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Seventh annual Church of the Redeemer Street Fair a success

SAYRE — The Saturday sun brought many Valley residents of all ages to Howard Elmer Park in Sayre for the annual Street Faire held by the Church of the Redeemer.

The event originally started as the church’s youth group’s way to accrue funds for a new roof, but the event has been continued due to it becoming a community spirit event, according to seven year Co-Chairman Margaret Cole.

“The church really rallies, you barely have to ask anyone to be involved with it and everybody is here pitching in to put this together since 6 a.m.,” stated Cole.

Vendors were brought in to offer everything from popcorn to essential oils alongside parrish members who were in charge of pies, beverages and other food products. This year’s fair had a few more vendors, totaling at 31, and saw almost the whole park filled with tents, according to Vender Organizer Emily Skjold.

“The church has been a member of the community for 100 plus years, but it’s nice to get out and let the community meet us and see what we are about,” said Cole. “Start as strangers and end up as friends as a hymn just said a couple weeks ago which is how it kind of is.”

Cole expected a good turn out due to the nice weather, which was in contrast to the snowy day that they had last year.

“It is such a beautiful day, last year we froze to death so the numbers weren’t as high as usual,” stated Cole. “As a church we are just a loving bunch of people, we welcome anybody that wants to come and see what we are about.”

Funds from the event were designated towards church expenses, youth events and a variety of outreach programs offered by the Church of the Redeemer.


editor / Pat McDonald/Morning Times  

The Sayre Elks Lodge No. 1148 held a chicken barbecue on Saturday. Pictured here, Sayre Elks Exalted Ruler Kyle Bennett (left) and Trustee Jack Swingle check out some of the product before taking it off the grill.


AP
Strong cash flow smooths budget work, but not Wolf's agenda

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — With strong tax collections oiling the gears, Gov. Tom Wolf and leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature are working under the hood of a new spending plan as they head into the final weeks of voting sessions before lawmakers break for summer.

Front and center is an approximately $34 billion budget package that is expected to pass before Pennsylvania’s new fiscal year starts July 1.

Top Republican lawmakers are steering much of the work right now on hundreds of pages of budget-related legislation behind closed doors. A strengthening revenue projection for next year is easing some of the strain of assembling a budget, although there’s never a shortage of demands on the state’s cash.

Meanwhile, the Democratic governor is pressing Republicans to take up at least a couple of his top agenda items before they leave the Capitol until September.

Top Republicans have made it clear that they’ll block Wolf’s $4.5 billion Restore Pennsylvania plan to increase aid for infrastructure and redevelopment needs. Wolf crisscrossed the state all spring to build support for it and his aides say it will pass if put to a vote.

Here is a look at major items before lawmakers:

BUDGET

Wolf in February proposed a $34.1 billion budget plan for the 2019-20 fiscal year, an increase from the current year’s $32.7 billion approved spending package. The increase largely would go toward early childhood education, public schools and growing costs for health care, pensions and debt.

Wolf is asking lawmakers to approve another $750 million to cover cost overruns in the current fiscal year, making his request more than $2 billion in new spending, or 6% more. The good news for budget-makers is that the state collected about $800 million above its original revenue projection, giving it the cash to cover those cost overruns.

House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, said he wants next year’s spending figure to land well below $34 billion and to deposit money into the state’s budgetary reserve account. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, has said he wants to add more money for higher education, early childhood education and community redevelopment aid.

Projections of next year’s revenue collection are about $34.5 billion, after refunds, possibly giving the state a financial cushion.

WOLF’S AGENDA

Much of the governor’s agenda is treading water in the Legislature.

His proposal to increase the minimum wage — currently at the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour since 2009 — has sparked discussion with Republicans, but no action.

Top Republicans have flatly dismissed Wolf’s Restore Pennsylvania plan and proposal for a tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production to pay for it.

Wolf has gained little traction with his proposal to raise the minimum wage for public school teachers from $18,500 to $45,000 and to impose a fee on municipalities that do not have their own full-time police force and instead rely solely upon state police for coverage.

Smaller items may pass, such as proposals to pump more money into workforce initiatives, like skills training for in-demand trades, and to expand the compulsory age for school attendance.

HEALTH CARE

Wolf’s administration is pressing for passage of a newly introduced bill to take over the online health insurance exchange that’s been operated by the federal government under the Affordable Care Act.

The administration says it can operate the exchange for less and then use the savings, plus new federal reinsurance dollars it can request, to reduce premiums for the 400,000 people who purchase health insurance through the Healthcare.gov online marketplace.

The administration says it can bring the savings into full effect in 2021 if the bill to passes this month.

TRANSPORTATION

Pennsylvania is under pressure reduce the amount of highway construction funds that pay for state police costs and the amount of Pennsylvania Turnpike toll dollars that go to public transit systems.

Highway dollars now underwrite almost two-thirds of the state police’s budget, $770 million out of $1.3 billion, while the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is raising tolls and going deeper into debt to support annual payments of $450 million a year to support public transit systems.

A 2017 report by a state legislative committee suggested that more than $200 million a year in highway construction funds are being diverted unconstitutionally to the state police’s budget.

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Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/timelywriter .


AP
US-Mexico deal offers few new solutions, political victory

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s deal to avert his threatened tariffs on Mexico includes few new solutions to swiftly stem the surge of Central American migrants flowing over America’s southern border.

But it delivers enough for Trump to claim a political win.

The decision — announced by tweet late Friday — ended a showdown that business leaders warned would have disastrous economic consequences for both the U.S. and one of its largest trading partners, driving up consumer prices and driving a wedge between the two allies. And it represented a win for members of Trump’s own party who had flooded the White House with pleading calls as well as aides who had been eager to convince the president to back down.

But ultimately, it gives Trump the ability to claim victory on a central campaign promise that has been largely unfulfilled as he prepares to formally launch his 2020 campaign.

“In the face of naysayers, President Trump yet again delivered a huge victory for the American people,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement, applauding the president for using “the threat of tariffs to bring Mexico to the table” and “showing that he is willing to use every tool in his toolbox to protect the American people.”

Trump ran in 2016 pledging to crack down on illegal immigration, but instead has watched as the number of border crossings has spiked to its highest level in over a decade — with U.S. Border Patrol apprehending more than 132,000 people in May, including a record 84,542 adults and children traveling together. That surge has been straining federal resources, leaving officials struggling to provide basic housing and health care to families fleeing violence and poverty in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

With Trump overseas and an unproductive opening negotiating session with Mexican officials Wednesday, many at the White House had expected Trump to move forward with the 5% tariff he’d threaten to slap on all Mexican goods on Monday in an effort to strong-arm the country into action, according to people familiar with the deliberations. Aides including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were no personal fans of the policy, but they understood Trump’s frustration and presented several suggestions to the Mexican delegation to walk him back. They also made clear that Trump was dead set on the tariffs without dramatic action.

U.S. officials were nonetheless surprised when talks resumed Thursday and Mexico agreed to some of the things Pence had put on the table, including an expansion of a program that forces some asylum-seekers to return to Mexico as they wait for their cases to be adjudicated. And while such a measure never made it into the agreement, Mexican officials also expressed an openness to discussing something they had long opposed: having Mexico become a “safe third country,” which would make it harder for asylum-seekers who pass through the country to claim refuge in the U.S.

Conversations continued Friday during a marathon session at the State Department led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, with Trump briefed by phone aboard Air Force One.

A final decision was made during an evening conference call once Trump return to the White House on Friday evening, and shortly thereafter he fired off his tweet announcing the deal.

The decision was a relief for Trump aides— nearly all of whom were united in opposition to the tariffs, disagreeing on principle and in practice. It also came as relief for Republican lawmakers and their allies in the business community, who’d spent the week burning up White House phones and personally nudging the president to back down. In a rare rebuke, several had threatened to block the effort, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying publicly there was little support.

Still, one Republican who discussed the situation on condition of anonymity said the outreach from Capitol Hill appeared to play far less a role than the concessions made by the Mexicans — particularly the agreement to expand the remain-in-Mexico policy.

Critics, meanwhile, pointed out that little announced on Friday appeared to be new.

A joint statement released by the State Department said Mexico had agreed to “take unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration,” including the deployment of its new National Guard, with a focus on its porous southern border with Guatemala. Mexico, however, had already intended to deploy the National Guard to the southern border and had made that clear to U.S. officials.

The U.S. also hailed Mexico’s agreement to embrace the expansion of a program under which some asylum-seekers are returned to Mexico as they wait out their cases. But the remain-in-Mexico program was implemented earlier this year and, from the start, U.S. officials have vowed to rapidly expand it, even without Mexico’s public support. Indeed, officials from the Department of Homeland Security were working to spread the program, which has already led to the return of about 10,000 to Mexico, before the latest blowup, though it has been plagued with scheduling glitches and delays. Immigration activists also have challenged the program in court, arguing that it violates migrants’ legal rights. An appeals court recently overturned a federal judge who had blocked the program as it makes its way through the courts.

Administration officials noted the deal leaves open the possibility of “further actions” if “the measures adopted do not have the expected results.” And while the “third safe country” agreement did not make it into the deal, it is something officials plan to continue to discuss in the coming months.

The reversal nonetheless sparked mocking from Democrats, including Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who sarcastically declared Friday “an historic night!” after Trump claimed the deal would “greatly reduce, or eliminate, Illegal Immigration coming from Mexico and into the United States.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also weighed in, calling the tariff threat “reckless” and panning the remain-in-Mexico policy as a violation of migrants’ legal rights.

“Threats and temper tantrums are no way to negotiate foreign policy,” she said.

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Associated Press writer Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.