Third and State This Week: Mid-year Budget Update, a Tax Break for Jet Sales & Latest Economic News

Programming Note: Third and State will be taking some time off for the holidays. We'll be back on January 3, 2012. Have a wonderful holiday and a happy new year.

This week, we blogged about a special tax break being proposed for jet sales, the mid-year state budget update and the latest economic news.


  • On the state budget, Sharon Ward got déjà vu when she heard Budget Secretary Charles Zogby warn in the mid-year budget briefing that more state service cuts are on the way in 2012.
  • On state taxes, Chris Lilienthal highlighted a Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center analysis of a new special tax break for private jet sales that some lawmakers are advocating. He also shared a recent ABC 27 news report on a tongue-in-cheek "billionaire's press conference" in support of this new tax giveaway.
  • In the Morning Must Reads, Mark Price blogged about news stories on perfectly legal forms of wage theft, job layoffs and property tax hikes, new home sales data, and a planned increase in the Ohio minimum wage.

We will return on January 3, 2012. Have a wonderful holiday and a happy new year.

Morning Must Reads: Minimum Wage Moving Higher in Ohio and Happy Holidays

Mixed in with this morning's news of holiday surprise layoff notices and property tax hikes is some good news for low-wage workers in Ohio where the minimum wage will rise to $7.70 on Jan 1.

Third and State This Week: Corporate Tax Avoidance, Insurance Rate Review and Prevailing Wage

This week, we blogged about a new report on state tax avoidance by some of the largest U.S. corporations, how to really save money on public construction projects, and legislation that undermines the state’s ability to review most health insurance rate hikes.


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

Gutting Prevailing Wage Laws Will Hurt PA Economy

Legislative proposals to weaken Pennsylvania’s prevailing wage law covering state-funded public construction are a perennial in Harrisburg, but this year there are even more proposals than usual.

Some observers think that legislative action may result before the end of the year. I weighed in on the issue in an op-ed in Tuesday's Harrisburg Patriot-News, explaining that if the real motivation is to save money on state-funded construction projects, research points in a different direction than eroding the wages workers earn on these projects.

Third and State This Week: The Costs of Child Poverty, Too-Good-to-Be-True Liquor Privatization and Temp Workers

This week, we blogged about the economic costs of child poverty, a privatization study that is too good to be true, what the trends in temporary worker services suggest for Pennsylvania's economy, and much more.


  • On poverty, Chris Lilienthal blogged about an analysis estimating that child poverty costs the United States' economy $500 billion every year in foregone earnings, healthcare expenses, and crime involvement. 
  • On privatization, Stephen Herzenberg highlighted testimony presented by researchers with the Keystone Research Center this week making the point that privatization of Pennsylvania's wine and spirits stores would not benefit state revenues but could increase alcohol-related social problems. 
  • On jobs and unemployment, Sean Brandon explained what the employment trends of temporary workers could mean for Pennsylvania as an indicator of broader job market trends. 
  • And in the Morning Must Reads this week, Mark Price wrote about news report on $7.7 trillion in loans and guarantees the Federal Reserve provided to troubled banks, the growing number of elementary school students who qualify for subsidized school lunches, and the real root of high unemployment among today's youth
More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Morning Must Reads: Economic Austerity and School Lunch

More evidence of the lingering effects of economic austerity: Allegheny County looks headed for a property tax increase.

A tax hike appears likely for Allegheny County property owners next year after a county council committee recommended raising the real estate millage rate...

If the tax-rate increase to 5.69 mills is approved by a two-thirds majority of council, the owners of a property assessed at $100,000 will see their county tax bill rise $100, from $469 this year to $569 next year.

It would be the first millage increase under the 12-year-old executive-council form of government.

The New York Times this morning reports that the number of students participating in the subsidized school lunch program has risen sharply. The story is based on new data. Graphed below is older data for Pennsylvania and the U.S.

Steve Hebert, The New York TimesLine Grows Long for Free Meals at U.S. Schools:

Since 2007, the proportion of fourth graders eligible for free or reduced-price lunches through the federal government’s school meals program has increased nationwide to 52 percent, from 46 percent.

Below is a map from The New York Times story showing in which states more than half of all students are so poor they are eligible for a subsidized lunch (the darker red states). Remember this map next time a member of the business lobby tells you that economic policy in Pennsylvania should be more like economic policy in Southern states. The business lobby believes in low wages and free lunches.

Third and State This Week: Income Inequality, Stagnant Wages and Putting the Brakes on PA's Recovery

This week we blogged about how public-sector job losses are putting the brakes on the state's economic recovery, the top paid executives in Central Pennsylvania, and wage stagnation. In the Morning Must Reads, we also highlighted news stories on the economics of fracking, a new report on campaign contributions made by gas companies, new data on job openings, and much more.


  • On income inequality, Mark Price blogged that between 2000 and 2007, while Pennsylvania's per capita output grew, workers' wages remained stagnant. Stephen Herzenberg also had a post on Central Pennsylvania's highest-paid executives.
  • On jobs and the economy, Stephen Herzenberg wrote about a new policy brief from the Keystone Research Center showing that public-sector job losses are putting the brakes on Pennsylvania’s economic recovery.
  • In the Morning Must Reads this week, Mark Price highlighted new data on job openings, noting that there are 4.2 unemployed workers competing for each new job opening. He also wrote about a bleak employment outlook from Dean Baker and J-1 visas and teacher layoffs in Pittsburgh.
  • Mark Price also focused three Morning Must Reads this week on the Marcellus Shale. He highlighted a new study by Common Cause on campaign contributions made by natural gas companies in Pennsylvania; blogged about a news report stating that taxpayers could be stuck with most of the $100,000 it costs to plug an abandoned Marcellus gas well; and shared Paul Krugman's primer on the basic economics of fracking.

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

Third and State This Week: Income Inequality, Funding Woes for Schools and Transit, and a Citizens' Take on Shale

This week, we blogged about rising inequality, the financial troubles of public schools and public transportation, and the recommendations made by the Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission.


  • On the Marcellus Shale, Mark Price blogged about the Citizens Commission report, which found that Pennsylvanians believe gas drilling has moved too quickly and that public officials need to do a better job protecting their communities and environment. Chris Lilienthal also highlighted the report along with a recent press conference where lawmakers from both parties called for drillers to pay their fair share.
  • On inequality, Stephen Herzenberg shared his response to the speech on income inequality that U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor never delivered. The Congressman canceled his planned speech at the University of Pennsylvania last week after learning that the event would be open to the public. Also, Mark Price summarized new data from the Congressional Budget Office showing that the after-tax income of the richest 1% nearly tripled between 1979 and 2007.
  • On jobs and unemployment, Mark Price provided a rundown of Pennsylvania's September jobs report, which showed a loss of just over 15,000 jobs last month.
  • On state budget and taxes, Mark Price wrote about legislators' attempts to create a tax loophole for the sale and service of airplanes, while Pittsburgh's Port Authority remains significantly underfunded. Mark also pointed out that while Philadelphia schools are faced with further budget cuts, elected officials are considering a school voucher program that would drain even more revenue from public school classrooms. 

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

A Response to Eric Cantor on Inequality

Last Friday evening, I was asked to lead a Saturday afternoon "teach-in" on inequality to Occupy Harrisburg. Shortly after receiving this request, I got an email about a talk on income inequality that Eric Cantor, the Majority Leader of the U.S House of Representatives, had been scheduled to give Friday at the University of Pennsylvania.

Cantor canceled his talk at the eleventh hour, saying that he had only just learned his lecture would be open to the public. Cantor's prepared remarks, however, were published by The Daily Pennsylvanian.

Cantor’s remarks were a refreshingly honest discussion of opportunity in America and what he, a leading conservative, has to say on the issue. So I decided to make my introductory remarks to Occupy Harrisburg a take-off on and response to Cantor’s text. See who you think gets the better of the argument by reading my remarks and Cantor’s.

After I delivered my prepared remarks, I spent an hour in a very enjoyable back and forth with the audience. In my experience giving talks and teaching students at leading universities, I have rarely met such an informed and thoughtful group.

Third and State This Week: Gloomy Economic News, Trade Agreements and Tracking Salaries

This week, we blogged about the need for a jobs plan, an effort to make labor markets more transparent, and the negligible effect the recently passed trade agreements will have on reducing joblessness. Plus, the Friday Funny is back, with the warm words of everybody's favorite CEO, T. Herman Zweibel (extra points, if you know who that is without looking him up).


  • On the recession and recovery, Mark Price addressed a Patriot-News editorial that calls for passage of the American Jobs Act but misstates the important impact that the Recovery Act of 2009 had on turning the free-falling economy around. Mark also blogged about some of the awkward facts that make it difficult to root for GE and other multinationals.
  • On unemployment and the economy, Mark compared a poll performed by the Mercyhurst College Center for Applied Politics with labor analysis done by the Keystone Research Center — both finding that roughly 1 in 4 Pennsylvania residents have had less paid work than they wanted during the last 12 months.
  • In other economic news, Mark blogged about Congress' failure to address the lack of consumer demand that is keeping unemployment high and its passage of a free trade agreement that will have a negligible impact on U.S. employment.
  • On wages and the workplace, Chris Lilienthal blogged about an online project aimed at creating a more transparent labor market. You can share and compare salaries and wages, understand your rights on the job, and look up the salaries of politicians, CEOs, athletes, and Hollywood stars.
  • Lastly, a bit of humor after a gloomy news week. Chris shared some satire from The Onion's publisher emeritus, T. Herman Zweibel, who is shocked that his repeatedly mistreated employees are in disbelief that he would move their offices to the Yukon.

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

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