One Thing Pennsylvania Isn't Leading Other States in — Debt

Debt is a hot topic in Harrisburg these days, but often lost in the rhetoric is just how low Pennsylvania's level of debt is.

In our latest installment of February Fiscal Facts, we follow up an earlier report on Pennsylvania's debt service payments with a look at the state's outstanding debt situation.

The 2nd Anniversary of the Recovery Act

February 17th is the second anniversary of the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).  I will be back later today to discuss our release of updated estimates of the regional impact of all federal action in the wake of the recession, including the passage of ARRA, but in the meantime, I wanted to share two figures on ARRA. 

Jeffrey Sachs on the Federal Budget

Jeffrey SachsJeffrey D. Sachs, an economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, discusses the Democratic and Republican federal budget proposals.  He argues both proposals focus on the wrong priorities by cutting services vital to working- and middle-class families as well as cutting programs aimed at fighting climate change.

Watch the video here. (Sorry, we can't embed it on the blog.)

Hat tip to Penn Action's Robin Stelly for sharing this video.

Living within Our Means

If I were to ask you how much of the state budget goes toward paying off debt, what would you say? 10%, 30%, 50%?

Try between 3% and 4%.

A Valentine’s Day Message to Governor Corbett

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I don't know how Governor Tom Corbett celebrated Valentine's Day on Monday, but I do know that he got a lot more Valentines than I did.

More than 700 people sent the Governor Valentines asking him to have a heart and preserve the state's adultBasic health insurance program. Dozens more sent the Governor the same message on his Facebook page.

Amazon Takes Its Ball and Goes Home over Sales Tax Bill

According to an article in Monday’s State Tax Notes (subscription required), Amazon has decided to shutter a warehouse facility in Texas rather than pay a $269 million sales tax bill issued by the Texas Comptroller. Lost in this foot-stomping exercise are 119 warehouse jobs and any future plans of expanding in the Lone Star State.

The Texas business community is up in arms about this, but not for the reasons you would think. The President of the Texas Retailers Association said in a statement:

"We sincerely regret that Amazon's irresponsible action appears to be resulting in 119 Texans being told their jobs are being terminated. However, to allow Amazon's current practices to continue is blatantly unfair and injurious to the 1.9 million employees of Main Street Texas retailers who faithfully collect and remit sales taxes to the Comptroller."

The dispute is a common one between Amazon and the states. Amazon claims it has no legal right or duty to collect sales tax from its customers, but states like Texas, Colorado, North Carolina and New York are fighting back. Pennsylvania hasn’t joined the pack — yet.

President Obama Unveils Federal Budget Plan - Updated

President Obama unveiled his federal budget plan for the 2012 Fiscal Year this morning. In its initial analysis, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that the plan would shrink the federal deficit "very significantly as a share of the economy over the course of this decade."

In Case You Missed It: Third and State Blog This Week

This week, we blogged about job growth in Pennsylvania, what message President Obama should send to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, lessons to learn from other state's fiscal woes and a whole lot more.

In case you missed it:

  • On the economy, Steve Herzenberg explained how Pennsylvania was a big winner in job performance for 2010, while New Jersey was the "biggest loser." Steve also blogged on what message President Obama should be sending to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and weighed in on the nation's "Swiss Cheese" tax system.
  • On the state budget, Chris Lilienthal highlighted another edition of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center's Fiscal Facts, and talked about lessons to learn from other states' budget challenges.
  • On jobs and unemployment, Mark Price wrote that for the long-term unemployed, the jobs just aren't there. Mark also blogged this week on strengthening the middle class and debunking bogus research on upward mobility and income 

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

Lessons to Learn from Other States’ Revenue Woes

Just how difficult will it be to balance Pennsylvania’s state budget without any additional revenue? A WHOLE LOT, according to two state budget experts speaking on WITF’s Radio Smart Talk this week.

For the Long-term Unemployed, the Jobs Just Aren't There

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released new data on the duration of unemployment by state.  In 2010, 26% of the people in Pennsylvania who lost a job, through no fault of their own, had been unemployed for a year or more.

The following figure plots the data by state against the average unemployment rate by state in 2010.  As I argued last week using older data, these new data clearly demonstrate that the most important factor shaping the length of time that people in Pennsylvania remain unemployed is the number of unemployed people competing for job openings.

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