Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program)

Host: Scott LaMar

The Budget Deficit . . . Still? / Rise of the Robots / Over the Edge

Written by Rich Copeland - Producer, WITF's Smart Talk | Oct 8, 2017 12:00 PM
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On the Monday October 9th, 2017 edition of WITF's Smart Talk:

State lawmakers continue to grapple with each other and Governor Wolf as they seek to close the $2.2 billion funding gap in the 2017-18 state budget.  Wolf accused GOP legislators of playing politics with the budget, saying in a news conference last week "Too many Republicans in the Legislature are focused on the 2018 elections -- they'd rather see me fail than Pennsylvania succeed."

Republican lawmakers blame the governor and Democrats for failing to meet in the middle; House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "We were willing to go to the mat today to complete this process, but we've got to have a willing partner."

Wolf said last week he will borrow from liquor sales profits to plug the hole budget hole.  Democrats (and a few Republicans) in the state house are still pushing for a severance tax on natural gas drillers.  Republicans countered with a hotel tax and cuts in spending.  The Senate wants to tap the state's share of the tobacco settlement fund.  The House wants to transfer funds earmarked for transportation and environmental programs among other line items.  Almost everybody wants to expand gaming.

On the Monday edition of WITF's Smart Talk, we'll bring you up-to-date on efforts to balance the state's budget with WITF's Capitol Bureau Chief, Katie Meyer.

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Katie Meyer - WITF Capitol Bureau Chief

Back in February, researchers at Facebook were forced to shut down two robots operating with a shared artificial intelligence program.  The robots had "decided" that the English they were programmed with was inefficient and they developed their own language.  Or did they?

While the robots weren't ejecting astronauts into space, a la HAL 2000 or initiating global apocalypse like Skynet, it did raise some concerns about the viability of relying on AI and its practical applications in the future.  Smart Talk talks with Franklin & Marshall computer science professor Erik Talvitie about whether we should start planning for an impending robot invasion.

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Franklin & Marshall computer science professor Erik Talvitie

Also, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region have been pairing area youths with role models since 1981 helping to develop relationships that are "built on trust and friendship that can blossom into a future of unlimited potential."

Big Brothers Big Sisters is hosting a truly unique fundraiser - an opportunity to rappel from the roof of Market Square Plaza in Harrisburg.  "Over the Edge" takes place October 13th.

We'll speak with Maddie Young, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region, about the event and the positive impact of matching youths with mentors.


Maddie Young, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region / Paul Perini, III - Big Brother volunteer


- Pennsylvania has a regressive flat tax of 3.07% that impacts the wages of middle and low income families far greater than the compensation of high income families.

Not all families are sharing the tax burden, particularly that middle and low income families are not receiving their share of productivity gains

With productivity gains being concentrated at the top tiers the flat tax is equal but not fair.

I suggest a financial tax on transactions or sales.                                                    - Larry, Lancaster

- There was a time many years ago when the state actually raised the income tax to pay for services that the citizens wanted. It would not take a very large increase in the 3.07% rate to close the structural deficit. That would be a way to spread the pain over everyone that has income. And it would end all the gimmicks being played with now.                                       - Don

- Why are we supporting the horse racing in PA? Insurance for people that work at the track is always the reason I hear... Shouldn't this group have to buy insurance off the market like everyone else? Why are we spending millions for an industry that can't support itself?      - Tammy

- The Midnight 2001 Pension Vote

This has been called illegal.  Is it? Can it be rescinded without penalty to the beneficiaries?

If I remember, the judiciarly, the legislature, and some state workers were greatly rewarded in this 'grab'.  

The Patriot-News reported that "according to the Public School Employees' Retirement System, the original benefits, if left alone, would leave the taxpayers' pension tab to be about 40% of what it is today - about $2billion.

We can at least label this Gov. Tom Ridge's legacy: he signed the legislation!    - Richard

- Here's a small revenue source.

End safety inspections for privately owned and operated passenger cars and add the cost of inspections to registration fees.

Statistics do not support improved highway safety as a result of these inspections.

Neighboring states do not require it and their accident statistics are no worse than Pennsylvania's.                                                                           - Michael, Dillsberg

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