Despite Changes, Senate Voucher Plan Deeply Flawed

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Next week, the Pennsylvania Senate may take up an amended plan to create the largest-in-the nation private school vouchers program.

While Senate Bill 1 was amended last week, the bill remains deeply flawed.

'Close the Tax Loopholes' Day

Many Pennsylvanians will grumble today as they race to file their tax returns on time. Others will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Who's laughing, you ask? Those well-connected few corporations and top earners who benefit from federal and state tax loopholes that drain revenue and shift the cost of services onto the rest of us.

In an op-ed in Friday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I shared the example of General Electric, the nation's largest corporation. As such, you would expect G.E. to have a pretty sizeable tax bill, right? Think again.

On Tax Day, a Fresh Perspective on Taxes

With the deadline for filing state and federal tax returns upon us, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has pulled together resources from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Demos' Taxes Matter Project to provide a fresh perspective on how we think about taxes.

In Case You Missed It: Third and State Blog for Week of April 11

This week, we blogged about  adultBasic and (Not So) Special Care, a lack of accountability in the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program, a fact check on claims about gas drilling in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and much more. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • On health care, Sharon Ward writes that few adultBasic enrollees who lost their health care last month are enrolling in the Blues' Special Care Program.
  • On education, Steve Herzenberg explains that we don’t know much about the 38,000 students who received taxpayer-funded scholarships in 2009-10 to attend private and religious schools under the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC)
  • On the state budget, Kate Atkins (in her Third and State debut) shares the story of a Delaware County man who pulled his life together thanks to a state-funded program that might be defunded next year.
  • On the Marcellus Shale, Mike Wood has a fact check on claims made by Acting Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser on gas drilling in West Virginia, with a drilling tax, and Pennsylvania, without one. 
  • Finally, in this week's Friday Funny, Chris Lilienthal writes that the City of Altoona has gone "Pom Wonderful" - selling naming rights to the city to documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock to promote his upcoming film about product placement.

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

Friday Funny: Altoona to Become 'Pom Wonderful'

Sometimes, the Friday Funny just writes itself.

This just in from The New York Times' Media Decoder Blog:

The documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock has found another catchy way to promote his next release, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” which takes a wry look at product placement and the integration of brands in the plots of movies and TV shows.

The city of Altoona, Pa., agreed on Wednesday night to sell naming rights to Mr. Spurlock for 60 days, beginning on April 27. For a fee of $25,000, Altoona will be called after the full title of the film, which is “Pom Wonderful Presents the Greatest Movie Ever Sold.”

In DelCo, a Success Story that Raises Big Questions About Budget Priorities

Advocates, educators and parents delivered a message to Harrisburg Wednesday from the steps of the Delaware County Courthouse some 95 miles away: Don’t enact a state budget that will do real harm to working people and families in our communities.

Halfway through the press conference, a tall, broad-shouldered man named Wilson Bryant, who had been standing all the way in the back, head and shoulders above the crowd, walked to the front.  He said he didn’t have a speech prepared but wanted to testify about his personal story.  He had become seriously ill, he said, and, without health insurance, had lost his home and with it his sense of hope. 

Fact Checking West Virginia Drilling Claims

Acting Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser told lawmakers in a budget hearing last month that only 20 Marcellus Shale gas wells have been drilled in West Virginia since that state enacted a drilling tax, while Pennsylvania has had more than 600 such wells drilled.

As we explained in a recent policy brief, that’s not quite accurate.

According to World Oil Online, West Virginia led the nation in new gas wells in 2010, along with Texas and Arkansas — all of which have drilling taxes. Pennsylvania, without a drilling tax, came in sixth, with 833 new wells.

Not So Special Care

It has been just about six weeks since the adultBasic program came to an end, leaving 42,000 Pennsylvanians without affordable health insurance coverage. Governor Corbett ended the program, claiming that the state, and the Blues, were too poor to continue funding it.

Never mind that the Governor took $220 million in health care money to create a new business loan fund, or that Highmark just keeps raking in the dough. (More about that later.)

AdultBasic enrollees were encouraged to sign up for Special Care — a Blues product most notable for its winning combination of expensive premiums and lousy coverage — through two letters sent to recipients and in numerous phone calls with the soon-to-be uninsured. Their new friends, the Blues, would be only too happy to accommodate the newly uninsured.

So how’s that working out? Turns out, not so well.

Don't Know Much About History ...

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Last week, we released a report at the Keystone Research Center that has me humming an old Sam Cooke song. You probably know it. It goes:

Don't know much about history
Don't know much biology
Don't know much about a science book
Don't know much about the French I took

So why am I humming this oldie but goodie?

Well, because in Pennsylvania, we don’t know much about the 38,000 students who received taxpayer-funded scholarships in 2009-10 to attend private and religious schools under the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC).

In Case You Missed It: Third and State Blog for Week of April 4

This week, we blogged about oppressive regimes and income inequality, what the top CEOs are making these days and calls this week for state lawmakers to grow the revenue pie. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • On wages, Stephen Herzenberg wrote that median CEO pay in 2010 rose 27%, compared to a 2.1% increase in the compensation of workers in private industry. And in light of recent discussion about public-sector pay, he pointed out that the two highest-paid CEOs in Pennsylvania earn a lot more than the 100 top-paid public-sector workers.
  • On income inequality, Chris Lilienthal shared highlights from a Vanity Fair article by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz on income inequality in the U.S. Stiglitz writes that, in light of recent turmoil and protests in Egypt, Libya and other oppressive regimes, growing income inequality in the U.S. should be a concern for the rich as much as the rest of us.
  • Finally, Sharon Ward posted a short video highlighting an event this week in the state Capitol that brought college students, advocates for domestic violence victims, educators and more out to deliver pie to state lawmakers.

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

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