If PA Republicans Were Serious About Crime in Philly They Would Actually Fight It

Originally published by the Pennsylvania Capital Star on October 24, 2022 Violent crime—especially murder—shocks us all. Not only does it directly harm the victims but it also undermines the sense of security we all want to have. And, it creates difficulties for our communities. A high crime rate in a community discourages both business investment and consumption, leading to economic distress and poverty. Yet instead of putting forward serious solutions that reflect what we know about how to reduce murder rates, Republicans are spreading fear for electoral purposes with their usual racist dog whistles, which point fingers at Philadelphia and blame District Attorney Larry Krasner. The hypocrisy of these attacks is demonstrated in a new paper we recently released. Look at the communities represented by the three leading Republican critics of District Attorney Krasner in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Rep. Tim O’Neal represents Washington County where murders increased by 800 percent… Continue reading

Who Runs Harrisburg? You or The Corporate Elite?

Originally published in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, June 29, 2022.  By Nick Pressley and Marc Stier Every rumor we hear about the state budget negotiations tells us that a reduction in the corporate net income tax (CNIT) rate is possible. It is unclear whether that corporate tax cut also includes some of Gov. Tom Wolf’s “add-back” provisions, which would make multinational corporations that currently pay nothing pay something. It appears that Republicans continue to oppose closing the Delaware loophole by enacting combined reporting. Every rumor we hear also says that raising the minimum wage may not be included because Republicans oppose it.  Are we talking about cutting corporate taxes because it is a good idea? And is raising the minimum wage less likely because it is a bad idea? I’ll come back to these questions below, but the short answers are “no” and “no.” If they are not bad ideas, then is it hard to raise the minimum wage and easier… Continue reading

The GOP showed us who they are with challenge to Pa. House map

Originally published by the Pennsylvania Capital-Star on February 24, 2022 Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, recently filed suit against the House district map produced by the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission (LRC). Marc Stier (Twitter)  Most advocates of fair districting think the new district lines are an enormous improvement over those currently in place for two reasons: they reflect the changing demographics of our commonwealth and they unwind two decades of extreme partisan gerrymandering, which I documented in a recent paper.  Predictably, they have been harshly attacked by Republicans. The background for their criticism is fairly obvious—while the new districts are, by standard metrics, still somewhat tilted in favor of Republicans, they are far less gerrymandered in their favor than the districts Republicans drew for themselves in the last two decades. It is hard not to conclude that when it comes to legislative districts, like presidential races, Republicans are not willing to accept any rules that do not guarantee they win elections.  Benninghoff’s suit raises two substantive arguments that deserve attention—not least because they show us where the Republicans stand on critical… Continue reading

Another problem with judicial districts: The threat of judicial extremism

Originally published by the PA Capital-Star on January 24, 2021 Those of us who have been fighting the judicial gerrymandering constitutional amendment have been focused less on the highly uncertain partisan implications of the proposal but on its implications for the balance of power among the three branches of government in our state. We are concerned that giving the General Assembly the power to draw judicial districts will enable it to exert undue influence the courts. And that power will be especially noticeable in the transition from our current system to a future one, during which legislators would be able to interfere with the retention elections of our sitting justices and potentially deny one of them the ability to run for reelection. The reason that almost all the states that elect justices of the highest court do so in statewide rather than district elections is to limit the influence of… Continue reading

Pa. can build a clean electric vehicle future. Wolf, lawmakers must embrace it

Originally published by  the Pennsylvania Capital-Star on November 18, 2021 To protect our economy and lives from devastating climate change, the future of transportation on our roads must be based on electric power. Twenty-nine percent of greenhouse gases nationwide are generated by transportation—the largest percentage of any sector of the economy. The federal government is thus strengthening its commitment to electric vehicle adoption, and multiple vehicle manufacturers have committed to full electrification, with auto manufacturers such as Volvo, Ford and GM investing tens of billions to scale up domestic EV production over the coming decade. These companies are reimagining their vehicle portfolios, releasing new electric models, and investing in electric vehicle manufacturing and the required supply chains in the United States, including right here in Pennsylvania. This transformation has to happen not just with the cars we drive but with what is known as medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (MHD), that is… Continue reading

On the PA School Funding Lawsuit: Don’t Change the Subject

Originally published in the PA Capital-Star, August 11, 2021 In September, a group of students and school districts will make a case in state court that Pennsylvania is not meeting its constitutional responsibility to give every student an adequate and equitable education. The conservative Commonwealth Foundation, a Harrisburg think-tank, has called the funding lawsuit misguided. But its analysis doesn’t address the critical question of the gap between what schools spend and what they should spend according to adequacy standards written into state law. Instead, it changes the subject and presents data about other questions, tangentially related to the fundamental question at hand. The lawsuit is not about how much money is spent per student in Pennsylvania on average because a high level of spending could, and does, hide vast disparities between school districts. Those disparities arise because the bulk of school funding comes from local sources. Wealthy districts raise far… Continue reading

This Year We Need to Pass A Budget for the People not the Powerful

Originally published by the PA Capital-Star on June 16, 2021 The General Assembly has two more weeks to pass a budget for next year.  This year, the budget can be—and must be—different than recent budgets. This year we are coming out of a pandemic that created vast suffering for workers, local businesses, and our communities. Millions of Pennsylvanians took on hazardous work during the pandemic at very low wages. They deserve just compensation. They deserve a reward.  Thousands of small businesses remain on the brink of closing. They deserve help. Communities all over the state are trying to return to normal. They need assistance.  And all of the suffering has revealed deep inequities in our society. Before the pandemic, some of us were already aware that … millions of Pennsylvanians are not paid wages that lift them or their families out of poverty. educational opportunities are not distributed fairly to kids who live in low- or moderate-income communities, or who are Black or Hispanic.  the state invests less in higher… Continue reading

A minimum wage hike would reverse 40-year pay stagnation for working people

Originally published in The Morning Call on March 11, 2021 Raising the minimum wage is about helping low-income workers do better — but not just that. It is about changing the rules of our economy so that we all do better, now and in the future. To all do better we must reverse the 40-year trend that has seen skyrocketing incomes and wealth for the owners and executives of the largest corporations while income for working people and the middle class has been stagnant. This transformation was not the necessary result of a free market economy. The economy is a human creation subject to the rules we choose. Political and legal changes made at the behest of the corporate elite deliberately tilted the economy to their advantage and against the working and middle classes, as well as small businesses. Activists near the Capitol in Washington on Feb. 25 appeal for… Continue reading

Pa. is in the throes of a COVID-19 recession. Wolf, lawmakers need to step up for working families

Originally published by the PA Capital-Star on November 17, 2020 No matter where we live, what we look like, whether we are native– born or immigrants, or whether we are struggling or getting by, the COVID-19 recession is a threat to all of us. We need the state government to do more for families and small businesses to meet that threat. Yet the recession will cost the state at least $3.3 billion in revenues—and perhaps more—over two years. Squaring this circle would be difficult at any time, but the General Assembly must act by Nov. 30 when the stop-gap budget enacted in May, covering about about half of the General Fund,  runs out. Democratic and Republican senators appear close to a compromise that avoids a budget impasse at this dangerous time even as it leaves many problems unresolved. Our understanding is that it would fund a full-year General Fund budget at the same level as in fiscal 2019-2020 with some… Continue reading

Here’s how we stop the coming eviction and foreclosure tsunami

Originally published at the PA Capital-Star on August 28, 2020 Pennsylvania is now facing a housing catastrophe as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf told legislative leaders that he does not have the authority to extend the moratorium on evictions and foreclosure beyond the August 31 deadline. This decision sets the state on the path of a humanitarian and economic disaster. As the governor’s letter to state lawmakers points out, the General Assembly can, and must, take action to prevent that disaster from coming to pass. The COVID-19 pandemic reduced the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 9.5 percent in the second quarter of the year, or 32.9 percent, on an annual basis. The damage in Pennsylvania has been equally severe. The pandemic has left many Pennsylvanians short of the funds needed to pay their rent. But they have not been subject to eviction because… Continue reading