

Emergency personnel respond to a fire at Redd’s Smokehouse BBQ in Carlisle.

A messy winter Wednesday for Cumberland County

Get ready to salt and shovel away Wednesday as Cumberland County deals with another round of everything winter — snow, sleet and rain.

The county sits under a winter weather advisory until 7 p.m. Wednesday, with area forecasts calling for 2-4 inches of snow mixed with sleet and eventually freezing rain.

The ABC27 forecast calls for snow to start falling in the county around 4 a.m. Wednesday and staying steady during the morning commute. Northwestern Cumberland County and Perry County could see up to 6 inches of snow in the morning, while the rest of Cumberland County should see 2-4 inches.

After 8 a.m., the snow will begin to mix with sleet. Eventually, by midday, the precipitation will change to all rain for all areas. The rain changeover will take place first in southern counties like York and Lancaster, working its way north into Cumberland County.

The rain will continue through the afternoon, making for a slushy evening commute. Highs Wednesday will be in the mid-30s, but temperatures will drop into the low 20s during the evening hours leading to more re-freezing on roads and driveways.

Even though most of the winter has been marked with light snowfall, this season has proved to be burdensome on area municipalities.

South Middleton Township Supervisor Tom Faley said this winter has been marked with frequent ice storms, including the one Sunday, which resulted in about 3 inches of snow in Boiling Springs below the ice.

Faley said township crews have only been out plowing three times this winter, but the winter weather has still forced crews to go out 14 times this season to treat the roads with salt and anti-skid. They’ll be out again Wednesday at a time when the township usually averages 19 “lay-downs” of salt and anti-skid during winter.

“That’s atypical for us,” Faley said. “This winter has not been easy.”

South Middleton has purchased more salt and anti-skid mix, but it and other municipalities should expect to be using more materials this week.

The ABC27 forecast calls for sunny skies Thursday with a high of 30, while Friday brings another chance of snow showers, with cloudy skies and milder air for the start of the weekend on Saturday.

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South Middleton Schools
Dieter to retire as South Middleton Schools director of athletics, facilities

Effective Feb. 16, Patrick L. Dieter will be retiring as director of athletics and facilities for South Middleton School District.

School board members voted unanimously Monday to accept with regret the resignation of Dieter who worked about 35 years with the district, including two stints as its athletic director.

David Shields, an English teacher at Boiling Springs High School, has been the assistant athletic director for about 20 years under a separate extra duty contract, said Matthew Ulmer, operations and business manager.

In the past, Shields has worked as the district game manager mostly for the fall and winter sports seasons, acting Superintendent Bruce Deveney said. “Not so much the spring.”

The district will be looking for someone, if not Shields, to work as the game manager during the upcoming spring season, Deveney said. He said high school principal Joel Hain and assistant principal Mark Correll will split the administrative duties of athletic director until a permanent replacement for Dieter is found by the start of the 2018-19 school year.

Still coaching

Dieter will stay on as coach of the varsity boys’ basketball team for the rest of its season, Deveney said. Ulmer said Dieter is on a separate coaching contract.

Dieter was the district athletic director for many years until he expressed a desire to return to the classroom as a high school government teacher, board member Michael Berk said. He said Dieter’s students used to attend school board meetings for extra credit.

“When we need someone to step up and help us, he came back out of the classroom and back into this department,” Berk said. “He helped us to rejuvenate the [athletic] department. We are grateful for all the years of service he has given us both as a teacher and as athletic director.”

Dieter is considered one of the deans of basketball coaches in this area, board president Randy Varner said. “He is universally respected.”

The board in early July 2012 appointed Dieter to the position of athletic director to replace Scott Govern, who had resigned that June.