Morning Must Reads: Governing Little or Just Governing Badly?

On Tuesday, The Nation ran a story profiling the changes in economic and social policy in the states following the 2010 election. (Wonky readers may also enjoy Konczal and Covert's short briefing paper on the same subject.)

Nearly all of the job losses took place at the state and local level, and they were most severe in a handful of GOP-controlled states. In other words, erosion of public sector employment isn’t a problem affecting the entire country equally—it’s a problem in particular states, thanks to very particular legislators. As the following chart shows, seven states laid off more than 2.5 percent of their own state and local workforce. Other states lost, on average, less than half a percent of their workforce.

Speaking of public-sector job cuts and governance, the Philadelphia Daily News has an unflattering editorial and news story on two recent aspects of governance coming out of Harrisburg. 

FROM THOSE wonderful workers at the state Department of Public Welfare — the ones who will soon have to start verifying the assets of up to 1.8 million recipients of food stamps in the state — comes a massive backlog of applications for heating assistance that could lead to utility shut-offs for tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians as soon as next week.

Lawyers from Community Legal Services sent a letter Tuesday to the Public Utility Commission asking that utility customers who filed for help from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) not be penalized by the Welfare Department's inability to process more than 50,000 applications when the winter moratorium expires Sunday. They want the moratorium extended for those customers who have filed a LIHEAP application...

A new asset test for food-stamp recipients, for example, begins May 1 that will require state workers to review and verify the assets of nearly 2 million food-stamp recipients. Given the LIHEAP backlog, it's fair to assume that this food-stamp change could be a disaster movie in the making.

Clearly, neither Gov. Corbett nor DPW Secretary Gary Alexander acknowledge that imposing additional controls takes more time and resources. Or maybe they do, and they believe that if they make it more difficult for people to reach the DPW and get their requests processed, they'll simply give up.

That's not welfare reform. That's a massive failure in management — and in governing.

When Stephen Branch visited the state driver's license center on Ogontz Avenue last week with his birth certificate and Social Security card, a clerk told him he'd have to pay $13.50 for what's supposed to be a free voter-ID card.

"I showed him my papers and [the Daily News] article about free IDs, but he wouldn't listen," Branch said.

He's one of several voters who have complained about inconsistencies with the controversial new voter-ID law.

The Patriot-News and Carlisle Sentinel profile more examples of the second wave of public-sector layoffs and property tax increases necessitated by high unemployment and this year’s expected budget cuts.

As public school districts across the midstate begin building their budgets for the next school year, a slow, steady song is emerging.

It contains three main beats; deficits, staff furloughs and program cutbacks.

Mechanicsburg Area School Board got its first look at a proposed $53.6 million budget for 2012-2013 that calls for a 1 percent tax hike and a net reduction in staff of about seven full-time positions.

The Scranton Times-Tribune has an interesting nugget on failures in governance in a story about a bill moving to repair infrastructure damaged during last year’s floods.

A bill approved by a House panel Monday would use more than $66 million from the state motor license fund to help pay for repairs to state-owned flood-damaged roads in Northeast Pennsylvania and other sections of the Susquehanna River Basin...

The future of the motor license fund is subject to debate with state gasoline tax revenue declining due to greater vehicle fuel efficiency. A gubernatorial commission made recommendations last summer for new sources of transportation revenue, but Gov. Tom Corbett has yet to act on them.


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