Pennsylvania Legislative Salaries Hit $90,300 Not Including Benefits

Pennsylvania Legislative Salaries Hit $90,300 (and this doesn’t include benefits).

By Leo Knepper

As of Dec. 1, the base salary for Pennsylvania lawmakers will increase to $90,300 per year. This pay raise comes as the result of an annual cost-of-living-increase (COLA) they receive automatically. The higher salary will be on top of any per diems, health insurance, etc. that lawmakers are eligible to receive.  

As an aside, lawmakers pay only one percent per year of their salary for health benefits. In other words, their annual premium is roughly $900 for health insurance that is second to none. There are many taxpayers whose monthly insurance bill exceeds that amount.

The $90,300 salary is the minimum for members of the General Assembly. As noted by the Associated Press:

“Lawmakers in leadership posts will top out at $141,000 for House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson. The four caucus floor leaders in the House and Senate will each make almost 130,900 while the four caucus whips and the four Appropriations Committee chairs will receive $121,100.”

The salary differences between rank and file members and “leadership” are especially noteworthy. It presents another clear example of how our beloved judicial branch ignores the plain text of the Pennsylvania Constitution. According to Article II, Section 8, “The members of the General Assembly shall receive such salary and mileage for regular and special sessions as shall be fixed by law, and no other compensation whatever, whether for service upon committee or otherwise.” (Emphasis added)

Members of the General Assembly aren’t the only ones who will benefit from taxpayers’ forced generosity in the new year. When January rolls around, members of the executive branch will also see an increase in their pay. Governor Wolf’s salary will increase to over $200,000 per year. The Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Tom Saylor, will make over $220,000 per year.

Many lawmakers will, if they haven’t already, make a show of donating their salary increase to a charity. It is a standard public relations move on their part, and has become as regular as the leaves changing colors. However, despite their righteous indignation, there is never any real interest in eliminating the automatic COLA by changing the law. Finally, for any lawmakers in the defined benefit pension plan, the higher annual salary, regardless of charitable contributions, will be used to calculate their pension benefits upon retirement.

Unlike members of the General Assembly, CAP can’t force anyone to pay for projects we want to undertake. Next year is going to be incredibly busy for us. If you value what CAP does and would like to help us continue holding Harrisburg accountable, please consider making a financial contribution to our efforts.

Pennsylvania Legislative Salaries Hit $90,300 (And This Doesn’t Include Benefits)
Pennsylvania Legislative Salaries Hit $90,300 (and this doesn't include benefits).

Gavin Newsom Ignores Crisis Afflicting California

Gavin Newsom Ignores Crisis Afflicting California

By Joe Guzzardi

I recently returned to my Pittsburgh home from a trip to Sacramento. I went reluctantly. When I fled my native California in 2008, I vowed never to return. A better way to phrase my departure would be to say that I felt pushed out. Overdevelopment sprawl and an increasingly reckless government made California unrecognizable to me. But a close friend’s retirement party drew me back.
 
My instincts to stay away were correct. Sacramento, within living memory, a quiet Central California city, is well on its way to matching Los Angeles and San Jose for unsustainable, quality of life-killing growth. As for societal trends, my hotel was located directly across the street from the State Capitol building, a favorite homeless encampment. Last month, homeless transients attacked state groundskeepers. The last thing a Sacramento visitor would want to do is take an after-dinner stroll around the block.
 
Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom, like many other state officials trying to sweet talk their way out of citizens’ backlash against indifference to the public health and safety concerns that the homeless create, has promised more housing programs. During his first ten months in office, Newsom signed $1.75 billion in new housing initiatives. Newsom also helped pass laws that would reduce evictions and exorbitant rent hikes.
 
Realists, however, know that more housing cannot keep up with Sacramento’s exploding population growth. Sacramento is growing at 1.5 percent, making it the fastest expanding large California city. Sacramento’s surrounding counties have also undergone major population increases. The City of Trees, as Sacramento is fondly but inaccurately remembered, is also the nation’s most competitive rental market and ranks among the highest when measured by monthly fee increases.
 
Given California’s population doubling between Ronald Reagan’s gubernatorial administration, 1967 to 1974, from about 20 million to today’s 40 million and projected to exceed 50 million within the next three decades, prudent leadership would try to slow immigration and thereby take the pressure off of the state’s already seemingly insurmountable problems. Yet Newsom walks on the opposite path, and at every turn foolishly encourages more immigration. Calling them “a stain on our nation’s history,” Newsom has relentlessly attacked President Trump’s reasonable attempts to bring about practical immigration reform, and instead has expanded illegal immigrants’ rights and protections. Under Newsom’s new guidelines, illegal immigrants will be allowed to serve on government boards and commissions, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be banned from making immigration violation arrests in statewide courthouses.
 
As part of Newsom’s immigration expansiveness, California became the first U.S. state to offer taxpayer-funded Medicaid health care benefits to low-income aliens younger than 25. The new policy is the irrational and costly entitlement follow up to Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2016 decision to allow children under age 16 access to health care regardless of their immigration status. A gloating Newsom commented that when it comes to health policy, “… (W)e [California] are the most un-Trump state in America.” Prospective migrants’ interpretation: Come one, come all! California will take good care of you.
 
Newsom’s pre-public servant career included investments in Napa Valley wineries – with assistance from the billionaire Getty family – and a restaurant and clothing chain, through which he amassed a multimillion-dollar fortune that enabled him to buy a Russian Hill mansion. As one of California’s most elite, immigration increases don’t affect Newsom. But the governor is elected to represent all his constituents, not just a select demographic that he’s decided to favor.
 
Newsom should ask exactly how many more immigrants California can support. If he answers honestly, he should act accordingly and act sensibly, something he’s shown no interest in doing.
 
 
Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at jguzzardi@pfirdc.org.

Gavin Newsom Ignores Crisis Afflicting California
Gavin Newsom Ignores Crisis Afflicting California

53 Million Hold Low-Wage Jobs

53 Million Hold Low-Wage Jobs

By Joe Guzzardi

The Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program just released a study that casts serious doubt on President Trump’s insistence that the economy is improving, and that the employment market is strong.
 
Brookings’ findings confirm that working doesn’t necessarily translate into earning a decent wage. Despite record low 3.6 percent unemployment, the Brookings’ report, “Meet the Low-Wage Workforce,” shows that 53 million Americans – 44 percent of all workers age 18 to 64 – hold low-wage jobs, earn median hourly wages of $10.22 and have a $17,950 median annual income.
 
Brookings’ research revealed that low-wage workers are racially diverse: Fifty-two percent are white; 25 percent, Latino or Hispanic; 15 percent, African-American, and 5 percent, Asian American. Both Latino and black workers are overrepresented relative to their share of the total workforce, as are women who account for 54 percent of low-wage workers, higher than their 48 percent total workforce share.
 
Economic hardship is widespread among many Americans. Brookings found that 30 percent of low-wage workers live in families earning below 150 percent of the poverty line; 16 million low-wage workers get by on very low incomes – about $30,000 for a family of three and $36,000 for a family of four. Of low-wage workers, 26 percent, or 14 million people, are the only earners in their families, with $20,400 median family earnings and another 25 percent, or 13 million people, live in families in which all workers earn low wages.
 
“Meet the Low-Wage Workforce” exposes a national disgrace, and makes the U.S. immigration policy that brings in more than 1 million immigrants each year, and issues them lifetime valid work authorization documents, indefensible. No intelligent argument can be made that, in an era when so many Americans are underemployed, immigration should continue at the pace that has been maintained for decades. More immigration means an expanded workforce when what’s needed is a much tighter labor market. In order to keep pace with immigration-fueled population growth, the economy must add 150,000 jobs per month. But the October Bureau of Labor Statistics establishment survey showed that total nonfarm payroll employment increased by only 128,000 jobs.
 
Travel into the weeds to learn how hurtful the immigration status quo is to Americans. For every five new American workers who turns 18 and enter the job market, one work-authorized immigrant receives a Green Card. The guest or temporary worker inflow is also a major challenge that job-seeking Americans must overcome. Although the federal government doesn’t maintain exact statistics on annual guest worker totals, data suggests that between 750,000 and 1 million low-skilled and high-skilled foreign nationals arrive each year on employment-based visas. In 2016, the Congressional Research Service reported that “employment-based admission has more than doubled from just over 400,000 in FY1994 to over 1 million in FY2014,” but workers aren’t subject to any skill-based labor market tests which could affirm their potential contribution to the U.S. economy.
 
Finally, according to the Pew Research Center, in 2017 the civilian workforce included about 7.6 million illegal aliens, and another 1 milliondeferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) and temporary protected status recipients were employed.
 
Despite evidence to the contrary, Congress, elitesthe mediaimmigration advocates and, perhaps most threatening of all, the current Democratic presidential candidates – those who if elected might influence the federal government on the future of immigration – insist that the U.S. needs expanded immigration which means that, by extension, there will be continuously loose labor markets.
 
The important immigration questions have yet to be asked in Democratic debates. With the open borders which the candidates endorse, will there be jobs for new migrants without further displacement of American workers? Proposals to limit immigration to sustainable levels are invariably met with racism or xenophobia accusations. But citizens’ employment needs must come before foreign nationals’ interests, a priority that’s long overdue.
 
 
Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at jguzzardi@pfirdc.org

53 Million Hold Low-Wage Jobs
53 Million Hold Low-Wage Jobs

Wolf Wants Republican Swamp Rat For Commonwealth Court Says CAP

Wolf Wants Republican Swamp Rat For Commonwealth Court Says CAP

By Leo Knepper

Due to a recent retirement, Governor Wolf has an opportunity to fill a vacancy on the Commonwealth Court, one of Pennsylvania’s two intermediate appellate courts. The Governor would have had to work hard to make a worse choice than Drew Crompton.

Crompton’s name isn’t likely one that most Pennsylvanians are familiar with, but he has worked for the Senate for over two decades. He currently serves as Chief of Staff and counsel for Pennsylvania Senate Pro-Tempore Joe Scarnati. Over the course of his career, Crompton has been on the periphery of ignoble moments in Pennsylvania’s recent history. Two stand out, and are worthy of special attention.

In 2005, Crompton authored a memo suggesting that activists exercising their First Amendment rights in advocating for the repeal of the “midnight pay raise” should have to register as lobbyists. Concerning the memo, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review stated, “It suggests an orchestrated plan of attempted intimidation that, to this day, we believe is worthy of a Justice Department investigation.”

In 2006, Crompton took three months of “unpaid” leave from the Senate to work on Lynn Swann’s gubernatorial campaign. He then, remarkably, received a $19,647 bonus. This activity resulted in an investigation by the Attorney General’s office. Although no Senate Republicans were charged with wrongdoing, a similar scheme among House Democrats resulted in multiple arrests and convictions.

Crompton’s role in the Senate would raise serious questions about his impartiality in legal cases. How will his involvement in the drafting of legislation, public statements, and issuance of internal documents impact his ability to hear cases? How many plaintiffs or defendants will seek his recusal? How disruptive will it be for the Senate to have parties to cases file suits seeking email communications on legal matters authored by Crompton?

In the entirety of Pennsylvania, there certainly must be more qualified candidates to serve out a term on the Court.

Please, take a moment to contact your Senator and urge them to vote against Drew Crompton’s nomination for the Commonwealth Court.

Mr. Knepper is executive director of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania.

Wolf Wants Republican Swamp Rat For Commonwealth Court Says CAP
Wolf Wants Republican Swamp Rat For Commonwealth Court Says CAP

Gift Ban Introduced In Pa House

Gift Ban Introduced In Pa House

By Leo Knepper

In late 2014 and early 2015, five current and former members of the General Assembly were charged with bribery and other charges related to their acceptance of cash “gifts” from a lobbyist. The House and Senate changed their chambers’ rules to prohibit the acceptance of cash gifts from lobbyists, but the law hasn’t changed. One of the reasons the law wasn’t changed was because banning only cash gifts could raise questions for lawmakers about the kinds of gifts they can still accept.

What kinds of gifts can they accept? Virtually anything as long as they follow the disclosure rules. Lawmakers are required to disclose gifts of more than $250 per year from any source and transportation, lodging, and hospitality worth more than $650. Over the years, those gifts have included everything from Super Bowl tickets to Turkish rugs. As long as they follow the rules, pretty much anything is fair game.

That might finally be changing. On Nov. 18, the House State Government Committee advanced House Bill 1945. Per the co-sponsorship memo:

“The legislation will prohibit public officers, public employees and candidates for public office from accepting a gift of cash in any amount. The same individuals will be prohibited from accepting any gift that has either a fair market value or an aggregate actual cost of more than $50 from any one person in a calendar year. In addition, public officers, public employees and candidates for public office will be prohibited from accepting hospitality, transportation or lodging that has either a fair market value of an aggregate actual cost of more than $500 from any one person in a calendar year…Gifts and hospitality, transportation and lodging received that attain these thresholds will be reported on the individuals’ Statement of Financial Interests along with the circumstances surrounding the receipt of the same.”

At CAP, we generally aren’t a fan of banning things or unnecessary regulations. However, given the sheer number of public officials from Pennsylvania who end up in prison, we think that enacting these changes makes a lot of sense. There is room for improvement in HB 1945, but it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. 

We will be keeping our eye on the legislation and will keep you informed about its progress.

Mr. Knepper is executive director of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania.

Gift Ban Introduced In Pa House
Gift Ban Introduced In Pa House

Deep State Immigration Policy Mocks Sacrifice

Deep State Immigration Policy Mocks Sacrifice

By Joe Guzzardi

Deep State Immigration Policy Mocks Sacrifice

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, about 389,000 veterans are still living, a remarkable total given that most are in their 90s or older. Among our veterans also are approximately 3.5 million Korean War vets, 610,000 Vietnam War and  hundreds of thousands more from the Gulf Wars and other conflicts.

On Veterans Day 2019, as those brave men and women reflect on their service in America’s defense, they could be forgiven for questioning whether, in light of Congress’ repeated betrayal of traditional U.S. values, putting their lives on the line was worth the risk. Congress has consistently refused to protect the homeland through border and interior enforcement. At the same time, Congress has passed legislation that subverts job opportunities for Americans. Good U.S. jobs have been offshored or given to foreign-born employment-based visa holders.

Despite President Trump’s immigration bravado, at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Paso del Norte Port of Entry press conference, it was announced that in FY 2019 illegal immigration apprehensions hit a decade-high 1.1 million, a 68 percent increase over FY 2018. Along the southwest border, family unit apprehension set another record, 474,000. Because of the flawed catch and release policy, most of the migrants are released inside the U.S., eventually disappearing into the general population. Department of Homeland Security officials acknowledge that catch and release is, in terms of good policy, a grave failure that Congress refuses to correct. Only 1.4 percent of migrant family members from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who crossed the border illegally in 2017 have been deported to their home countries.

Congress has cataclysmically failed to protect American workers. A job is essential to maintain dignity and provide for family. But Congress has looked the other way as U.S. companies have, over the years since the Immigration Act of 1990 which expanded employment-based visas, hired millions of foreign nationals to displace Americans. Employers addicted to cheap labor, in all areas – from tech and call center operations to manufacturing and human resources – love the lower wages that they can pay the outsourced workers. Studies found, however, that if the outsourced jobs returned, they could be numerous enough to provide opportunities for unemployed Americans. Adding to the job challenges of unemployed citizens, including veterans, is the annual 1 million or more legal immigrants who receive lifetime valid work permits.

Finally, the amnesty specter never fades from the Swamp. The latest, but certainly not the last effort, is the House of Representatives’ Farm Workers Modernization Act which would grant amnesty to 1.5 million illegally present ag workers, expand the controversial and often-abused H-2A visa, add 40,000 Green Cards to the EB-3 category and mandate E-Verify across the agriculture sector. The bill would also create a new immigration category, the Certified Agriculture Worker, and will provide a citizenship path. The sponsors, led by Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Mario Diaz-Balart (D-FL), are notoriously anti-American worker, and have throughout their careers consistently voted for more employment-based visas.

Despite the bill’s title, the legislation does nothing to modernize agriculture technology through time-saving, efficient mechanization. Unlike stoop labor, robots can operate 24/7 and have been adopted by forward-thinking U.S. ag businesses in Florida and California.

Getting inside vets’ heads to learn their immigration leanings, pro or con, is impossible. But likely many vets, like so many other Americans, must wonder when Congress decided to cater to illegal immigrants and lobbyists instead of passing legislation which assures that citizens come first.

Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at jguzzardi@pfirdc.org.

Stock Market More Treats Than Tricks In October

Stock Market More Treats Than Tricks In October

By Bruce Cook

Turning the calendar from October to November brought more than trick-or-treaters, pumpkins, and leaves to rake. It also brought a wave of important economic updates that delivered more treats than tricks and helped the stock markets reach new highs.

Those new highs may be causing you to feel a bit wary, however, wondering if the end is nearing for what is now the longest bull market ever recorded. Should new highs be feared or embraced? Since 1980 the S&P 500 Index historically has generated above-average returns one year after reaching a new high. New highs have been a normal by-product of bull markets, and we should expect to see more.

There are several reasons to expect this bull market may deliver more new highs in the months ahead. Overall, the U.S. economy remains on solid ground with no sign of imminent recession. Gross domestic product for the third quarter came in better than expected despite businesses’ weak capital investment related to the U.S.-China trade conflict. The consumer remains the anchor of the U.S. economy, as shown in recent strong consumer spending data. Job growth in October was solid, even when considering the General Motors strike (which is over), and wages continued to rise. 

Recent trade headlines also reflect encouraging progress. President Trump and China President Xi likely will sign a preliminary trade agreement within the next month or so. The most contentious issues will need to be worked out in future negotiations, but any de-escalation of the current trade tensions will be welcome. Resolving the trade dispute may encourage companies to invest more, which could drive stronger economic growth and corporate profits and help push stocks higher.

Doing its part, the Federal Reserve (Fed) gave investors what they were hoping for and cut interest rates for the third time this year. Stocks historically have responded well one year after cuts that were also characterized as a “gradual mid-cycle rate adjustment.”

We are entering what historically has been the best performing six months of the year for stocks. When we add that positive seasonal factor to the overall good health of the U.S. economy, support from the Fed, and progress on a trade agreement, it appears this bull market may have more left in the tank. At the same time, we cannot dismiss potential risks to markets, most notably the possible unraveling of the U.S.-China trade pact, lackluster economic growth in Europe and Japan, stalled corporate profit growth, and the potentially contentious upcoming U.S. presidential election campaign. After a relatively calm and steady stock market advance this year, a pickup in market volatility would be totally normal.

We should continue to watch for signs of excesses in the economy that could lead to a recession and bring this record bull market to an end. For now, there don’t appear to be any worrisome cracks in a strong economic foundation, and the backdrop for stocks appears to remain favorable. 

Bruce R. Cooke is a Havertown based CFP with LPL Financial.

Stock Market More Treats Than Tricks In October

Borderless USA Dem Dream

Borderless USA Dem Dream

By Joe Guzzardi

Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) shocked most observers, including her New England neighbor and fellow White House hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), when she announced the price tag of $52 trillion for her Medicare for All proposal. Sanders’ plan for essentially the same universal coverage would come in at a comparatively modest $32 trillion.
 
Despite the mind-numbing costs, Warren, with a straight face, said her proposal would not increase taxes on the middle class “by one penny,” a point disputed by many. But most alarming was Warren’s lack of compassion when she brushed off the large numbers of working Americans who would lose jobs under her plan.
 
Laying out $52 trillion on Medicare for All, however, is just the latest unsound Warren suggestion. Her promise to decriminalize illegal border crossings and defang interior enforcement would lead to endless migratory waves from all the world’s corners with major societal consequences on domestic employment, health care, education and population growth.
 
In recent years, erasing the border has become an increasingly popular goal among elites. In fact, Congress has repeatedly demonstrated more concern about Syria’s border than the shared U.S. border with Mexico where neglect has festered for decades. With only token resistance, the U.S. has ceded border control to criminal operations, including the Sinaloa Cartel, that wreak havoc along and inside Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California.
 
Last month, President Donald Trump defended the United States’ troop withdrawal from northern Syria by saying that “it’s not our border” and that “we shouldn’t be losing lives over it.” Congressional Democrats and many Republicans roundly condemned the president. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell objected forcefully to President Trump’s action. In a Washington Post op-ed, McConnell called the troop withdrawal “a grave strategic mistake.” McConnell said that pulling out of Syria leaves the U.S. homeland more dangerous and encourages our terrorist enemies.
 
If only McConnell and his congressional colleagues were as concerned about the U.S. Southwest border crisis where the drug war is ongoing, with powerful cartels pushing their deadly products stateside. Why Congress continues to ignore the mounting chaos at the southern border is a question Americans should be asking of their elected representatives. Acting Citizenship and Immigration Services director Ken Cuccinelli said that savvy northern Mexico cartel bosses – “the most evil, vicious, awful people in the western hemisphere” – have turned the border “into a toll booth.”
 
Experts on the front line describe how the cartels have taken over. Jackson County, Texas Sheriff Andy Louderback explained that every minute of every day cartel lords perpetrate human and drug trafficking, among their many criminal activities. They also are responsible for a record 33,341 murders last year alone in Mexico that are a signature method of maintaining control over their methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine and heroin distribution centers in key metroplex areas, including Phoenix, Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago. Other local authorities concur. Otero County, New Mexico Sheriff David Black said that lax enforcement has given the cartels “the green light” to continue their deadly criminal behavior.
 
Yet Congress remains mostly mum about inadequate enforcement, especially as it applies to asylum seekers traveling with minor children, who the cartels are particularly adept at manipulating. While some border security improvements have been initiated, others have remained in limbo since the Secure Fence Act of 2006.
 
But even excluding the cartels’ deadly dominance, open borders is a horrible, indefensible policy. The Census Bureau predicts that if the status quo remains, by 2060 U.S. population will hit an unmanageable 404 million, up from today’s 330 million. If Warren and other candidates who champion open borders get their way, over the next five decades, today’s population of 330 million people is likely to approach a nightmarish 500 million.
 
 
Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at jguzzardi@pfirdc.org.

Borderless USA Dem Dream

Halloween in 1984

Halloween in 1984 “As told to” Mary Hickey

So this wasn’t that weird a day until right after dinner, when two kids from the neighborhood knocked on our front door. That was normal enough, since they sometimes come to play with my brother and me. But this time, they were dressed in strange clothes and had second faces over their real faces. Scary looking faces, too! I only knew who they were from their voices.

Then instead of staying to play, they asked for “trick or treats”, and Mom and Dad gave them each the choice of a book or an old tennis ball. They took the tennis balls, which is what I would have done also. But then, I’m only ten months old and I can’t read yet.

Dad wanted to go “trick or treating”, but he’s too old for it. I guess this is just for kids, though I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because they need to have the grown-ups hand out the trick or treats? Dad asked my brother if he wanted to go out with him, but he said no, he’d rather watch all the kids come in their costumes.

So what does Dad do? Put me in a brown sleeper and a groundhog face cover that he called a “mask”. They bought them for pictures in case I was born on Groundhog Day, which was my due date. I wasn’t, I got here early, which hasn’t been my habit since then—more about that some other time.

Then we went outside and he carried me around from house to house, telling people, “Look, I caught a groundhog!” They all laughed and threw candy and other treats into a bag he was carrying. It got dark quickly, but we kept on going until his bag was almost full. Then we went back to the house, but Mom said I shouldn’t eat anything from Dad’s bag. She mashed up a banana for me, which I ate because I like those things even though I haven’t figured out how to peel them yet.

So now it’s much later, and I’m in my crib. I have time to wonder now why every time I think I’m getting things figured out, something odd happens as if to tell me I may never know it all. Maybe life is like that for my brother, too, and even for Mom and Dad, who knows?

I’m feeling a bit sleepy now, so I guess I’ll sign off. Good night, and Happy Halloween!

Halloween in 1984
Halloween in 1984 “As told to” Mary Hickey
Digital StillCamera

Wolf Executive Action Crushing Pa. Economy

Wolf Executive Action Crushing Pa. Economy

By Gregory R. Wrightstone

Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf’s executive action to impose a Cap and Trade system on carbon dioxide emissions is easily his most harmful act in his two terms as chief executive of the state. As one of the most liberal governors in the nation, his progressive impulses have, until now, been constrained by a GOP-controlled House and Senate. His move to bring the Keystone State into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and impose a costly and economically crippling carbon trading system is an attempted end-run around the GOP to implement a tax without legislative approval.

Wolf Executive Action
But he gets to keep his lifestyle.

On Oct. 3, Wolf signed an executive order that began the process of adding Pennsylvania to a group of northeastern states that constitute what has been called the “first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” It is now up to the Department of Environmental Protection to draft the proposed regulation and then go through possibly two years of a legislative comment period. According to news reports, the legislature does not have veto power, although we expect to hear disagreement on that point.

In short, the program would establish a market through which electricity providers purchase “emission allowances” to offset their CO2 emissions. The current market rate for purchasing these carbon offsets is $5.20 per ton of CO2 emitted. According to the most recent statewide data (2016) from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) these energy providers emitted 82 million metric tons which would have generated about $400 million in revenues.

The overall goal of the plan is to make electricity derived from fossil fuels more expensive and, hence, renewable energy more competitive.

According to the RGGI, the state would “invest” the money generated into “energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other consumer-benefit programs.” That would likely include subsidies for wind and solar projects, home and office weatherizing and expansion of public transportation programs in the state’s largest urban areas to name a few beneficiaries.

That nearly half-billion dollars in costs would not be absorbed by the power generators but would be passed on to consumers in the form of increased energy costs. Not only would this make Pennsylvania a more expensive place to live, it would render the state less competitive for energy intensive businesses compared to neighboring Ohio and West Virginia and other locales that have no plans for artificially inflating electricity costs.

A review of the effects of the RGGI last year revealed that member states saw a 12 percent drop in goods production and a 34 percent drop in production of energy-intensive goods. This is likely attributable to a 64 percent increase in electricity prices in RGGI states between 2007-2015.

Additionally, according to the study, the cost of wind and solar power has averaged two to three times the megawatt-hour rate as compared to existing conventional fuel sources. Any increase of renewable energy supplies would necessarily further the price increases to consumers.

An important but overlooked factor in the decision-making process for the state is just how much or how little effect a reduction in the state’s CO2 emissions would have on future temperature changes. The overarching goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is to lower the future temperature of the Earth, so how much temperature rise would be averted by eliminating all of Pennsylvania’s CO2 emissions from coal and natural gas-fired sources? Using the calculations for predicting warming from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, if 100 percent of the state’s electricity generation emissions were eliminated, only 0.001 degree Fahrenheit in warming would be averted by the year 2050. This difference is well below our ability to measure global temperature.

This extremely small — and immeasurable — effect should not be overlooked in discussions of whether to impose the significant burdens of Governor Wolf’s proposal on the state and its citizens. How many lost jobs is a reduction in temperature measured in thousandths of a degree worth?

In short, the governor would infringe on the freedoms of people and make them significantly poorer for virtually no advancement of his stated intention to avert global warming. The legislature, the business community and all right-thinking citizens should stand against his economically crippling proposal.

Mr. Wrightstone is the author of Inconvenient Facts: The science Al Gore doesn’t want you to know

Wolf Executive Action Crushing Pa. Economy