Jerry Oleksiak Pick Shows Wolf Not Interested In Reform

Jerry Oleksiak Pick Shows Wolf Not Interested In Reform

By Leo Knepper

Back in July, Governor Wolf nominated a union president, Jerry Oleksiak, to be Labor Secretary. As we said at the time:

“Mr. Oleksiak is the President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), the largest teachers’ union in the Commonwealth. Making matters worse, Oleksiak also took part in one of the most tax-payer abusive practices available to union officials: he was a ghost teacher.

“As a ghost teacher, Oleksiak worked full time for the PSEA, but he collected a paycheck, accumulated seniority, and pension benefits from the Upper Merion School District. Although the district was reimbursed for his salary and health benefits, Oleksiak and the PSEA still rely on the generosity of taxpayers to cover his lifetime pension benefits…

“In our conversations with business owners and employers, no one has ever complained to us that Pennsylvania wasn’t pro-organized labor enough. According to most recent studies, Pennsylvania ranks at the bottom of places to do business; our labor regulations are a significant reason why. A Labor Secretary with no experience in the private sector and a decade’s worth of experience advocating for policies hostile to the best interest of taxpayers would make the Commonwealth even less appealing to job creators.”

The Pennsylvania Senate had an opportunity to stop this nominee. The leadership of the Senate abdicated their responsibility by allowing him to become Secretary without a vote. Under the Pennsylvania Constitution, nominees automatically assume the position if a vote isn’t held in twenty-five legislative days. Senate Republican leaders asked the Governor to withdraw the nomination because they rightly had concerns about Oleksiak’s qualifications. The Governor refused to withdraw the nomination. Rather than putting Senate members on record as either supporting or opposing an unqualified Labor Secretary, Senate leaders allowed him to walk into the position.

Senate Republican leadership, Senators Joe Scarnati and Jake Corman in particular, had an opportunity to stop an unqualified nominee from becoming Secretary of Labor or at worst putting members of the chamber on record. When they failed to take a vote, Scarnati and Corman deprived constituents information about their senators’ priorities. Denying voters this valuable information is a disservice to taxpayers and a shameful example of politics as usual in Pennsylvania.

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

Jerry Oleksiak Pick Shows Wolf Not Interested In Reform

Jerry Oleksiak Pick Shows Wolf Not Interested In Reform

Gerrymandering Bad, Court Decision Worse

Gerrymandering Bad, Court Decision Worse

By Leo Knepper

On Jan. 22, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an opinion striking down the Congressional districts adopted in 2011. The decision requires that new districts be adopted by the General Assembly and approved by the Governor by Feb. 15. If new Congressional districts are not adopted by that time, the Supreme Court will establish new districts. (Why the plaintiffs waited six years to bring the lawsuit is open for discussion. However, a cynic would note that it coincided nicely with Democrats obtaining a majority on the Supreme Court.)

The timeline of the case or even the timeline required for the adoption of new districts is not the biggest problem. What is most concerning is the Court’s threat to adopt districts it devises should its timeline not be met by the legislature. Nowhere in the Pennsylvania Constitution is the Judiciary delegated the responsibility of creating legislative districts. The power to create Congressional districts is reserved for the General Assembly. The Judiciary may invalidate the General Assembly’s districts and require new maps to be drawn. The Supreme Court’s threat to create and adopt its own maps represents a dangerous departure from the separation of powers.

Make no mistake, some of Pennsylvania’s Congressional districts were among the most outrageous examples of gerrymandering in the country. The Court has the ability and authority to invalidate the districts, but it does not have the authority to impose its own districts. This would represent a dangerous precedent and makes the judiciary a super-legislature. If the Supreme Court is successful in seizing the power it has just granted itself out of thin air, we have more significant problems than poorly drawn districts. From redistricting, it is only a short distance to the Courts writing and adopting a state budget if the General Assembly doesn’t get it done in time.

The General Assembly adopted awful Congressional districts six years ago. The problem should have been addressed then via the Constitutionally provided remedy. In the long term, significant redistricting reform is necessary, and that can be accomplished via legislation or changing the state constitution. The Supreme Court’s decision represents a threat to the separation of powers, and that shouldn’t be taken lightly by anyone.

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

Gerrymandering Bad, Court Decision Worse

Gerrymandering Bad

Best Social Program Is A Job

Best Social Program Is A Job

By Aaron D. Kaufer

Ronald Reagan once said “The best social program is a job.” I happen to agree with him. Our Commonwealth has a responsibility to assist able-bodied individuals to become self-sufficient. Our public policies should reflect that fact. When I talk about welfare reform, this is what I mean: helping to get people who can work back to work. The goal of this type of reform is to break the cycle of poverty which our current welfare system perpetuates. People want to work and provide for themselves and their families. In fact, studies suggest that people are happier and healthier when they take pride in their work. Incentivizing work should be a part of our new welfare program.

On Jan. 2, I was joined by legislators from across Pennsylvania to announce a package of welfare reform legislation, focused not only on cost savings but in developing true pathways to prosperity. Welfare costs continue to rise, driving up our state budget year after year. In fact, today we spend more on welfare than on education. Since 2003, the number of Pennsylvanians on Medicaid has risen from 12 percent to 20 percent. In this same time, the number of Pennsylvanians on Food Stamps has more than doubled from six percent up to 14 percent of our total population. This is not acceptable in our Commonwealth.

The good news is that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel in taking the steps to find programs that “work.” In Kansas, work requirements were implemented resulting in almost 13,000 Kansans freed from the cycle of poverty. 60% of people leaving food stamps found jobs within a year and incomes rose on average by 127%. In Maine, similar results showed 114% increase in incomes. Crucially, for every $2,000 in public benefits lost, people earned an additional $3,000 in salary. These types of initiatives can truly get people back to work. However, nearly every Pennsylvania county has a waiver to avoid enforcing work requirements that are already in the law. Based on data from other states, enforcing work requirements could result in helping to get an additional 80,000-100,000 Pennsylvanians back to work and create nearly $200 million more in higher wages.

Another fact shown in studies is that time limits are effective tools in getting people off welfare and back to work. When implementing a policy to limit Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in Kansas, family incomes doubled within the first year and eventually tripled. In Pennsylvania, we are one of a very few states who have an expansive e-TANF (extended TANF) program, which lasts beyond the five-year limitation of the TANF system and reduces the incentive to rejoin the workforce.

With the economy continuing to grow and businesses expanding, now is the perfect time to implement these type of initiatives: when jobs are available and employers are hiring, not during a recession when people are losing their jobs and need benefits. Currently in Luzerne County, Berkshire Hathaway, Chewy.com, and Medico Industries are all expanding and in need of workers among numerous other employers and professions throughout the county. It is our duty to help pave the way to prosperity, break the cycle of poverty, and promote lifestyles of self-sufficiency.

Rep. Kaufer represents the 120th District in the Pennsylvania House.

 

Best Social Program Is A Job
Best Social Program Is A Job

Paycheck Protection Vote Advanced Cause

Paycheck Protection Vote Advanced Cause

By Jennifer Stefano

Last week’s paycheck protection vote was not disappointing or a defeat. It was a victory! And a significant one at that!

Let me explain, lest you think a government union leader hijacked Commonwealth Foundation’s email.

The government unions paid 82 lobbyists to live in the Capitol for the last three weeks—and the vote on paycheck protection not only got out of committee but got to a full floor vote AND came within 12 (12!!!!) votes of ending this immoral, unethical and unfair privilege.

Another thing: House Leadership lived up to its name. It is no easy feat to bring up a vote when your party is in power and you could lose. It takes a strong leader to have the willingness to advance a reform as significant as paycheck protection. Good for them!

Paycheck protection is ON THE AGENDA. The House is not a “safe space” for the unions. It’s territory we can advance essential policies and it’s thanks to your work.

We must always remember who and what we fight for—the people who need our voices the most—we cannot spend a moment feeling bad!

To paraphrase one of my greatest heroes, General George S. Patton: It’s not about how high we climb, it’s about how high we bounce back.

#BOOM

P.S. Want to hear something else exciting that happened this month? CF President & CEO Charles Mitchell was named as one of City & State PA’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars. You can read his profile here. What an honor! We are so happy that readers around the state can see what we already know to be true about our fearless leader. Congratulations, Charles!

Ms. Stefano is vice president of Commonwealth Foundation.

 

Paycheck Protection Vote Advanced Cause

Paycheck Protection Vote Advanced Cause

Pennsylvania Gift Ban Never Happened

Pennsylvania Gift Ban Never Happened

By Leo Knepper

Pennsylvania Gift Ban Never Happened
The swamp can sure look purdy

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. Despite a flurry of legislation at the time to ban cash gifts, it never happened. The House and Senate changed their chambers’ rules to prohibit the acceptance of cash gifts from lobbyists, but the law hasn’t changed. The law hasn’t changed because banning only cash gifts would raise some very uncomfortable 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. In order to comply with Pennsylvania’s lax ethics laws, lawmakers are simply 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.

At CAP, we generally aren’t a fan of banning things and unnecessary regulations. However, given the sheer number of public officials from Pennsylvania who end up in prison we think that enacting a commonsense “gift ban” makes a lot of sense.

CAP member Representative Rick Saccone introduced HB 39 in early 2017 to accomplish that goal. Many attempts at banning gifts to lawmakers are impossible to enforce because they are written in a way that is overly broad and includes activities that could be genuinely related to lawmaking. Rep. Saccone’s legislation does not fall into that trap.

Despite being introduced and assigned to the House State Government Committee in January of this year, there has never been a hearing on this or any other gift ban related legislation. Citizens of the Commonwealth have been victimized by corrupt politicians of both parties for years and rightly have a low opinion of their government. We believe that passage of this legislation would certainly show that lawmakers are getting the message and are willing to take concrete actions to get their house in order.

Please take a moment to email your Representative. Ask them to become a cosponsor of HB 39. Encourage them to speak to the Chairman of the State Government Committee, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe about scheduling a hearing and a vote on the measure. It is going to take a lot to restore people’s faith in Pennsylvania state government, but this is a step in the right direction.

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

Pennsylvania Gift Ban Never Happened

Stop Government Doing Union Work

Stop Government Doing Union Work

By Leo Knepper

Most people don’t realize it, but the state government and localities across the commonwealth collect campaign contributions for political action committees (PACs) controlled by government unions.

In February, the Senate sent legislation to the House (SB 166 and 167) to end this practice. As we noted then:

“Over the course of the last ten years, various elected officials in Pennsylvania have gone to jail for using public systems for political gain. However, government unions have been using the public employees’ payroll system to collect funds that are spent directly on candidates and influencing elections (PACs) and funds used to engage in lobbying, voter registrations, get out the vote, and a host of other political activities.

“Why should it be legal for unions to use the public payroll system for political purposes, but illegal for former-Speaker John Perzel to use the constituent data system to help sway elections? There is no difference between these two activities; both are political, both are on the public dime, and both should be illegal.”

The good news is that the House State Government Committee sent two pieces of legislation, SB 166 and HB 1174, to the floor of the House for final passage. We would prefer government getting out of the business of collecting union dues and political contributions entirely. However, the passage of either of these bills would be a drastic improvement over the status quo.

The main difference between the two bills is that HB 1174 would still allow the collection of political contributions from the state police, corrections officers, and other “public safety” employees. SB 166 does not make a distinction between public safety and standard employees; it prohibits the collection of campaign contributions from all government employees.

Please take a moment to contact your Representative and encourage them to support both of these pieces of legislation.

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

Stop Government Doing Union Work

Stop Government Doing Union Work

Beware Bipartisanship As The Incumbent Party Sticks Together

Beware Bipartisanship As The Incumbent Party Sticks Together

By Lowman S. Henry

There is a lot of wailing and rending of garments these days over the hyper partisan atmosphere in both Harrisburg and in Washington, D.C.   Conventional wisdom holds that if Republicans and Democrats would just work together we could solve the problems confronting our state and nation.

But there is ample evidence that when Republicans and Democrats do work together the outcome is worse than no action at all.  The recent collusion between the parties in the Pennsylvania Senate to pass a revenue plan to fund the 2017-18 state budget is a prime example.

So, let’s pull back the curtain and take a look at how elected officials from both parties work together to preserve their own political careers at the expense of taxpayers.

In theory Republicans stand for smaller, less intrusive government and for fiscal responsibility.  Were that actually true the debate in Harrisburg over how to balance the budget would be focused on cost-savings and spending reductions.  Instead, leaders of both parties in the state Senate have focused solely on what taxes to increase and on an even more irresponsible course of action – borrowing from future revenues to cover current expenses.

The GOP holds 34 of 50 seats in the Pennsylvania Senate.  That is a veto-proof majority that again – in theory – should be able to pass a fiscally responsible state budget.  The sordid truth is that Harrisburg is not divided by political party, but rather is governed by an incumbent party dedicated first and foremost to political self-preservation putting up a united front against taxpayers and job creators.

Thus that 34-seat Republican majority was rendered irrelevant when leaders of both parties went behind closed doors to craft a revenue package.  What emerged was a toxic cocktail of tax hikes that would harm businesses such as gas drillers by implementing a severance tax; and add to the burden of homeowners by hiking taxes on gas and electric bills.  Oh, and that wasn’t enough to sate the appetites of the big spenders – they approved borrowing hundreds of millions from future tobacco settlement revenue meaning our children and grand-children will get to share in the pain.

When the final vote was held the revenue package passed 26-24.  How the Senate got to that number is the truly disgusting part of the story.  There is an old saying that you should never watch sausage or legislation being made.  But we will.  If all Democrats had voted for the revenue package it would only have taken ten Republicans to craft a majority.  But fourteen Republicans went astray.

Why?

The goal was to provide political cover to four Democrats in competitive districts.    It is all about incumbent protection.  Party leaders conspired to determine who would vote for and who would vote against the bill.  Those Republicans and Democrats voting for higher taxes and massive borrowing all represent “safe” seats because they are relatively immune to serious electoral competition.

A few Republican Senators who actually favored the bill, but who would face conservative primary challenges if they voted for higher taxes were given a “pass” to vote against the plan. Those Republicans representing more moderate districts and less likely to face a serious primary challenge voted for the tax plan.  Likewise Democrats deemed vulnerable to a tax vote were also given a “pass.”

So everyone wins – except We the Taxpayer.

And, of course, “leadership” of both parties all voted for the revenue package on the mistaken belief that they have to be “responsible” and provide revenue to fund a state government beset by out-of-control spending.   Real leadership and a truly responsible course of action would have been to craft a budget that spends within our means rather than go looking for every way possible to wring more tax dollars from Pennsylvania’s working families, senior citizens and small businesses.

The bottom line: the Senate’s revenue plan vote was nothing more than business-as-usual backroom Harrisburg politics of the type that cynically preserves incumbents at taxpayer expense.

Remember that the next time you hear someone crying out for “bi-partisan cooperation.”

Lowman S. Henry is chairman and CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal

HB 2104 Limits Electric Rate Hikes

Beware Bipartisanship As The Incumbent Party Sticks Together

Pipelines Safe And Natural Gas Is Necessary

Pipelines Safe And Natural Gas Is Necessary

By Neo Anderson

1.6 million Americans believe in a strong and prosperous energy future for our state. American made energy plays a critical role for our families and businesses, producing energy that heats our homes, powers our cars and helps drive our economy. Natural gas development supports tens of thousands of Pennsylvania jobs and helps families to save more than $1,300 annually on electricity bills.

Pipelines Safe And Natural Gas Is Necessary

Yet, in spite of these contributions to America’s economy and quality of life, energy is under attack. Wellfunded, well-organized lobbing and special interest groups are stalling our progress by targeting critical pipeline projects in Pennsylvania and across the country. They are voicing scare tactics and misleading information on multiple platforms at the federal, state and local levels as well as here at home.

The Truth

Pipelines are one of the safest, most efficient methods to transport energy products to their intended destinations. Pipelines have a long, proven track record of safety, minimal impact on the environment, and a 99.99% rate of delivering product without incident. Experts from the industry, government, and academia have partnered to create a series of stringent standards and recommended practices to help ensure the pipelines built and operating in your communities are safe.

Pipelines are constructed with highly durable materials like steel and advanced composites with special coatings to resist corrosion. Before the pipeline carries any product, the welds are rigorously tested to ensure there are no leaks. Federal and state officials also inspect the pipelines during and after installation to certify proper construction has occurred. Advanced engineering and construction practices safeguard water and riverbanks.

Pipelines are monitored 24/7 every day of the year. Highly trained personnel are there to stop the flow or take action should an emergency arise. Computer- aided monitoring enables leaks to be rapidly detected and shut off if needed during a disaster. Trained personnel in airplanes and helicopters regularly travel the length of the pipelines looking for signs of leaks. Ongoing monitoring and inspections help detect issues so they can be addressed before leaks occur.

Pipeline operators inspect their pipelines on regular schedules to identify and guard against any potential issues and ensure the pipe remains safe. To prevent leaks, state-of-the-art technology, similar to a doctor’s ultrasound machine or MRI, is used on the inside of the pipe to scan the walls for any potential problems.

A combination of electronic, aerial, and land-based surveillance is routinely employed to detect any unusual changes in temperature, pressure, flow, and density. Sensors and gauges are installed along the pipelines’ route to send their data automatically into central control rooms where highly trained operator personnel constantly monitor operations on computer displays 24/7.

Operators monitor pipelines from central control rooms 24/7 and can quickly stop all operations if leak detection technology identifies any potential issues. Pipeline control personnel are trained to diagnose whether an alarm is showing a leak, shut down the systems immediately, and not restart until the pipeline is confirmed to operate safely.

Pipeline operators go through regular trainings to develop extensive emergency response plans. Once the federal government approves the plans, pipeline operators share these with local authorities and first responders to ensure a coordinated response to an incident. A rapid emergency response helps keep the size of a pipeline incident as small as possible. Pipeline operators work with local authorities, first responders, contractors, and other local stakeholders to practice emergency response. They will even practice deploying containment and cleanup equipment to make sure all is ready to go if needed. Many pipeline companies hold free, online training sessions for first responders to increase awareness in the community and encourage involvement at all levels.

Myths vs. Facts:

Myth: America’s energy revolution and fracking are making climate change worse.

FACT: When it comes to climate change, “Natural gas has been a game-changer with our ability to really move forward with pollution reductions.” — Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the increased availability and use of natural gas, made possible by fracking, is largely to thank for the reduction in climate-change inducing gases. For instance, last April, carbon emissions from U.S. electric power generation hit 25-year lows, primarily because of the increased use of clean-burning natural gas. In fact, the United States leads other top world economies in reducing carbon emissions from energy—largely due to our use of natural gas and market-led investment in new technologies. Carbon emissions, which are a primary driver of climate change, are the lowest they’ve been in large part because of advancements in oil and natural gas.

Myth: New pipelines are dangerous to our water supply.

Fact: Pipelines are one of the safest ways to transport energy, with products reaching their destination safely more than 99.99% of the time. Advanced materials, expert engineering, and continuous monitoring keep water safe. Control rooms for each pipeline are staffed with highly trained personnel, who monitor the pipeline 24/7 to stop the flow if there is an issue or take action to respond in case of emergency. Pipelines are constructed with highly durable materials, including steel and advanced composites. In addition, special coatings that resist corrosion and tested welds help ensure that pipelines operate without an incident. Before pipelines carry any product, they are rigorously tested at high pressure to ensure that there are no leaks. Advanced engineering and construction practices, including trenchless construction beneath waterways, leaves water and riverbanks untouched. Ongoing monitoring and inspections help detect issues before leaks occur.

Myth: Pipeline construction and operations make land unsafe for farming.

Fact: Farming can safely continue on land with buried pipelines. Farmers are compensated for the use of their land when pipelines are installed, and pipelines help keep energy affordable, which benefits American agriculture. Energy companies strive to minimize disruptions to farming during pipeline construction. Following pipeline construction, crop production and raising livestock can resume on land with underground pipelines. When a pipeline is installed, farmers are compensated for use of their land and paid for any losses resulting from any disruption to crop production or grazing. Pipelines transport natural gas and oil, which is essential to modern agriculture. Natural gas is used for fuel and grain-drying, oil fuels tractors and equipments—both are essential building blocks for manufacturing fertilizer.

Myth: Natural disasters could cause pipelines to leak and hurt the environment.

Fact: Pipelines have a strong track record of safety and have not experienced widespread leaks as a result of natural disasters. Pipelines are designed and constructed to be earthquake-resistant, and have a strong track record of safety following earthquakes. For instance, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline did not spill a single drop of oil as a result of a major 7.9-magnitude earthquake in 2002. Computer-aided pipeline monitoring enables leaks to be rapidly detected so that pipelines can be shut off if needed during a disaster. Shut-off valves are located throughout the pipe and can be closed remotely during a natural disaster to prevent an incident.

Myth: Pipeline construction will harm our natural environment.

Fact: More than 2.6 million miles of pipelines already run throughout the U.S., mostly unseen, bringing energy to homes, businesses, and utilities. Pipelines travel through neighborhoods, farmland, forests, and deserts without harming the environment. Land temporarily disturbed during pipeline construction is restored following pipeline completion. Experts from industry, government and academia have partnered to create a series of standards and recommended practices to provide guidance to companies as they construct pipelines. For construction outside of the industry, a “Call Before You Dig” program exists to enable homeowners and utility providers to easily call for markings of underground pipelines to reduce the risk of hitting a pipeline. Pipelines are inspected throughout construction by federal and state officials to ensure they are built appropriately. Pipelines have operated for decades with minimal impact on the environment. Energy products traveling through pipelines reach their destination without incident 99.99% of the time.

Natural Gas, Clear, Reliable, Affordable:

Natural gas supports nearly 3 million U.S. jobs and contributing over $300 billion to the national economy each year. Thanks to natural gas, our country has seen an energy renaissance that is creating a cleaner energy solution while bringing us reliable, affordable electricity and securing energy independence for our future.

To learn more for yourself check out – Pennsylvania Energy Citizens at EnergyCitizens.Org/States/PA

Pipelines Safe And Natural Gas Is Necessary

 

Joe American, Thanksgiving And God

Joe American, Thanksgiving And God

My father-in-law passed away peacefully in his sleep last week.  He was 92 and the original American piece of work.  He had children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.  He never wanted much, just his own way.

Joseph, was a product of the end of the first world war.  He was second generation Italian on one side, and on another had an ancestor that fought in the Civil War.  Being a history and genealogy junkie, I liked to feed him tidbits of research on his background.  Tidbits that helped strengthened his belief in his family’s foundation and confident in its  accomplishments.   He thought that it was so great that there existed an historical map of his lifetime through these tidbits, a picture of the ship from the 1800s where parts of his family had come back and forth from Italy,  the census from 1910, and his Navy discharge papers that were long lost  after his service in the South Pacific in WWII.

He was a small handsome Italian guy, blonde with blue eyes; just a regular Joe.

His history was very important to him.  It helped him know that he didn’t arrive on this earth alone.  He talked always of his city of Philadelphia, where he was born and raised and where he raised his own.  He talked of how such and such a thing ended up where, who built it and who tore it down.

He was brought to this place by the grace of God through his ancestors from places which were not nearly as prosperous as the one they were headed for.  America.  Relatives worked all means of dirty, skilled and semi-skilled jobs.    He was so proud of them.

In recent years we have been reprimanded,  warned not to be haughty over the success of the American dream and the infrastructure built by average Americans that built the strongest economy in the world.  We were told, “No, you didn’t build that”.

The American dream has almost NOTHING to do with money or entitlement.   It is uniquely American in that any average Joe, who keeps his shoulder to the wheel, and has the drive, can provide a nice living for his family and extended family.  A family history did NOTHING to hold him back.  Because his grandfather was a shoemaker, it didn’t mean he couldn’t be an electrician or a plumber or a doctor or whatever it took to thrive given his determination and abilities.   Class has nothing to do with anything in America.  Only those who wish to hold on to power or wealth and try to keep you poor and dependent will tell you that it does.

Petty Officer Joe American was buried with full ceremony and honors for his rank, with taps and a shot gun salute and the entire nine yards of military tribute.  His rank  not given due to his lineage or royalty as would have been true in Europe.  It was earned.  He was an American, a classic product of the blessed and noble American experiment wrought from the European Enlightenment.

On this Thanksgiving Day, thank God first of course, but then also thank Joe and all of his fellow veterans and family who gave us what we have and shame on those who seek to diminish it.

Joe American, Thanksgiving And God

 

Joe American, Thanksgiving And God

Pennsylvania Tax Collections And Its Economy

Pennsylvania Tax Collections And Its Economy

By Colin McNickle

While there are signs that Pennsylvania’s overall economy might be improving, the critical question is whether it’s growing fast enough to cover some less-than-optimum actions by state government employed to close a series of budget shortfalls, say researchers at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy.

“If the economy and jobs continue to improve, tax collections almost certainly will pick up as well,” say Frank Gamrat, a senior research associate, and Jake Haulk, president of the Pittsburgh think tank.

But the commonwealth must overcome numerous hurdles of its own making.

“(T)he state continues to face the seemingly intractable problems of corralling spending growth and balancing the budget without relying on gimmicks and the poor practice of borrowing to fund current spending,” the institute scholars say (in Policy Brief Vol. 17, No. 45).

On paper at least, budget gaps for fiscal years 2016-17 and 2017-18 have been closed. That, through a combination of expanded gambling options and substantial borrowing against future tobacco settlement receipts.

“Obviously, these borrowed funds will have to be repaid out of future tax revenues that will need to rise even further to cover those payments as well as to meet the likely shortfall in the next budget unless spending is curbed significantly,” Gamrat and Haulk note.

That budget, by the way, is due in a short three months. And it remains to be seen if gaming revenue projections will be met, considering that last year’s gambling income fell short.

There has been some upturn in the pace of tax revenue flowing to the state. But, again, will the gains be sustained? That is the question.

There are reasons to be optimistic. Job and income numbers as well as consumer confidence levels are moving higher.

After a slow start, corporate net income tax collections were quite strong from May through September, and stood 10.9 percent above the first quarter of fiscal 2016-17.

Through the first nine months of 2017, personal income tax collections have risen by 3 percent over the same 2016 period and are up a healthy 3.8 percent over year-ago results in the first fiscal quarter. Sales and use taxes also have experienced gains in the respective nine-month and first-quarter periods, by 3.6 and 3.9 percent.

That said, none of those three metrics is an indicator of future performance. But, “Given the enormous gains in (stock) share prices this year and the strengthening of home prices, consumer confidence has climbed … nationally and almost certainly in Pennsylvania as well,” Gamrat and Haulk say.

But Pennsylvania government could continue to be its own worst enemy.

“Given the missteps of the past two years, it will be absolutely necessary to hold spending in check until revenues can cover future spending and pay off the debt incurred to cover this year’s shortfall,” the think tank researchers stress.

“At some point, the commonwealth must shed its image as having a poor business climate if it wants to match national economic growth and have the wherewithal to deal with the legacy costs it faces.”

Mr. McNickle is Senior Fellow and Media Specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy. He can be reached at cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org

Pennsylvania Tax Collections And Its Economy