How Pennsylvania Should Raise Revenues This Year

Now that a general appropriation bill has been passed by the House and Senate, the General Assembly and the Governor are turning their attention to finding the revenue to pay for it. And they are running into difficulties both reaching agreement on tax revenues that are real, recurring, and fair. But the PBPC-Senator Haywood proposal to slightly raise taxes on income from wealth meets all three criteria. Continue reading

The Emperor’s New Liquor Stores

Originally published at Third and State, June 28, 2016 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’d 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. And now, just weeks later, liquor privatizers are at again, loading up a bill to expand alcohol sales at the Democratic National Convention — as was done for the Republicans in … Continue reading

School funding: what one hand gives another takes away

Originally posted at Third and State, June 29, 2016 As this dispiriting budget season ends, advocates for education could at least be grateful that the General Assembly seems poised to increase basic education funding by $200 million. This is far less than the $400 million necessary to put us on a path towards overcoming massive cuts and the most unequal education funding in the state. And it does little more than help school districts keep up with costs. But at a time when so many legislators are unwilling to find the revenues to invest in anything, it is better than nothing. Yet, at least as Philadelphia is concerned, it will all be for nothing if HB530 passes in its current form. That bill would undermine the ability of the School District of Philadelphia to control the growth of charter schools. Yet, under the present rules, every charter school enrollment disproportionately … Continue reading

Revenue options real and fake: a minimum wage increase and gaming

Originally posted at Third and State. 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. A raise in the minimum wage to $10.10 will help 1.2 million Pennsylvanians who work hard but make less than $10.10 an hour right now. Eighty-seven percent of those affected would be over age 20 (not teenagers).  Eighty-four percent of workers who will be affected by a minimum wage increase have a high school degree or more.  And 30% of affected workers have some college education. Raising the minimum wage won’t just help workers who receive it — every dollar in new wages will be spent generating economic activity that … Continue reading

White Male Rage and Trump’s Appeal

The appeal of Trump is no surprise to anyone who interacts with rightwingers on Facebook. Every day I see the casual racism and sexism, the hatred of immigrants and foreigners, the endless repetition of right wing talking points that have no relationship to fact, the lack of any genuine concern for anyone who has struggled in life, the contempt for people who do have that concern, the dismissal of every government effort to make life better for those who struggle or, for that matter, for shared prosperity as a whole. Not to mention signs of Obama Derangement Syndrome and incipient cases of Hillary Derangement Syndrome. Most of this comes from rude and crude young men, who delight in unfunny insults, many of which have more than a tinge of sexual aggression. It’s not hard to see the male rage at the diminished status of young white men, and sexual frustration, … Continue reading

Some things are worse than a late budget

From the Third and State blog. 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. We know that everyone on both sides of the aisle wants a budget done more or less on time. All members of the House and half the members of the Senate face re-election in November, and none of them want a long, drawn-out budget and delays in funding schools and human services. Yet to reach agreement on a budget legislators have to find their way between their determination to get one done and the structural deficit that requires either some new revenues or difficult budget cuts. More … Continue reading

How Bernie could have run better

Had Bernie run a campaign that attacked Republicans for creating the horrible economic inequality we have today, instead of attacking Democrats for it, I think he would have had a much better chance to be the nominee. A lot of us who have worked for economic (and racial and gender) equality over the years wanted a candidate who put economic inequality first and put forward an aggressive and smart agenda for reducing it. But he constantly turned off people who have been working for economic equality by telling us the compromises we made to get the real victories we won were the equivalent of selling out. It was a stupid campaign strategy that taught a whole bunch of his followers to have a misguided and overly cynical view of Democratic (and democratic) politics. And today it makes it hard for him to (1) to recognize how much he has shaped what … Continue reading

Campaign contributions and the gun control issue

Here is a good exercise for those of you who think campaign contributions are the most important barrier to progressive legislation. How many of you would not vote for a candidate who agreed with you about everything else if they were wrong about gun control? How many of you would not vote for a candidate who agreed with you about everything else if they were wrong about abortion? I know there are a lot fewer of you in the second category than you think at first because Bob Casey is our Senator. We can’t get gun control through Congress because there are a lot of voters who would not vote for a candidate, especially in a Republican primary but also in a general election, if they support gun control. What the NRA does is not buy members of Congress but mislead those intense supporters of “gun rights” about the implications … Continue reading

Why Philly needs the sugary drink tax

Originally appeared on the Third and State Blog on May 25, 2016 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: 1.While the tax itself is regressive, and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center almost always opposes regressive taxation, the program as a whole is not regressive. To begin with, the opponents of the tax are simply wrong about one aspect of it. They have been arguing that it is doubly regressive because members of low-income families consume sugary drinks at higher rates than middle- and high-income families or that African-Americans drink sugary drinks at higher rates than white people (and keep in mind that these are two groups not one). Those are myths. The research on this issue is equivocal and does not support that claim. 2. … Continue reading