KRC/PBPC Insider News Special Blizzard Edition 1-23-16

Special blizzard edition ... yeah we’re snowed in, but we know you’re just watching your email for our weekly news so here it is, delivered despite the weather.

Senator from York Predicts a Recession

If you were getting bored by the never ending budget process, a flurry of colorful metaphors by “Fightin” Sen. Scott Wagner of York County added a more circus like element to the standoff. I just wanted to highlight an interesting argument in the Senator’s letter to Capitolwire about the current state of the economy. According to the Senator:

KRC/PBPC Insider News for the Week Ending January 8, 2016

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Goodbye and good riddance 2015… A bruising and historic budget fight ended in an unsatisfactory stalemate with the governor’s signing and blue-lining of an inadequate budget passed by the General Assembly after the House and Senate walked away from a negotiated compromise. Education funding remains far from resolved, but school districts did receive enough funding to keep the doors open in the new year.

Gas Drillers New Year's Eve

On New Year’s Eve, Miss Smith walked out through the automatic sliding doors of the grocery store where she worked as a cashier and pulled her scarf to her nose as the December wind hit her face. Glad to be done with the last shift of 2015, she walked briskly toward her parents’ house where she had lived for the last three years.

Before she lost her job as an art teacher for the local school, she had her own apartment. But her salary at the grocery store was not enough to allow her to afford her own place after she made her student loan and car payments.

A New Year's Resolution for PA Lawmakers - Pass a Fiscally Responsible State Budget

It turns out we're not the only ones waiting for a responsible Pennsylvania state budget that actually raises the revenue the state needs to pay its debts -- and also to adequately fund education, infrastructure and human services. 

The rating agency, Standard and Poor's (S&P), is also waiting for a fiscally responsible budget.

Pension’s Hybrid Pension Plan – We Told You So

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Actuarial studies released yesterday confirmed what Keystone Research Center said a month ago about the Pennsylvania hybrid pension plan that passed the Senate and is now being considered in the Pennsylvania House. The hybrid pension plan won’t save any money. It will actually increase taxpayer costs if courts rule unconstitutional savings from cutting current members’ benefits. But the plan will cut benefits deeply.

Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

Five and a half weeks ago, Governor Wolf and the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Pennsylvania House and Senate announced a bi-partisan “budget framework” designed to end the long impasse over the budget. The framework agreement, like most compromises between parties that are far apart, pleased no one. But it provided enough to satisfy everyone.

Why conservatives can like Pennsylvania's personal income tax

Rumors of a sudden interest on the part of Republicans in raising the personal Income tax (PIT) instead of the sales tax to meet the revenue requirements of the budget framework have floated across 3rd Street to our offices at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. So I’m going to do something unusual for us—and frankly a bit uncomfortable—and give some conservative arguments for preferring the PIT over the sales tax. 

Maybe the Left Hand of Pew Trust Needs to Talk to the Right Hand...

The Patriot-News yesterday highlighted a new report by the Pew Trust which finds that the middle class is shrinking. That’s interesting, especially given that, another part of Pew has been advocating for several years with former Enron billionaire John Arnold for policies that would further undermine the middle class. (Check on this link for one perspective on Arnold and Pew.)

Backroom budget deal attempts to derail environmental regulations

The Pennsylvania Senate today passed the Fiscal Code, a must-pass piece of legislation that is part of the budget process. It contains provisions that would subvert Pennsylvania’s climate plan and gas drilling regulations and raid $12 million from the Alternative Energy Investment Act to create a new “Natural Gas Infrastructure Development Fund” providing more taxpayer help to an industry that still doesn’t pay a severance tax in Pennsylvania.

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