President Barack Obama this week announced a plan to lower the nation’s corporate top tax rate from 35% to 28%, while closing loopholes and ending subsidies to pay for it. Apparently, the President got the idea from Pennsylvania House Policy Chairman Dave Reed and his Democratic college, Eugene DePasquale, who proposed something similar a few weeks back. Ergo, the President is a policy thief, as we’ve seen previously with his Massachusetts-style health care plan. Really, Mr. President, do some original work down there.
Before we get all Pennsylvania newsy on you, we’d like to take a moment to give a shout-out to all the students, faculty and volunteers at Penn State, who last weekend raised a whopping $10.6 million for pediatric cancer research. The haul from this year’s dance marathon brings the running total to over $88 million. Well done, Nittany Nation! You are…
Still warm and fuzzy from the previous paragraph? Well, good, because we learned this week that the state’s public pension contributions in this year’s budget will top a billion dollars, and hit the four billion dollar mark a few years down the road. For those of you scoring at home, a billion clams represents about 4% of the total state budget. There, that will teach you for being all happy and optimistic about life.
Legislative leaders announced this week that there would be a public meeting on Wednesday, where maybe, just maybe, the new and improved legislative maps would be sprung on the populace. Wednesday came, the meeting lasted all of 90 seconds, and there were no maps for you. So, this makes it increasingly likely that this year’s elections will be run in the seats drawn way back in 2001. Shouldn’t be that big of a deal, quite frankly; it’s not like we’ve annexed New Jersey or Ohio in the interim.
This also means that the current court battle being waged over when to schedule special elections for six vacant House seats might just be moot. In any case, we imagine the courts are rather tired of hearing about maps right about now, and would rather go back to more mundane and less politically-charged topics, like the 2ndamendment or abortion.
Lawmakers seem to have shifted the gears on the Commonwealth’s policy vehicle when it comes to liquor stores, we learned this week. The people at the wheel have downshifted from “privatization” to “modernization”, failing to muster enough legislative support for the former. This presents quite to conundrum for privatization fans. If State Stores become too modernized, and successful, what will be the rationale for trying to sell them off again in 2013?
The budget hearings droned on…we mean, continued…this week with the House joining the band. The highlight of the week was the four state-related university presidents coming together to warn that the currently-proposed higher education cuts might just force them to go private. Of all the message points the esteemed presidents could have used, we are not sure if that one was the most effective way to make the case to some of the folks in the room. Forcing Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln to privatize is probably exactly what some of them want in the end anyway. Never try to threaten somebody with a good time, folks. It doesn’t work.
And if you haven’t yet checked out our amazing budget page, you should do it today before it gets so heavy that the Triad computer servers drop through the floor, potentially harming our friends at The Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children on the fourth floor. We are now aggregating daily budget headlines to save you the trouble. You’re welcome.
The head of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections this week said that privatizing prisons is not among the menu items for any projected cost-savings over at his dojo. We would cautiously remind our readers that privatizing prisons may be off the table, but privatizing services provided within the walls of those prisons is certainly not, as we’ve discovered. So yes, they may not be selling the car to the highest bidder over there yet, but eventually, the seats, engine, transmission and tires might be gone.
If you are a Pennsylvania hamlet that does not have its own police department and instead relies upon the State Police, you may be losing your share of ticket revenue under the newly-proposed Corbett budget. Under his plan, the local share of traffic violations would no longer stay local, but instead be diverted to the State Police. We’re sure there is some reasonable argument against this idea, but having spent two days trying to figure out what that might be, we are just gonna go ahead and wait until somebody e-mails it our way, because we are fresh out of ideas.
As some Pennsylvania policy makers play the “I know you are, but what am I?” game on transportation funding, the House is poised to pass a bill to enable public/private partnerships in the state to help alleviate a bit of the problem. Here is a nice piece from our pals at the Reading Eagle on the types of projects that could be eligible.
And if you’d like to bone up on your P3 knowledge, pop on over to this blog, hosted by some of our friends.
We found out this week that Pennsylvania now ranks 14thnationally in the percentage of unionized workforce. The good news for our pals in labor is that the Keystone State still has the fourth-highest number of unionized workers.
The United States Postal Service announced its five-year plan this week, and it includes an end to Saturday deliveries, as well as 50-cent stamps (no, not stamps with the rapper on them). Because nothing says we are ready to stand up to the private sector competition like fewer hours and more expensive products.
A federal court is pondering whether or not to temporarily block the newly-minted fiscal recovery plan from being implemented on the grounds that the city could be “irreparably harmed” if the plan to sell city assets is not allowed to be voted on by elected leaders, according to the complaint filed Thursday. Yeah, by all means, we wouldn’t want to see a debt-laden, nearly bankrupt city with a largely dysfunctional governing body be irreparably harmed. That would stink, yeah.
The Lottery Commission this week announced they have sent Gus the Second Most Famous Pennsylvania Groundhog off to that big burrow in the sky. Reaction was mixed, as some folks refused to understand just how creepy he really was, apparently. He will be replaced by a bumbling but good-natured roughed grouse named Sal.
With there now being zero chance that any GOP Presidential nominee can lock up the nomination before April 24th, Pennsylvania will, in fact, again be relevant in the Presidential Primary kerfuffle. Lest anyone believe, however, that whoever wins the state will get a big boost to the nomination, we refer you to President Hillary Clinton’s spokesperson.
If we do, however, mean more than a hill of beans, those beans are looking more and more like they will be in the pockets of our own Rick Santorum, who is currently polling off the charts in his home state (no doubt getting under the skin of our other two favorite sons, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul).
Once the long-awaited North Shore connector opens in March out in the Steel City, transit riders heading in to downtown (or even, for that matter, heading into dahntahn) will ride for free, thanks to subsidies from the Rivers Casino and the Pittsburgh Steelers. This proves once and for all that 80s hair band Ratt had no idea what they were talking about. Nobody rides for free, indeed.
Finally this week, if you are unsure as to why new laws sometimes take so long to pass (or in some cases, never pass), you might want to read our little blog post about Pennsylvania’s four-party system.
And that’s the whole ball of wax for this week as February draws to an end and spring training opens for the Phightin’ Phils and the Battlin’ Bucs! Remember to come hang out with us on Twitter and Facebook for breaking news and whatever else tickles our fancy at any given moment. We’ll be back next week with more budget hearing coverage, so stay tuned!
From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!