The Emperor’s New Liquor Stores

Act 39 flew through the House of Representatives and was signed by Governor Wolf too fast for us, and many others, to object. If we had a chance, we would have pointed out, as the IFO did soon after passage, that the estimates of new revenue from expanding wine and beer sales was way too high. And we would have added that much of the $106 million that the IFO expects will be generated by Act 39 is a one-time deal. Projections of additional sales of wine and beer at the new locations have to be weighed against the loss of sales at Wine and Spirit shops and beer distributors. 

Revenue Options Real and Fake: A Minimum Wage Increase and Gaming Expansion

Ten years ago was the last time Pennsylvania raised the minimum wage in advance of the federal government doing so. In those ten years, inflation has reduced the value of the minimum wage to a poverty wage. That’s why it’s time to raise it again, ultimately to $15 an hour, but immediately to $10.10.

Some things are worse than a late budget.

As the June 30th deadline looms, we have little more than rumors about what kind of Pennsylvania budget might be enacted by the General Assembly for 2016-17. But while some may find optimism in talk of getting the budget done, the rumors we are hearing about the details of the budget in the works are extremely worrisome.

Why Philly Needs the Sugary Drink Tax

As we move closer to a City Council vote on the sugary drink tax proposal, I want to offer some final thoughts about the idea and correct some misapprehensions about it:

Finally: Waste, Fraud, and Abuse!!!

After ribbing Senator Wagner and his fellow members of the taxpayer caucus for not understanding the basics of budgeting, I want to acknowledge that they did come up with a really good idea today.

It appears that the Pennsylvania State Police take two sheets of paper to print tickets. Some intrepid investigator discovered that they could get the whole thing on one sheet of paper if they printed in landscape rather than portrait mode. At 8 cents per sheet of paper for the 542,000 tickets they print, that’s a savings of $43,384.

Make Believe Budgeting in Harrisburg

I’ve been doing political advocacy for over ten years and have been a teacher and writer about politics for a lot longer. I don’t surprise easily. But what I saw today at the press conference at which Senator Scott Wagner and the “Taxpayer’s Caucus” presented their three billion dollars in proposed budget cuts, left me almost speechless.

U.S. Department of Labor Scores a Victory for Working People

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On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) raised the salary threshold under which working people can earn overtime pay.  Under the new rule, effective December 1 of this year, most salaried workers – including managers and professionals – making less than $47,476 will now be entitled to overtime pay (most charitable non-profits will be unaffected by this rule change - read more here). 

PBPC Research Prompts Senators to Introduce Tax Fairness Legislation

Something new and unusual happened in Harrisburg today. Senators Art Haywood, Vincent Hughes and Jay Costa put forward an idea that actually could help resolve the pressing fiscal cliff we face this year, and at the same time could make our tax system more progressive.

Despite partisan differences, three goals are more or less shared by everyone in Harrisburg. While their top priority may differ, for the most part, legislators all say they want:

1. to close the $1.8 billion structural deficit;

2. to spend more on education;

Advocacy Update: Hunger Transcends Political Boundaries

Last month, the state’s 2015-16 budget impasse finally came to an end --- more than nine months after it started. But there was little time to celebrate. As quickly as one budget debate ended, a new one began.

Legislators and the governor now must begin in earnest to craft and finalize a 2016-17 budget. They have two months to do it. The state’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30 each year, and May and June are the most critical months for finding consensus.

Need a data-driven break from the election? Let's talk education funding...

For the education data geeks out there (admit it, you're probably one) here is data comparing new classroom funding (in budget geek speak that's the basic education subsidy plus the ready to learn block grant) by school district as proposed under the bi-partisan budget framework versus the same funding under the final budget for 2015-16.

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