News Flash! Marcellus Shale Coalition Takes on Pennsylvania Charities

Thanks to Citizens United, we are all the beneficiaries of unlimited corporate money in our elections — witness the onslaught of TV ads interrupting our ballgames and the fall lineup of TV shows.

In a new twist, the very groups that agitated to spend unlimited funds to promote their point of view are now critical of others who challenge them. What brings this to mind is an Associated Press story this morning that the Marcellus Shale Coalition is not happy about the funding priorities of the Heinz Endowments and William Penn Foundation.

Morning Must Reads: Never Before Has So Much Stupid Led to So Much Learning!

At 7.8% in September, the U.S. unemployment rate was below 8% for the first time since January 2009. Five minutes after the new numbers were released, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch suggested the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) had juked the stats.

Third and State This Week: Court Halts Voter ID Law, Changing the Subject on Payday Lending and Paying the Boss to Work

This week at Third and State, we blogged about a court decision halting enforcement of the Voter ID Law in the November election, an effort to change the subject on payday lending, a report on rising student debt, a lawsuit against the state to restore General Assistance and much more!

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • On voter ID, we highlighted a statement from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) on a Commonwealth Court decision halting enforcement of the Voter ID Law in the November election. Chris Lilienthal also highlighted MSNBC's coverage of PBPC's recent report on the state's flawed implementation of the Voter ID Law.
  • On payday lending, Mark Price wrote about a recent state Senate hearing on the subject and why changing the subject doesn't make high-interest payday lending any better an idea in Pennsylvania.
  • On education, Jamar Thrasher blogged about a Pew Research Center report on the growing burden of student debt especially among the lowest-income students.
  • On jobs, Mark Price explained how the story of a Bucks County manufacturer who is finding it difficult to recruit workers made him think of a joke about parrots and economists. He also broke down the employment picture in Allentown.
  • On state tax policy, we shared a video from Reuters exploring the problems with programs that allow certain businesses to keep the income taxes paid by employees. The Pennsylvania House is considering a similar program.
  • On public welfare, Mark Price blogged about a lawsuit aimed at restoring Pennsylvania's General Assistance program.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Reuters Video: Is Your Boss Pocketing Your State Income Taxes?

In a letter to state lawmakers this week, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center highlighted several concerns with a proposed tax credit program that would allow certain qualifying businesses to keep the income taxes paid by their employees. Paying the boss to work? It could get a vote in the state House when the Legislature returns to session the week of October 15.

Believe it or not, this is not a new idea. A number of states have similar programs. Good Jobs First calls it "job blackmail." David Cay Johnston of Reuters explains it all in this great (and short) video. Watch it.

The Young and Poor Have Most Student Debt

College student debt has a reached an all time, according to an Associated Press article last week on a Pew Research Center report. The new research shows a lack of jobs for recent graduates and rising tuition costs are contributing to the record high student debt. 

One interesting aspect of the report: the two groups most affected by high debt are the most well-off and the least well-off:

Changing the Subject Doesn’t Make Payday Lending a Better Idea

In legislative hearings last month, proponents of a bill to legalize high-interest payday loans tried to change the subject and questioned the motives of some of their constituents. But these attempts don’t alter the fact that allowing payday lending is a bad idea. 

Late-Morning Must Reads: Well We're Living Here in Allentown So Call Me Maybe

Since I attended the 82nd annual Gridiron show last night, I'm both in a good mood and have the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association's version of Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe (<--not them) in my head this morning. 

Court Ruling an Acknowledgement of Flaws in Voter ID Implementation

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A Commonwealth Court ruling today has halted enforcement of Pennsylvania's Voter ID Law in the November election. Sharon Ward, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, put out this statement on the decision:

The court’s decision is welcome news and an acknowledgement that the implementation of Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law has been inadequate and has needlessly put the voting rights of many Pennsylvanians at risk. The decision allows voters, troubled over the hardship involved in obtaining an ID, to rest easier tonight.

This decision is an important but temporary fix. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has documented persistent and widespread confusion over this law among PennDOT staff and voters seeking IDs. The commonwealth must address these problems and demonstrate it is capable of constructing a clear system that gets eligible voters the ID they will need. If it cannot do so, the commonwealth must reconsider the law altogether.

You can read the center's most recent report on flaws in the commonwealth's implementation of voter ID.

Morning Must Reads: We Are Better Than This?

Public policy in Pennsylvania in the aftermath of the Great Recession does not reflect well on the commonwealth.

Over the weekend, the Harrisburg Patriot-News detailed a new Department of Public Welfare policy to shift more of the cost of caring for intellectually disabled children onto their parents. 

Pennsylvania Faces a Shortage of Skilled Parrots

The economist J.R. McCulloch once quipped that to pass for an economist, a parrot need only learn the phrase: “supply and demand, supply and demand.” In many cases, explaining trends in the economy often comes down to understanding supply and demand. 

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