Expanding Medicaid: Close the Budget Gap. Check. Insure Thousands of Pennsylvanians. Check.

As lawmakers continue debating how to close a $1.5 billion budget gap, there is a particularly valuable and compassionate policy option still on the table: Medicaid expansion. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the federal government will commit to paying 100% of coverage costs for new enrollees under Medicaid expansion, through 2016. This has the combined effect of easing the financial burden of the state, and giving hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians access to health care coverage.

Robust Pennsylvania Job Growth in May But Long-Term Picture Little Changed

The Pennsylvania employment situation report, released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed that the number of “jobs” in Pennsylvania – nonfarm payroll employment as measured by a survey of employers – grew by a robust 24,700 in May, and the state unemployment rate fell by one-tenth of a percentage point to 5.6 percent. The job jump in May was enough to improve PA’s long-term job-growth ranking – but only by one place, to 48th out of the 50 states going back to January 2011.

New Jersey’s 76ers Deal a Slam Dunk? Maybe for the Sixers, Not so clear for New Jersey or Pennsylvania

The Philadelphia 76ers have been scouting locations for a new training facility, and New Jersey has lobbied considerably to have the team relocate across the river to the Garden State. To sweeten the deal, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) will cover the total cost of the new facility. The state will reimburse the team through an $8.2 million annual tax credit.

Business Tax Breaks are Burning the PA Budget Pie

Deep cuts to critical human services, health care, and education loom in 2014-15 as lawmakers attempt to bridge a $1.5 billion and growing funding gap.

Despite an improving economy, tax collections have fallen far short of revenue targets in 2013-14. The Governor’s initial projections revenue growth have proven to be overly optimistic for this year and for 2014-15.

Severance Tax is No Burden to Booming Industry

As Pennsylvania legislators scramble to identify ways to balance the budget (no small task with a $1.5 billion deficit) one substantial source of revenue is once again up for discussion – a severance tax on natural gas production. A new report released by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center found that natural gas company impact fee payments in Pennsylvania result in one of the lowest production tax rates in the country, just 1.9%. In 2013 they paid $223 million in impact fees while the market value of natural gas production topped $11.8 billion.

CEO Pay in America: Up Up And Away!

According to recently-released data, CEOs and executives in the United States have been recovering well since the end of the recession, while most workers are being left even further behind. The Economic Policy Institute released a study today documenting compensation in 2013 for CEOs at the top 350 firms in the United States. Their data is especially valuable because it provides a consistent historical series of CEO pay trends back to 1965.

In 2013, compensation for the average CEO (using a measure that includes the value of stock options that were realized during the year) was $15.2 million, an increase of 2.8 percent over the year and more than 20 percent since 2010[1].

The Long Crawl Towards Full Employment Continued in May

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported last Friday that total nonfarm employment increased by 217,000 in May, following a 282,000 increase in April.  So far this year, 214,000 jobs have been created on average each month, compared to a 204,000 average monthly gain during the same time period in the previous year. The nation’s official unemployment rate remained unchanged from last month at 6.3%. The Labor Force Participation Rate and the Employment-to-Population ratio remained unchanged in May.  

Exploiting People Down on Their Luck To Make A Buck

The House Commerce Committee is set to vote on June 17th on SB 622 the Debt Settlement Services Act.  This legislation covers the licensing and regulation of debt settlement companies in Pennsylvania. 

Debt settlement services run television commercials in which companies with comforting names that include words like free, freedom, and relief offer consumers a chance to cut their debt by up to 50%!

Pittsburgh Again on the Forefront of Labor Innovation to Build the Next Middle Class

WESA in Pittsburgh has a radio feature airing today on union organizing among contingent faculty in higher education. It includes some excerpts from an interview with me. You can listen to it and access a transcript here.

Seattle has adopted a city minimum wage of $15 an hour.

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As you may have heard by now, Seattle has adopted a city minimum wage of $15 an hour. As with all minimum wage increases, this one will be phased in over three to seven years depending on the size of the business

Arindrajit Dube, a rising star in labor economics has an excellent editorial on the proposal that I would encourage you all to read.

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