Monday, February 28, 2011

The governor can’t find money for adultBasic, but he found over $200 million for big business

Distributing a press release toward the end of the week is a great way to bury a story that you don't really want to be told. Well last Thursday, expert communicators working for the Corbett administration opted to release a new policy on how corporations can include bonus depreciation in determining their tax liability. 

I know, I know, bonus depreciation can make your eyes glaze over, but what I'm talking about here is a policy that amounts to a $200 million giveaway to big businesses. Bonus depreciation is basically an accounting method that allows businesses an additional deduction for the cost of equipment purchases when the item is initially purchased.

Putting this in context, the state is looking at a $4 billion budget deficit and adultBasic health coverage for 42,000 people expires at midnight. Despite these issues, an internal decision was made by the Corbett administration to give away $200 million to corporations! 

The most appalling part is that the biggest beneficiaries of this new policy are those corporations already taking advantage of a monster truck-sized loophole in the Tax Reform Code, often referred to as the Delaware Loophole.  A quick reminder that this loophole is where corporations transfer profits to out of state subsidiaries and avoid paying taxes to Pennsylvania, costing our state millions of dollars in revenue, forcing small Pennsylvania businesses to pay more than their fair share.

This quiet action by the new administration is just another indicator of Gov. Corbett's priorities this year.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

AdultBasic: A rural crisis?

In less than a week 41,000 working Pennsylvanians will lose their health care coverage. Coverage that is low cost, but keeps those enrolled out of high cost emergency rooms for treatment because of its preventative care and affordable doctors visits. AdultBasic keeps costs down for all of us.

We knew this crisis was coming, not just for the 41,000, but for the estimated 500,000 residents on the waiting list who will never be able to enroll.

At the start of this year, one of the first acts of those in power was to blame the previous administration for not leaving them with a government that would not run itself for the next four years. Gov. Corbett and the 142 Republican lawmakers that control the House and Senate, claim they knew the crisis was coming yet, with one week remaining not one viable* plan has emerged from that side. And not one of the Democratic plans has been embraced or fully considered by those in control.

After reviewing the numbers, the fact that the majority has remained largely silent surprised me. Turns out a greater percentage of those in rural counties (aka republican ones) are effected more than urban ones (aka Philadelphia and the like).

In counties with fewer than 50,000 residents (23 according to 2008 Census Bureau numbers) an average of nearly .50% are enrolled in adultBasic and 4.9% are on the waiting list, compared to counties with over 250,000 residents (there are 14, mainly in the east) where just .26% are enrolled and 3.5% are on the waiting list.

In fact the three counties with the highest percentage of their population on the rolls are: Bedford (.81%), Somerset (.78%) and Potter (.77%); those with the lowest percentage: Dauphin, Lebanon, and Chester (all .14%).

While the Republican-led legislature and administration has failed to cultivate a timely solution to adultBasic's expiration, not all the blame rests with them. The Blues haven't offered any of their $5.6 billion surplus to subsidize the program (despite being a nonprofit with a charitable obligation), which cost them $164 million last year.

If I were the Blues, I would be scared that Gov. Corbett's reluctance to ask me for a measly 3% of my surplus to carry out my charitable mission means he has bigger plans for a larger chunk of my surplus when budget time rolls around.

This is perhaps just the first crisis of 2011. I imagine there will be many more given that the governor's budget address is just weeks away. So far this session, we've seen that the Republicans can act rapidly when they're motivated to do something like attempt to pass H.B. 42, which would ban a key provision of the federal Affordable Care Act, effectively killing the ability of a person with a pre-existing condition from getting insurance coverage. I hope they are motivated to act quickly for the people on adultBasic.