Third and State This Week: Unemployment Benefits, Drilling Fee Bill and the Latest Jobs Report

This week, we blogged about a drilling fee bill moving in the Pennsylvania Senate, a resolution to the legislative standoff over extended unemployment benefits, an update on the May jobs report and more.


  • On Marcellus Shale, Michael Wood writes about changes to Senator Joseph Scarnati's drilling impact fee plan that makes an already weak bill a lot weaker.
  • On the state budget, Kate Atkins blogs about a budget rally last week that featured umbrellas on a sunny day and a message to lawmakers that fiscally and economically it is still raining in Pennsylvania.
  • On unemployment, Mark Price highlights the passage of state legislation that preserves extended federal unemployment benefits for 45,000 Pennsylvanians but comes at a cost for future unemployed workers.
  • Finally, on jobs and the economy, Mark writes that Pennsylvania's May jobs report provides some cause for concern.

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

May Jobs Report Cause for Concern

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.4% in May, down from 7.5% in April, according to a report from the state Department of Labor and Industry today.

Overall, the seasonally adjusted number of nonfarm jobs in Pennsylvania dropped 14,200 in May, at 5,678,000.

The Keystone Research Center will release a more detailed analysis of the May jobs report on Friday, but for now here is a press statement that I put out on today's report.

House to Vote on Extended Unemployment Benefits Today

Updated: June 17, 2011 - Community Legal Services of Philadelphia has carefully analyzed the bill that finally passed the Legislature. As they explain, the legislation includes provisions that permanently cut unemployment benefits for thousands of workers in the future.  Many of these changes hurt low wage workers in particular. We'll have more on this in the coming days.

The Pennsylvania House is expected to take up legislation today that would continue extended federal unemployment benefits for 45,000 out-of-work Pennsylvanians now (and up to 90,000 through the end of the year). If they approve it, state Senate leaders plan a vote in that chamber on Friday.

This is great news after weeks of back-and-forth negotiations between House and Senate leaders over whether this legislation should also include benefit cuts and other longer-term changes to the state's unemployment insurance system.

Senate Drilling Fee Moves Forward, with Changes that Further Weaken Bill

Drilling RigPennsylvania State Senator Joe Scarnati's legislation to enact a Marcellus Shale gas drilling fee was amended and voted out of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee by unanimous votes Tuesday.

Unfortunately, the amendment offered by committee chair, state Senator Mary Jo White (R-Venango), makes an already weak bill a lot weaker.

Umbrellas on a Sunny Day

On a recent sunny lunch hour, several dozen advocates for children and working families opened umbrellas overhead as they gathered outside Philadelphia City Hall. Not because of anything in the weather forecast, but to send a message to lawmakers in Harrisburg that when it comes to the state's finances, it is still raining in Pennsylvania.

Third and State This Week: Preserving Tobacco Funds for Health Care, Fasting for PA's Vulnerable and the May Jobs Report

This week, we blogged about the latest job numbers, efforts to preserve tobacco settlement dollars for health care services, paid sick days legislation and more.


  • On health care, intern Emma Lowenberg blogs about an effort by consumer health advocates to urge the state Senate to preserve Pennsylvania's share of tobacco settlement funds for health care purposes.
  • On the state budget, Chris Lilienthal writes about the "Fast for PA's Vulnerable," an effort by Harrisburg faith leader Stephen Drachler to draw attention to the impact of budget decisions on Pennsylvania's most vulnerable by abstaining from solid foods.
  • On unemployment and the economy, Emma sums up the May jobs report by turning to the expert analysis of four leading economists.
  • And on workplace issues, Steve Herzenberg shares a recent op-ed he coauthored with economics and labor studies professor Lonnie Golden on the benefits of paid sick days in Philadelphia.

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

Advocates Ask Senate to Keep Tobacco Funds for Health Care

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Emma Lowenberg, InternBy Emma Lowenberg, Intern

Consumer health advocates from across the state came to Harrisburg Wednesday to speak out against a plan that would redirect the state’s share of a legal settlement with tobacco companies away from health care purposes.

Since 2001, tobacco settlement dollars have helped seniors age at home, reduce tobacco- related health care costs, and offset some of the costs for hospitals treating uninsured patients. They support life sciences research that brings jobs and wealth to the Commonwealth.

And until March, tobacco funds helped provide health insurance for the uninsured through the state’s adultBasic program. That program was ended in March after another funding source expired.

Now, a state budget plan that passed the House would eliminate the Tobacco Settlement altogether and fold those funds into the state’s General Fund. The Governor has also proposed diverting $220 million from the fund to create a business loan program.

In meetings with senators and at a Capitol press conference, advocates working with the Pennsylvania Health Access Network made the case for preserving the tobacco funds as a dedicated source for health care funding.

The Benefits of Paid Sick Days

In recent weeks, I've written here and here about legislation before Philadelphia City Council that would allow every worker in the city to earn paid sick days.

To round things out, I am now passing along an op-ed I co-authored with Lonnie Golden, a professor of economics and labor studies at Penn State Abington, that was published last week in The Philadelphia Daily News urging City Council to pass the paid sick days bill. Post a comment to let me know what you think.

Summing Up the May Jobs Report: Four Leading Economists Weigh In

Emma Lowenberg, InternBy Emma Lowenberg, Intern

Economist Jared Bernstein pretty much sums up the latest data on U.S. job numbers with this first impression: "YUK."

That comment comes in response to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Friday release of data on unemployment and payroll statistics for May. While the national jobs report was pretty disappointing, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve projects another decrease in the Pennsylvania unemployment rate this May from 7.5% to 7.4%.

Bernstein is one of four leading D.C. economists to sum up the bleak jobs picture. He, Dean Baker, Heidi Shierholz and Heather Boushey all interpret the fundamentals of the national report similarly: Job growth is stagnating, industries across the board are adding fewer jobs than before, and, when placed in the context of the past three months’ numbers, the future is not looking bright.

Fasting for Pennsylvania's Most Vulnerable

Fast for PA's VulnerableAs the state budget debate enters its final weeks, Harrisburg faith leader Stephen Drachler is abstaining from solid foods to draw attention to the impact of budget decisions on Pennsylvania's most vulnerable — children, seniors, people with disabilities and families living in poverty.

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