Pennsylvania Legislature

Pennsylvania Private Job Performance Through the Looking Glass

By Stephen Herzenberg, Third and State

In the 1890s, scientist George Stratton reported that, after four days of wearing a lens that inverted his vision, his brain reprocessed what he saw and flipped everything back up the right way.

John Micek’s Friday article brought this experiment to mind. Micek quotes Pennsylvania House Speaker Sam Smith summing up the accomplishments of the House of Representatives in the 2011-12 legislative session: "We … focused on the economy and private-sector job creation." Majority Leader Mike Turzai echoed Smith saying: "We kept our commitments on fiscal responsibility and private-sector job-creation."

Let’s take a look at some actual job numbers.

Between January 2011 (the start of the current legislative session) and September 2012 (the latest data available), the number of private-sector jobs in Pennsylvania grew by 87,000, an increase of 1.8%. In this period, Pennsylvania ranked 31st out of the 50 states for private job growth by percentage. National private-sector job growth equaled 3%.

If you look at the last 12 months, from September 2011 to September 2012, Pennsylvania’s private-sector job ranking falls to 35th, with the state’s private-sector job growth equal to about half the national rate.

Now, compare that to job growth between January 2010 and January 2011, when the commonwealth ranked 12th among the 50 states with job growth of 1.8% (compared to the national rate of 1.3%).

A Mainstream Plan for Taxing Natural Gas Drilling in Pennsylvania

A blog post by Sharon Ward, originally published at Third and State.

On Tuesday, I joined state Representatives Tom Murt and Gene DiGirolamo at a press conference announcing their bill to enact a natural gas drilling tax that would support shared statewide priorities like education and human services, as well as local impacts and environmental protection.

Almost 98% of natural gas produced in the United States is subject to a drilling tax or conservation fee. This legislation would finally put Pennsylvania into the mainstream of energy-producing states. It would address the impacts of drilling but go beyond that to support economic growth and more opportunities for Pennsylvanians.

You can listen to a two-minute podcast of my remarks from the press conference below and click here to read more about the Murt-DiGirolamo plan (including a link to the lawmakers' co-sponsorship memo).

Legislative Inaction on Drilling Tax Costs Pa. $200 Million

A blog post from Christopher Lilienthal, originally published on Third and State.

This afternoon, Pennsylvania will hit a less-than-noble milestone: $200 million lost to legislative inaction on a Marcellus Shale drilling tax.

We're talking about lost revenue that could have helped prevent cuts to schools, colleges, environmental protection and health services for the state’s most vulnerable.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center is tracking in real-time how much drilling tax revenue has been lost since October 1, 2009 by not having a tax in place. The ticker will hit $200 million by mid-afternoon on Friday.


Click here if you have trouble viewing the Ticker.

A Detailed Look at Pennsylvania's 2011-12 Budget

A blog post from Sharon Ward, originally published on Third and State.

Two weeks ago, the Pennsylvania General Assembly completed work on a 2011-12 state budget that achieved Governor Tom Corbett’s primary objective — to meet a target spending number of $27.3 billion or lower, regardless of the impact.

The budget spends $27.249 billion, the lowest amount since the 2008-09 enacted budget, with cuts totaling more than $960 million.

Still trying to piece it all together? Well, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has you covered. On Wednesday, we released a detailed analysis of the new budget. Check it out and get all the details.

Here are a few highlights:

Pa.'s 2011-12 Budget: Doing Less with More

The Pennsylvania Legislature has approved a 2011-12 General Fund budget that makes deep cuts to education, health care and other cost-effective local services, while cutting taxes for business and leaving most of a $650 million revenue surplus untouched.

You can view our budget highlights post here. I also issued the following statement on the budget's passage:

The Legislature has adopted a budget that does less with more, cutting services to children while leaving most of a $650 million revenue surplus on the table.

The budget reflects a set of priorities that few Pennsylvanians share. It reduces the number of teachers in the classroom, raises college tuition, and increases local property taxes in order to meet an artificial spending number.

This budget provides tax breaks to businesses but cuts funding to homeless shelters and Meals on Wheels. It gives natural gas drillers a free pass, once again.

Pennsylvania’s economy grew more quickly than the nation in 2010, but that growth has begun to stall. Cutting jobs and services will have a ripple effect through our communities that will make a robust recovery even harder to achieve.

This budget fails to put people first. It continues a pattern in Harrisburg of balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable and shifting more state costs onto local taxpayers. That’s bad news for middle-class families, taxpayers and the economy.

An Overview of Pennsylvania’s 2011-12 State Budget

State legislative leaders and Governor Tom Corbett agreed on a 2011-12 state budget deal this week, and on Tuesday, the state Senate approved it on a 30-20 party-line vote. The bill heads to the House of Representatives next.

It would spend just $27.2 billion, down $962 million, or 3.4%, from the 2010-11 budget.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will have a detailed analysis of the budget later in the week, but for now we will highlight funding levels for major programs. You can view budget tables detailing funding levels by major department and highlights of education funding levels.

Education

The biggest cuts, in both dollars and percentages, are in education programs, including PreK-12 and higher education. While the budget makes some funding restorations from the Governor’s original budget proposal, the cuts are still significant:

  • Basic education funding, at $5.35 billion is cut $421.5 million, or 7.3%, from the current year.
  • Funding for Accountability Block Grants, at $100 million, is cut by $159 million, or 61%.
  • Special education is flat-funded for the third year at just over $1 billion.
  • Charter School reimbursements are fully eliminated (a loss of $224 million).
  • Funding was also eliminated for Educational Assistance (a tutoring program) and school improvement grants.
  • Both Head Start and PreK Counts were cut by about 3%.

The cuts in major education programs total $863 million.

Higher education fared much better under the final budget but still sustained cuts of about 18%, or $160 million. Penn State University received a cut of 19%, or $50 million, in basic support. Community colleges will see a 10% cut, or $23.6 million.

Health Care and Public Welfare

Now That We’ve Read the Fine Print … Another Look at Pennsylvania's Unemployment Compromise

A blog post from Stephen Herzenberg, originally published on Third and State.

As Mark Price has noted, the Pennsylvania Legislature approved a compromise bill last week that avoids cutting off 13 weeks of federally funded extended unemployment insurance benefits to 45,000 Pennsylvanians now and will allow another 90,000 Pennsylvanians to qualify for extended benefits through the end of 2011. This year, the bill will draw down $350 million in additional federal funds.

Third and State Week in Review: Unemployment Benefits, Drilling Fee Bill and the Latest Jobs Report

Last week, we blogged about a drilling fee bill moving in the Pennsylvania Senate, a resolution to the legislative standoff over extended unemployment benefits, an update on the May jobs report and more.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Pa. House to Vote on Extended Unemployment Benefits Today

A blog post from Mark Price, originally published on Third and State.

Updated: June 17, 2011 - Community and Legal Services of Philadelphia has carefully analyzed the bill that finally passed the Legislature. As they explain, the legislation includes provisions that permanently cut unemployment benefits for thousands of workers in the future.  Many of these changes hurt low wage workers in particular. We'll have more on this in the coming days.

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