Looking Beyond the Kinder, Gentler Budget

With state budget hearings in the rearview mirror, I wanted to offer a few thoughts about the Governor Tom Corbett's 2014-15 budget proposal.

First of all, this, the Governor's fourth budget, is very different from his first. Tough talk about reining in spending has been replaced with a host of new initiatives that resonate with the public, particularly women.

February Revenues Fall Short But March Will Be Bigger Month

Pennsylvania General Fund collections for nearly every major tax type fell short of estimate in February. Shortfalls in the collection of sales, personal income, and realty transfer taxes may be partly attributable to the excessive amount of inclement weather in February, but the bulk of the month's deficit is due to expectations of strong growth for 2014 falling short. This is the third consecutive month in which revenues have fallen short of targets.

Are You a Governor in Need of Some Popular Policy Ideas? Here's One.

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Are you a governor of a Mid-Atlantic state in a tough re-election fight this year? After supporting policies that reduced corporate taxes, cut education funding, and reduced the number of people eligible for unemployment insurance, do you find your supporters are about as loyal as Theon Greyjoy?

Perhaps a change of strategy is in order.

Another Reality Check on PA Marcellus Shale Employment

For quite some time now, we have been putting out jobs data explaining that drilling in the Marcellus Shale has produced far fewer new jobs than the industry and its supporters claim. Well, now you don't have to listen to us; a team of economists from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is out with a study confirming what we have been saying all along.

Study Finds Many Profitable Corporations Pay Little or No U.S. Income Taxes

One would think that all profitable Fortune 500 companies in the United States are paying some amount in federal income taxes. And one would be wrong.

Interesting Report on the Middle Class in Philadelphia

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Susan Warner of The Pew Charitable Trusts has a very interesting study out titled Philadelphia’s Changing Middle Class. The Philadelphia Inquirer has a quick summary of the findings here.

The study is impressive work, and I would encourage our Philadelphia readers to put it on their list of weekend long reads. As always, context matters. While there is much that is good in this study, how best to link it into the city's economic and social policy is going to be a matter of intense debate. So take a moment now to read up on what this study does and doesn’t say.

The study brought to mind Michael Smerconish's recent Inquirer column that cites another study identifying marriage as a factor in growing income inequality — specifically, the marriage of highly educated people to other highly educated people (resulting in higher incomes). The study is a great example of what Larry Mishel at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) calls "misdirection" (more on that later). The essential problem is that it identifies demographic trends, rather than changes in the distribution of income, as the reason we have rising income inequality.

Morning Must Reads: A Few Inconvenient Shale Truths

For a long time, we've been making two points about natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. One, Pennsylvania's drilling impact fee brings in a fraction of what a severance tax comparable to those in other large energy-producing states would generate. And, two, the claims of job creation by the industry and its supporters (often used to cut off any talk of enacting a severance tax) are greatly overstated.

But don't take it from us. The Allentown Morning Call's Steve Esack has a pair of Sunday stories making the very same points.

Can You Feel the Minimum Wage Momentum?

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On Wednesday, Gap Inc., which operates clothing retailers The Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy, announced that it would set an entry level wage of $9 per hour this year and raise it to $10 per hour next year. Steven Greenhouse of The New York Times gives you the run down:

From California to the New York Island, Top Incomes Are on the Rise

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Today the Economic Analysis Research Network released The Increasingly Unequal States of America: Income Inequality by State by Estelle Sommeiller of France and yours truly. With apologies to the great Woody Guthrie, you can summarize the report's findings this way:

Historic Union Vote at Volkswagen in Tennessee

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Today is the third and final day of a historic union vote for workers at Volkswagen in Tennessee, in which workers will decide whether they want to be represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union.

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