August 2012 Posts

Third and State This Week: State of Working PA, New Online Sales Tax Rules & Honoring Work on Labor Day

This week at Third and State, we blogged about the State of Working Pennsylvania, new rules that will close an online sales tax loophole (at least a little bit), new budget guidelines for 2013-14, honoring work on Labor Day, and much more.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

  • On jobs and the economy, Mark Price wrote about layoffs in the Pittsburgh School District and the Keystone Research Center's State of Working Pennsylvania report that came out this week. The Keystone report concludes that Pennsylvania and the nation need a new policy direction to lift up working and middle-income families.
  • On state tax policy, Michael Wood blogged about a rule change that will level the playing field somewhat between online retailers and bricks-and-mortar stores by requiring retailers like Amazon, with a physical presence in Pennsylvania, to collect sales tax on online purchases.
  • On state policy, Jamar Thrasher highlighted news reports on new 2013-14 budget guidelines from the Corbett administration and a new type of voter ID introduced this week.
  • And in honor of Labor Day, Mark Price highlighted a few commentaries honoring work and calling for a middle class-friendly economic policy.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Morning Must Reads: Honoring Work and Calling for a New Middle-Class Friendly Economic Policy

It is almost here, Labor Day weekend. That means family parties, celebrations and, of course, reverence for the holiness of work that ALSO affords us what workers in the last century called bread and roses. In that spirit, Rick Bloomingdale has an excellent op-ed this morning celebrating the creation of the middle class in this country and calling for a new direction in economic policy.

Morning Must Reads: More On Layoffs in the Pittsburgh School District and State of Working PA

State of Working PA 2012I'm back! Unfortunately, I will not be appearing in a film with 80s action stars, but I will once again be dishing out news and policy analysis each morning. I want to thank all my regular readers who organized that petition to get me back blogging (yeah, I didn't see it either; I'm sure people were just busy).

I took a break to finish up the State of Working Pennsylvania, which by the way came out Wednesday morning. Here is the coverage so far.

Pennsylvania to Close Online Sales Tax Loophole — a Little

Over the years, online retailers have been resistant to collecting sales tax from Pennsylvania customers for otherwise taxable purchases. Doing so gave these companies an unfair price advantage over their bricks-and-mortar competitors that are, rightfully, required to collect sales tax.

The Scranton Times Tribune reports that the playing field will be leveled somewhat, as revised Department of Revenue rules go into effect for sales tax collection next month.

Morning Must Reads: New Budget Guidelines Envision Even More Cuts Next Year and a New Voter ID Debuts

Less than two months into the new fiscal year, the Corbett administration is out with internal budgetary guidelines for the 2013-14 fiscal year — and, you guessed it, more cuts are on the menu.

The administration cites declining federal funds and increased mandatory state expenses, including higher costs for health care and prisons. The new guidelines specifically tell state departments and agencies that if they lose federal funding, they should not request additional state funding to offset the loss.

Sharon Ward of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center asks in a story by the PA Independent whether that blanket approach is wise.

Third and State This Week: PA Falling Short on Voter ID & $500 Million Lost to Natural Gas Tax Giveaway

This week at Third and State, we blogged about a report on problems with the state's implementation of the Voter ID Law, revenue lost to the state by not having a Marcellus Shale drilling tax, private schools choosing "Opportunity Scholarship" students and more.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

  • On the Voter ID Law, Sharon Ward wrote about a recent Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center report finding that the commonwealth is not ready to issue a photo ID to everyone who needs one for the November election.
  • On the Marcellus Shale, Michael Wood blogged that while natural gas drillers extracted over $8 billion worth of natural gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale between July 2009 and June 2012, the commonwealth lost out on hundreds of millions in revenue by not having a drilling tax in place.
  • On education, Jamar Thrasher wrote about a Reading Eagle article explaining that private schools will be able to pick and choose students who are eligible for Opportunity Scholarships.
  • And Chris Lilienthal had a Must Read this week about the restoration of mortgage assistance for struggling homeowners and the appointment of a school vouchers advocate to lead the financial recovery process at the Chester Upland School District.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Private Schools Able to Pick and Choose Students Getting Opportunity Scholarships

Advocates of Pennsylvania's new Opportunity Scholarship Program often say the goal is to give parents more choice in where their children go to school. An article this week in the Reading Eagle suggests it may be the other way around.

The Opportunity Scholarship Program was enacted along with the 2012-13 state budget. Modeled on the state's Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program, it provides tax credits to businesses that make donations to organizations providing scholarships to students in low-achieving districts. The program is funded at $50 million in 2012-13.

Chaos at the PennDOT

Now that Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson has given the green light to Pennsylvania’s strictest in-the-nation Voter ID Law, tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians will have to make their way to their local PennDOT office to get a photo ID. We can tell you, it won’t be easy.

Pennsylvania's Natural Gas Tax Giveaway Exceeds $500 Million Mark

Blog post updated: September 11, 2012

The state's Department of Environmental Production (DEP) recently published a biannual report on Marcellus Shale production in Pennsylvania. (Most states require monthly reporting, but that is a different story.) In the data, we can now see how much the state has really given away by refusing to put a robust gas extraction tax in place — and the sum is staggering.

Midday Must Reads: Vouchers Advocate to Lead Chester Upland's Recovery and Mortgage Assistance Reborn

There is some dismay in the Chester Upland School District about the state's appointment of Joe Watkins, who heads a political action committee that supports school vouchers, to lead the school district's financial recovery process.