Latest Pennsylvania business


Wolf renews case for his agenda in Facebook session

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Governor Tom Wolf has renewed the case for his agenda in his second official appearance on social media.

Hundreds of written questions expressing different viewpoints were submitted for Wolf's "Facebook Town Hall" yesterday, but they were distilled into about a dozen questions that an aide read to the governor in the style of an interview.

In contrast, last month's "Twitter Town Hall" was faster-paced and allowed citizens and groups to interact with Wolf directly.

Wolf is defending his proposal to increase and broaden the state sales tax to generate more than $3 billion a year to underwrite much of his plan to slash school property taxes and provide new aid to pre-kindergarten programs and public schools. He's also restating his support for a new tax on natural gas drilling.


Comcast to establish strategic investment company

NEW YORK (AP) — Comcast is establishing a firm with $4.1 billion in capital commitments to invest in fast-growing companies.

Michael Angelakis, Comcast's chief financial officer, will be the company's CEO.

Comcast will invest $4 billion in the venture, and at least $40 million will be invested personally by Angelakis. The remainder will come from other senior members of the new company's management team. The company will have an exclusive, 10-year partnership with Comcast as sole outside investor.

The cable company has begun a search for Angelakis' successor.

Comcast Corporation, based in Philadelphia, is in the midst of a $45 billion deal to acquire Time Warner Cable.


Morgan Stanley cuts estimate of US online market in half

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Morgan Stanley has cut its estimate of the potential U.S. Internet gambling market by nearly half.

The firm now estimates the nationwide online betting market at $2.7 billion by 2020, down from an initial estimate of $5 billion.

It also predicts no additional states will approve Internet gambling this year but foresees California and Pennsylvania doing so next year, followed by New York and Illinois by 2018.

Three states — Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware — have legalized Internet gambling, but online betting is off to a slow start.

It took in $135 million last year; Morgan Stanley initially forecast $678 million.

Morgan Stanley predicts 15 states will have legalized online gambling by 2020.

It also thinks a federal ban on Internet gambling remains unlikely but is a growing risk.


US home prices rise modestly, but affordability an obstacle

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home price increases continued to rise at a steady pace in January, as the housing market deals with affordability problems and few properties listed for sale.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 4.6 percent in January compared with 12 months earlier. That is up from growth of 4.4 percent in December.

Few Americans have listed their homes for sale, with the tight inventory keeping prices higher. Robust hiring and low mortgage rates have raised the possibility of stronger sales, yet home prices have appreciated at a significantly faster pace than wages.

The Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. The index measures prices compared with those in January of 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The January figures are the latest available.


US Steel to idle part of Minntac; 680 layoffs expected

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — U.S. Steel plans to idle part of its Minntac plant in northeastern Minnesota, resulting in layoffs for about 680 workers.

It's the latest symptom of the downturn in the American steel and iron mining industry. U.S. Steel cites high steel imports, dumping and low steel prices.

U.S. Steel spokeswoman Courtney Boone says the layoffs at the Minntac plant in Mountain Iron are temporary, but the company can't speculate how long they'll last. Mountain Iron is about 200 miles north of Minneapolis.

Earlier this month U.S. Steel said it would idle its Keetac plant in Keewatin effective May 13th, resulting in 412 workers laid off. And Magnetation announced in February that it was shutting down its Keewatin plant, resulting in about 20 job losses.


Contractor killed at natural gas terminal near Philadelphia

MARCUS HOOK, Pa. (AP) — Sunoco Logistics says a contractor has died in an industrial accident at its oil and natural gas storage and processing facility outside Philadelphia.

Company spokesman Joe McGinn says the contractor was fatally injured around 2:30 p.m. Monday at the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex near the Pennsylvania-Delaware border.

Sunoco Logistics did not release the contractor's name.

McGinn says the company's deepest sympathies are with the contractor's family and friends. He says they've suffered a devastating loss.

Sunoco Logistics is converting the 800-acre Marcus Hook complex from an oil refinery to a natural gas storage facility and terminal.


Jewelry expert testifies in $20M insurance fraud-fires case

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A jewelry expert is testifying against a political fundraiser charged in a $20 million insurance scheme that Pennsylvania prosecutors say involved three mansion fires in five years.

Prosecutors hope to show GOP hostess Claire Risoldi claimed losses for jewelry that later turned up in her bank deposit box.

Prosecution expert Don Palmieri believes that at least some of the jewelry reported stolen after a 2013 fire were custom pieces and Risoldi wouldn't have owned duplicates.

The weeklong preliminary hearing in Bucks County Court will determine if Risoldi, her two adult children and two others will face trial.

Her husband fatally shot himself in February, citing the pressure of defending against what he called false accusations.

Authorities say the family lived lavishly on insurance proceeds at their 10-acre estate near Philadelphia.


Corbett gets nearly $40K pension for 11 years' state service

(Information in the following story is from: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, )

PITTSBURGH (AP) — For his 11 years of state government service, former Republican Governor Tom Corbett is collecting a pension of nearly $40,000.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Corbett's $38,765 state pension is based on a final average salary of $186,204. The amount reflects annual cost-of-living raises Corbett declined as salary.

Corbett served over a year as an appointed attorney general, six years as an elected attorney general and four years as governor before his defeat by Democrat Tom Wolf.

Records show the former governor also withdrew a $118,000 lump-sum payment based on his contributions, with four percent interested earned.

Corbett had pushed for reform of the state's pension system. His former press secretary says had Corbett been successful, he would have been willing to convert his guaranteed pension to a 401(k)-type plan.