Pa. House Approves $27.3 Billion Budget

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted 109-92 Tuesday to approve a state budget that sets spending at $27.3 billion for the 2011-12 fiscal year — the same amount proposed in Governor Tom Corbett's March budget plan.

The budget cuts $1 billion from public schools and reduces Governor Corbett's budget by $471 million for health and human services for women, children and people with disabilities. It fails to enact a drilling tax on natural gas and leaves untouched a $500 million state revenue surplus.

Pa. House Rejects 20% Cut to Unemployment Benefits

In a victory for working Pennsylvanians, the state House rejected legislation today that would drastically cut unemployment benefits.

House Bill 916 would have lowered average weekly benefits from $324 to $277 and cut benefits overall by more than $632 million annually. That would have amounted to a 20% cut in benefits for out-of-work Pennsylvanians.

The House defeated the bill in a preliminary vote of 79-122 before final passage. Thirty-two Republicans joined all Democrats to vote no on the bill.

House leadership could force another vote on the measure later on, but today's vote signals a bipartisan opposition to what would have been the single largest cut in unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania history.

Last week, we urged lawmakers to vote against this bill. So have many other working Pennsylvanians. Apparently, House lawmakers are listening.

Teacher Salaries and the Medieval Bloodletting of the Public Schools

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Many people know Dave Eggers for his entertaining first book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. It's the story of the death of both his parents from cancer within a matter of months, and Eggers' subsequent raising of his younger brother to adulthood.

A few weeks ago, a New York Times op-ed, "The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries," introduced me to the efforts of Eggers and his colleagues to educate the public on the need to elevate the status and salaries of teachers. The op-ed starts with a compelling analogy: when the U.S. runs into challenges in military conflicts, it doesn't start pointing fingers at men and woman fighting in the trenches for low pay and little recognition. Instead, we ask questions about the performance of military leaders and whether we are providing training and supports that give soldiers a chance to succeed.

Third and State This Week: Pa. Job Numbers, Drilling Tax Plans & Getting Cheeky with Tax Data

This week at Third and State, we had a podcast on Pennsylvania's April job numbers, a three-part series on dishonest claims about taxes, an overview of several natural gas drilling tax plans, and a quick visit to Ohio.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • On jobs and the economy, Mark Price has a podcast explaining Pennsylvania's April job numbers, what it means for the recovery and why a bill in the state House aiming to cut unemployment benefits could set things backs.
  • On state and federal taxes, Mark also wrote a three-part series playfully titled "Getting Cheeky with Tax Data." In it Mark sheds some light on misleading claims about the impact of state and federal taxes on businesses and how many of them avoid paying taxes. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
  • On the Marcellus Shale, Michael Wood takes stock of several natural gas drilling tax plans now before the Legislature.
  • Finally, on income inequality, Stephen Herzenberg shares an Ohio colleague's article voicing the outrage of many people there, as new Governor John Kasich takes a state and a middle class that are down and gives them a good hard kick.

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

Podcast: The Takeaway from Pennsylvania's April Jobs Report

Before you head to your weekend, watch my four-minute podcast explaining the April job numbers report for Pennsylvania, what it means for the economic recovery, and why a bill in the state House aiming to cut unemployment benefits could set things backs.

Getting Cheeky with Tax Data, Part 3

This is the final part of three-part series running this week on Third and State.

On Wednesday, we highlighted the flaws in a Wall Street Journal editorial that was caught being, shall we say, less than truthful in its presentation of data on taxes.

Then, yesterday we wrote about conservatives here in Harrisburg, like the Commonwealth Foundation’s Nathan Benefield and Jonathan Humma, who want to make the case that Pennsylvania's business climate is bad because of taxes, ergo we should cut corporate taxes and shift more of the tax burden away from the wealthy and onto the rest of us.

Richard Florida has a piece at the Atlantic reviewing the relationship between "business tax competitiveness" and various measures of state level economic performance where he concludes:

The bottom line is this: Lower state investment tax burdens aren't associated with stronger state economies, and higher investment tax burdens aren't associated with worse ones. Tax cuts may be an effective political strategy and lowering business and investment taxes may appeal to corporate interests and attract campaign contributions, but they have little relation to state economies.

And don't forget that in Pennsylvania, middle-income taxpayers already pay more of their income in state and local taxes than the wealthy do.

This all reminds me of a great Upton Sinclair quote:

It's difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!

Getting Cheeky with Tax Data, Part 2

This is the second of a three-part series running this week on Third and State.

As we noted in Part 1 yesterday, getting cheeky with tax data is not a phenomenon limited to New York City and Washington D.C. Just a few steps south of our worldwide headquarters here at Third and State you can find Pennsylvania's own Commonwealth Foundation working hard not to be outdone by their national peers.

Getting Cheeky With Tax Data, Part 1

This is the first of a three-part series running this week on Third and State.

Last week, the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal got caught being, shall we say, less than truthful in its presentation of data on taxes.

Taking Stock of Drilling Tax Plans

As The Delaware County Daily Times reports this morning, state lawmakers believe a Marcellus Shale gas drilling tax will happen one way or another. The big question is just what it will look like.

Right now, there are four prominent plans being kicked around Harrisburg to assess a drilling tax or fee on shale gas. The plans, introduced by Rep. Greg Vitali, Sens. John Yudichak and Ted Erickson, Rep. Kate Harper, and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, have bipartisan backing.

We took up the task of wading through each plan to make sense of them and to see how they stack up against each other. Here's what we found.

Ohio's Governor Kasich Makes Clear Which Side He Is On

Our friend at the dynamic Policy Matters Ohio think tank, Amy Hanauer, has a powerful article in the most recent issue of The Nation, voicing the outrage of many in that state, as Governor John Kasich takes a state and a middle class that are down and gives them a good hard kick.

One example: The Governor recently explained his efforts to cut public-sector compensation by saying, “When I go to Bob Evans and I see a woman ... who doesn’t have any pension, and I don’t even know if she has healthcare benefits — and if she does, they’re shabby, at best — to think we’re asking public workers to do a little bit more ... it’s fairness.”

Yet what is the Governor actually doing for workers at Bob Evans? Looking to cut the state's Medicaid program that insures more than 4,700 of the chain’s employees.

Governor Kasich is also preserving a large state tax cut for the likes of Bob Evans CEO Steven Davis (with his $3.9 million annual salary). To top this off, Ohio just provided $7.7 million in incentives to keep Bob Evans headquartered in Cleveland — but did nothing to require the company to raise wages, provide even "shabby" health care, or any pension benefits.

Certainly sounds fair to me.

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