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December 2009

November 2009

Tax fairness and constitutional conventions

Last week, we posted a piece about the sudden renewed interest in having a constitutional convention in Pennsylvania. We pointed out that despite the best of intentions by some good-government types, opening up the constitution could bring with it some real unintended consequences. You can check that piece out here. 

We awoke this morning to find a new report had come out from the Washington D.C-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy that seems to indicate that as a state, we are pretty darned regressive when it comes to tax policy. In fact, we are in the top ten of the most regressive states in the union.

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Direct Energy jumps into PPL territory

Pittsburgh-based Direct Energy announced this morning that it will enter PPL’s service territory on January 1, 2010, offering markedly lower rates for residential customers.

When the current rate caps on PPL expire next year, residential customers are expected to see a 30% jump in their rates.  Direct Energy announced today that it is offering a 12-month discounted program with a 9-month step down, saving customers 15% off of PPL’s default rate.  In addition to the 12 month plan, Direct is also offering a 36-month fixed rate plan, as well as a 12 month “green” offering, where the supplier will purchase renewable energy products.

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Is state oversight coming to public authorities?

The New York Times today heralded a brand new law in the Empire State that will for the first time allow Albany to assume broad oversight of state authorities. Every authority, from the Long Island Power Authority to the Thruway Authority, will have a ton of sunshine cast on its books, its practices and its personnel.

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Pittsburgh braces for budget battle

A few minutes ago, the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority that oversees the City of Pittsburgh’s budget unanimously rejected the spending plan of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, setting up a three-way showdown between the mayor, city council and the ICA. At the heart of the battle is Ravenstahl’s proposed 1% tuition tax at city-based colleges and universities, a levy that will generate enough revenue to close a projected $15 million hole.

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Constitutional Convention - solution or problem?

Earlier today, a group of good-government activists stood in the main rotunda and advocated for a constitutional convention aimed at cleaning up government.

1968 was the last time a constitutional convention was convened in Pennsylvania, and it was limited in scope to the articles pertaining to legislative apportionment; judicial administration, organization, selection, and tenure; local government; taxation and state finance (with the exception of the uniformity clause already contained in the Constitution); and any amendment on the ballot in the 1967 primary election.

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State college is a gas, gas, gas!

Our energy team heads up to Happy Valley this week to monitor the big doings of Penn State and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), the tag-team duo that will co-present the Pennsylvania Natural Gas Summit: Planning for Progress — Infrastructure and Water in the Marcellus Shale.

The conference is being held at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, Pennsylvania and is drawing big crowds. The issue of frac water treatment has bubbled to the surface again, and how the DEP and other regulatory agencies deal with this contentious issue will have a direct and lasting impact on all the would-be drillers and prospectors. In addition, the summit will provide a forum to discuss and identify infrastructure, local government, legal and business issues, and impacts related to Marcellus Shale development in communities and regions.

We’ll have a full report later this week!