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The Just In: October 8 - 15 

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Budget Battle

Summary: The state budget saga continues, and a lady visiting the zoo is none too pleased. Reporter: Alan Jennings, WPXI Channel 11 Airtime: 1 minute, 28 seconds on Sept. 29 Visuals: * A chart breaking down some of the state's proposals, with the caption, "Paying the Price." * Jennings, reporting from roadside as motorists whir behind him outside Pittsburgh's zoo. Highlights: * When anchor David Johnson leads in: "Well, the race to complete a new state budget in Pennsylvania hits the home stretch. Governor Ed Rendell wants it on his desk and signed by Sunday, but to get the job done, there are new taxes and fees you might not like." * When a female visitor to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium bemoans, "[A]ll we're getting is taxed on this, taxed on that. We're not going to be able to enjoy anything." * When Jennings details, "Here's what taxpayers are facing if the state budget gets approved: The state lawmakers want to divert about $50 million a year in slot-machine gambling revenue from the state's horse breeders. They're counting on $115 million over two years for leasing more state forest land for gas drilling. And, they want to tap more than $800 million in reserves previously meant to help doctors in hospitals pay their medical-malpractice insurance premiums." * When Jennings adds, "And lawmakers want to slap a sales tax worth about $120 million onto the price of admission to music concerts and other performing arts, museums, historical sites, parks and zoos. Darci doesn't like it." * When the female zoo visitor affirms, "Don't like it. Another thing that they're gonna tax us on. Taxes just keep going up on everything, and I don't think something we enjoy as a family should be taxed." * When Jennings concludes, "Those we talked to today here at the zoo -- those that were visiting -- feel like they're being nickel-and-dimed. That nothing is sacred anymore. That state lawmakers are just taking the fun out of everything." What We Learned: The budget deal fell apart not long after this report ... demonstrating yet again that Harrisburg is already taxing our patience. Unanswered Question: Have state lawmakers ever been in the business of putting fun into anything? News Value: 1. I'm certainly not in love with the idea that, even as funding for the arts is being cut, we could be taxed more to attend cultural events. But the knee-jerk response that Jennings elicits just makes Pittsburghers seem like a bunch of whiners who have no idea why we're whining.

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