Which Direction for America? What's at Stake in the Health Care Debate?

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One of the fascinating / distressing things about the health care debate on Facebook is that it's bringing the truth out in a way that the debate in the Senate is not.

If you have any doubt that this is a inflection point in our history, in which the forces of tolerance, compassion and justice are arrayed against the forces of bigotry, greed, and injustice, look at what the opponents of the ACA are saying.

Guest Blog Post from Kristen Dama: Why We Can't Go Back to Life Before the ACA

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Kristen Dama is an attorney at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia. She works on human service issues. This moving story of what life was like before the ACA tells us why it is so important to save it. If you want to really help, contact Robin Stelly at robin@pahealthaccess.org and tell her you want to join a phone bank to help contact Senators who may be convinced to vote against the legislation that repeals the ACA and devastates Medicaid.

Guest Blog Post from Det Ansinn: Why Businesses Need the ACA

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Republican ideologues often talk about the burdens of the ACA business. So we thought it might be useful to hear from a real businessman about whether the ACA helps or hurts his business. Det Ansinn is a software engineer and entrepreneur who founded his software development company BrickSimple in 2002. It is based in Doylestown, PA, and has offices in three other states and employes over 50 people. BrickSimple creates innovative software for mobile applications.

Pennsylvanians Ask PA Congressional Delegation to Reject Inhumane Cuts to Vital Federal Budget Programs

Nearly 70 Pennsylvania organizations signed on to the letter below asking members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation to reject inhumane cuts to vital federal government programs:
 
To The Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation: 
  
President Trump’s budget features deep cuts in assistance that helps struggling families afford the basics – food on the table, a roof over their heads, and access to health care – as well as stunning cuts in a range of basic public services and investments in our nation, such as job training, K-12 education, access to college, scientific research, and economic development. At the same time, the President has called for massive tax cuts that will overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest households and corporations.

Apprenticeship Weak: Trump proposal fails to tap into apprenticeship’s potential

This piece was originally posted on the Economic Policy Institute's Working Economics Blog here: http://www.epi.org/blog/trump-apprenticeship-proposal

Everyone loves apprenticeships (including me) as a basic model for learning work-related skills, but for the most part, policymakers don’t think very hard about why there’s so little apprenticeship in the United States. For that reason, we’re likely to continue talking about how great apprenticeship is but not making significant investments in it. President Trump’s underwhelming plan to expand apprenticeships, unveiled this past week, won’t change that. His initiative will add $100 million (less than a dollar per U.S. worker) to the budget for apprenticeship and give employers more flexibility (i.e., unilateral control without objective oversight or minimum standards) in structuring new apprenticeships, but does little to address the underlying reasons why the United States lags behind our peers when it comes to apprenticeships.

A Severance Tax: The Basics

Pennsylvania has been considering a severance tax on natural gas for years. Here are four reasons it is long overdue: 

1. A severance tax can bring in substantial and, as natural gas prices rise, growing revenues to help close our budget and investment deficits now and in the future. Governor Wolf’s proposal is projected to bring in $349 million next year, $712 million in 2018-2019 and $1.15 billion a year by 2021-22. (These are net revenues after deducting a credit for the impact fee already paid by natural gas drillers.) Even a tax at slightly lower levels brings in over $200 million next year and close to a billion dollars a year 2021-2022.

What is the Fair Share Tax?

The main reason that Pennsylvania’s tax system is so upside down — with the top 1% paying only 4.3% of their income in taxes while the middle 20% pays 10% — is that the Pennsylvania Constitution prohibits us from enacting a graduated personal income tax. Sales and property taxes tend to take a higher percentage of the income of taxpayers at the bottom and in the middle than at the top. But graduated income taxes in many states — including all of our neighbors — compensate by taxing those at the top at a higher rate.

What Would an Adequate Pennsylvania Budget Look Like This Year?

What Would an Adequate Pennsylvania Budget Look Like This Year? 

A really good budget for Pennsylvania would begin addressing our long-term public investment deficit. It would provide new funds to: 

  • eliminate our worst-in-the-nation inequality in K-12 school funding; 
  • expand pre-K education to all three and four year-olds;
  • make higher education more accessable, especially to students from low-income families;
  • restore the funding that would allow the Department of Environment to better protect our air and water;
  • provide new funding to repair roads and bridges and support public transit.

With Public Pensions Done, It’s Time Now for a Victory on Retirement Security...and a Great State Budget

Roughly five years after Gov. Corbett first began an effort to eliminate guaranteed pensions for future school and state employees, Gov. Wolf today signed a bill that reduces the guaranteed portion of future pensions by about three-eighths (because the pension increases with each year of service by 1.25% of final salary instead of 2%). Alongside this smaller guaranteed pension, future employees will receive a 401(k)-style savings account. If these savings are converted into a second monthly check – an “annuity” – “actuaries” estimate (Table 9, p. 19) that the total retirement benefit for future career employees will be within 16% to 18% of the retirement benefit received by employees under the prior (Act 120) pension plan (enacted in 2010).

In sum, the enacted pension compromise is a smaller cut in benefits than earlier “hybrid” (combined DB-DC) proposals (such as this one with a smaller DB multiplier). Together with Social Security, the new hybrid pension will maintain retirement security for future school and state employees.

Kansas’ Experiment Yields Valuable Lessons

The following post was written by Heidi Holliday, Executive Director at Kansas Center for Economic Growth. 

You’re welcome, America. Our state, Kansas, just wrapped up a 5-year long experiment in governance from which the other 49 states can now glean some important lessons. The Kansas Legislature has voted to roll back much of the 2012 package of tax cuts that sent the state into a downward spiral of financial instability and weakened the Kansas’ public schools, universities, Medicaid program, and virtually everything else that the state funds.

With the state facing yet another budget shortfall of $900 million, government leaders decided that enough was enough. Governor Brownback, who heralded the 2012 experiment, was proposing yet more temporary band-aid approaches and more cuts deal with the shortfalls. The Legislature chose a different path and instead sent the Governor a bill that would raise more than $1.2 billion in new revenue over two years by, among other things, repealing a costly tax break for pass-through income, rebalancing individual income tax rates by reinstating a third tax bracket, and reversing course on the Governor’s plan to eliminate our state income tax. Brownback vetoed the legislation but, with bipartisan support, the House and Senate quickly overrode the veto.

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