Wednesday, November 28, 2012

For sale: Pennsylvania

There he goes again! Remember when Gov. Corbett used to say Pennsylvania is just like a family… when the budget was tight, they would sit around a table and figure out how to get through the tough times. Although unlike the average Pennsylvania family that would consider ways to increase income as well as cut, Corbett would never consider letting Johnny take on a paper route or working a second job himself.

In Corbett’s Pennsylvania there was only one way --- cut, cut, cut. But now that support for his slash and burn agenda has disappeared, PA’s pater familia has another quick fix for the Commonwealth’s fiscal woes -- sell, sell, sell.

Yeah, that’s it… the liquor stores, the lottery -- if it’s worth anything put it out for a yard sale and take the best offer.

Just sell it.

Recently the governor renewed his interest in an initiative first mentioned last April: privatizing the state lottery.  At the time, Gov. Corbett was just investigating the lottery privatization, and knowing the length of time a Corbett investigation can take, I didn’t expect any action until at least 2014 when the influx of fast cash could help a tough budget in a reelection year.

But now the plan to privatize seems to be on the fast track. Your party’s loss in the presidential, senate, attorney general, auditor general, and treasurer races can be a strong motivator to do something and quickly before anyone can check up on what it is you want to do.

Now the Administration is racing to judgment on the solo bid to privatize the lottery. That’s right, ONE lonely bid – from a company in the United Kingdom. Yes, that same United Kingdom that we fought 236 years ago to get out of our government operations. Maybe the Tea Party can chant, “gaming without representation” and help lift the curse. And like Cinderella’s carriage, this bid disappears on December 31, conveniently before the General Assembly returns to Harrisburg to weigh in on whether to sell off the family assets.

Bear in mind, under its current management by the state’s Revenue Department, the Lottery has increased sales by 8.5% in the last fiscal year -- to $1.06 Billion -- and that these flourishing sales go to fund programs for Pennsylvania’s nearly 2 million seniors. Funds pay for programs like transit, rent and property tax rebates, prescription drug assistance, senior centers and long-term care services.

This leaves many asking: if the Lottery, which is owned by the very citizens it benefits, is already profitable and going to the programs our people depend on, why privatize, especially when there is such little interest from potential takers.

But I say: why stop there? If you want to sell, then sell, baby, sell.

Maybe Camelot Global Services would like to purchase the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Think about it…if it’s good for a portion of the state’s operations, why not ALL state operations? They can’t do a worse job than this Administration regarding roads, education and social services.

In addition to running our lottery and our liquor stores they could pave our roads…for a fee. Operate our schools…for a fee. Care for our infirm…for a fee, and we would never need to pay taxes again. We could just pay a private company with a CEO that makes 15x what the governor earns (so she must be good) to do it for us. By selling out we could probably even punt on our pension obligation.

And if the people don’t like the new benevolent corporate entity, they can move to some other socialist state with a democracy like New Jersey or New York (their governors have colluded with President Obama anyway).

Just as in the case of our state’s liquor stores, the Corbett administration has puts blinders on to the existing case studies. Illinois, which privatized its lottery in 2010, has been let down by private company’s failure to meet its forecasted revenue projection.

Remember a few years ago when the casinos wanted to bring a new industry to the Commonwealth… we said ok…pay a 55% tax -- and they agreed. Contrast that with Corbett and the gas industry when they wanted to come, and he said “Ok” -- for free!

In reality, the Harrisburg Patriot-News Editorial Board has done more research on Lottery privatization than the Corbett Administration, noting that the state has very little negotiating leverage when there is a single bidder. 

Once again , just like the sweetheart deal that Corbett struck with Royal Dutch Shell that then required legislative action to implement (tax breaks to the tune of $1.7 Billion), this deal only appears to work on the surface IF the legislature agrees to give the privateers Keno as a revenue source … for free!... just like our shale gas.

Like so many other Grover Norquist devotees, Gov. Corbett placed all the Commonwealth’s bets that Marcellus Shale, if left untaxed, would do so much for the economy in terms of jobs and revenue that he could just sit back and never have to work at governing. It didn’t pan out and now he needs to sell the farm.

Don’t do it governor!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

These Corbett job numbers are downright scary.

Last week when defending the $10,000 raises his boss doled out to top staff, the governor’s spokesman told the Harrisburg Patriot-News that Gov. Corbett has a “broader plan” to bring equity to the state workforce’s 12,000 managers. He said “Governor Corbett plans to grow the economy so that additional revenues become available which allow for additional raises.”

His plan to “grow the economy,” rang a little hollow to me. Perhaps because I had just done some research that points to PA’s economy moving in the opposite direction of the nation’s at large.   

See, while other Americans look at economic indicators like the unemployment rate and foreclosures, and feel encouraged by the hopeful signs Pennsylvanians are left wondering why the numbers in our state don’t do much to boost confidence.

The U.S. Commerce Department shows economic trackers like housing starts, home prices and consumer confidence are growing, while foreclosures and unemployment are down. But Pennsylvanians aren’t feeling this recovery.

Plus according to RealtyTrac foreclosures in the U.S. plunged to a 5 year low in September. But in the Commonwealth -- up a 134% since September 2011, the 2nd highest of any state in the country.

Similarly, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 7.8% in September, a 3/10 percent drop, falling in 41 states; Pennsylvania’s increased to 8.2 percent last month, climbing steadily every month since May.

Adding to the pain and frustration WNEP in Scranton reported that many recently laid off Pennsylvanians hit a wall when calling the state’s toll-free unemployment hotline – getting a busy signal -- sometimes for weeks on end. In fact when Labor and Industry Secretary Julia Hearthway called, she got a busy signal too.

I’ve heard the frustration and anxiety from would-be and existing U.C. claimants, and those trying to assist them firsthand.

So when can we expect this promise to “grow the economy?” In his first 22 months it looks its Corbett’s failed policies that are responsible for our state’s nonexistent recovery.

Remember back-to-back state budgets which laid off nearly 20,000 education professionals, and the 40,000+ working Pennsylvanians kicked off their health insurance, and asset tests to qualify for nutritional assistance – clearly these do not contribute to a thriving recovery. Compounded by the governor’s inaction on transportation infrastructure, which by the way would improve public safety and creating tens of thousands of jobs.

Not only has the administration (and others remember “jobs, jobs, jobs”) failed to generate the jobs it claimed were its top priority, it has also dismantled the safety net there to assist struggling families. This is simply unacceptable, Pennsylvanians deserve better.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Paging Dr. Corbett

After yo-yo-ing on whether or not to embrace his role as a leader in securing health care for every Massachusetts’ resident while he was governor, Mitt Romney has adopted the oft-Republican refrain that health care (like other issues when it suits them) should be firmly in state hands.

But what did Pennsylvanians do wrong? Why is health insurance more important for residents of the Bay State than the Keystone State based solely on the person at the helm? Last summer would 89,000 children in Pennsylvania have gotten cut from Medicaid if Mitt Romney were the governor of our Commonwealth?

But if comprehensive health care is a state issue as Mr. Romney insists, let’s look at what Dr. Corbett has prescribed for Pennsylvania.

Stage 1: Eliminate Affordable Health Care for working Pennsylvanians

Despite a campaign promising “developing a world-class work force” (evidently by decimating education funding), “promoting state parks and forests” (to multinational drillers, perhaps), and “improving our transportation infrastructure,” (seriously this is all on his campaign website!), Tom Corbett believed the first issue warranting his attention as governor was eliminating health coverage for over 40,000 working Pennsylvanians who were contributing to the cost of their insurance. (Not to mention extinguishing the hopes of the ½ million people on the plan’s waiting list).

Regardless of whether Gov. Corbett even had the authority to eliminate adultBasic, he had the ability, and that was just phase one in his Corbett (doesn’t) Care plan.

Stage 2: Cut 89,000 Children from Medicaid

According to Tom Corbett: it’s time to cut the fraud, waste and abuse that is crushing our state -- yep time to cut those freeloaders who are abusing Pennsylvania’s public programs -- all 89,000 of those kids living in poverty.

From August 2011 to January 2012, Corbett and his deputies directed the removal of 130,000 people from the Medicaid rolls. That’s a fairly atrocious number that sparked the attention of the feds which actually provide the guidance and jointly-fund Medicaid. Compounding the federal government’s insistence that the Corbett administration should revisit the rolls were the 89,000 kids who were cut. As of late May, the DPW Secretary still hasn’t accounted for where all the children who were cut disappeared to and why they no longer qualify.

Stage 3: Cut access to nutritious food

How can we really ensure health care costs go up for low income Pennsylvanians (which really means costs increase for all of us)? I suppose a cheaper option than distributing packs of cigarettes to people on street corners, is to jeopardize their access to nutritious food.

As if cutting or even holding budget line items like Farmer’s Market Coupons steady in a time of increased public need weren’t harmful enough, Gov. Corbett not to be outdone, decided to make access to food stamps more burdensome. The kicker is that by implementing an asset test, as the governor prescribed, actually costs the state (otherwise known as the taxpayers) more money.  This plan, which took effect in May, punishes people for collecting a modest savings that could help make ends meet in emergencies. You know – like every financial advisor would recommend.

In order to qualify for SNAP (food stamps) residents were already means tested, which means they could only earn 160% of the federal poverty level, about $35K a year for a family of four. The asset plan piles on the workload of the already task-saturated county assistance offices, which by the way have also seen the edge of the budget ax in recent years.

Stage 4: Collect a 5% income tax from the families with disabled kids

Candidate Corbett claimed to want to support Pennsylvanians with autism, however he approved a plan by a top deputy to implement a policy change to collect up to 5% of a family’s gross household income in the form of co-payments for medically necessary treatments for their disabled kids.

The policy was announced under the radar and bypassed formal review by the legislature and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission. Due to public outcry the plan is on hold for now, but when they tried to implement it, DPW in several cases didn’t even calculate a family’s income correctly, sometimes overestimating it by $100,000.

After considering just his first 22 months in office Corbett’s Health care plan doesn’t look promising for many of us. One Romney strategy Tom Corbett has adopted is tax breaks and less oversight for big business, now if he’d only embrace his approach to securing the health of residents of this Commonwealth ….

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Picking on the little guy

Corbett administration imposes a 5% income tax on families of disabled kids

You’ve seen this story unfold before: Gov. Corbett alleges Pennsylvania is in such dire straits that cuts must be made to programs that working Pennsylvanians depend on, while he gives tax credits to out-of-state corporations under the guise of job creation.

Well he’s at it again.

This week DPW implemented a policy it discreetly announced in August to begin collecting co-pays from parents for services provided to their disabled children.  Yep, disabled kids.

Last week DPW Sec. Gary Alexander defended the policy only after those affected and their advocates converged on the Capitol to voice their disapproval. Alexander devised the plan in an effort to make massive cuts in DPW’s budget, a task bestowed upon him by the GOP in 2011.

Under the new policy a family with a disabled child (or children) will have to pay up to 5% of their total household income if they earn 200% of the federal poverty level (about $46,000 a year for a family of four).

It will easily cost families thousands of dollars annually to continue receiving treatment. Some of these children have several medically necessary therapies, diagnostic tests and other services per week. The families I’ve spoken to have said it will force tough decisions between co-payments and basic necessities like housing and food.

The real kicker is in the past, DPW required oversight from the General Assembly or the Independent Regulatory Review Commission to put these kinds of harsh changes in place, but due to a GOP-backed law approved in 2011 Alexander (aka the Gov. Corbett ax wielder) can exercise ultimate control over these decisions. 

What’s really absurd is the new policy isn’t even necessary.

According to the Pennsylvania Health Law Project if DPW were to actually enforce the existing Autism Insurance Coverage Law (on the books since 2008) DPW could save $25 million a year. This new cockamamie plan would only save about $5 million while costing Pennsylvania’s thousands of working families with disabled kids nearly double that since when DPW pays for the services, the feds kick-in about 40 cents on the dollar to help.

The icing on the cake is that DPW has miscalculated the household income for some families by as much as $100,000.

Add this to the list of senseless plans the Corbett administration has rushed to implement and completely mismanaged.  Check back regularly to read more on the Corbett administration’s dysfunction: “Working Hard…to prove government doesn’t work.”

Monday, August 20, 2012

As unemployment grows, it’s time to hit the road

I’m shocked -- shocked, that for the second straight year, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate has grown as a result of passing Governor Corbett’s short-on-education-funding, high-on-business-tax-credits budget… well, not really. But I really am surprised that his approval ratings hit an all-time low (which was a tough objective even for Gov. Corbett to meet). The governor’s in such shallow territory he’ll need to pick up hei kayak and carry it on his next trip down the soon-to-be fracktastic waterways of our Commonwealth.

Surprising absolutely no one, the largest drops in jobs last month were among education professionals and health service workers.  Hmm, maybe next we’ll find out class sizes grew and after school programs have been eliminated. But I am sure we can look for future growth in the incarceration and hospital emergency room employment sectors.
Interestingly, leisure and hospitality jobs also tanked. This was after that sector reached a record high earlier this year. In actuality, Pennsylvania lost twice as many leisure and hospitality jobs from June to July 2012, than it gained in that record-setting growth from March to April. This after one of the governor’s goals for his European adventure had been to “promote and attract tourism” among the French and Germans he met. Clearly they all came in April, and left quickly so they did not have to witness the governor in his lifevest and aqua socks.

But maybe this latest trip to California can spur the same state job growth that resulted from his European vacation in March-- oh wait, since he came home Pennsylvania's unemployment has actually grown by nearly a half percent? Hmm, that’s not such good news.

Shortly after his trip to Europe, which only neared the border with the Netherlands, the governor announced the largest tax credit in the history of the Commonwealth for Royal Dutch Shell. What tax incentive will we learn about as a result of his trip to California?

Truth be told, the governor probably hasn’t even looked at these jobs numbers yet. Maybe they’re on his summer reading list, right after 2011’s TFAC and 2012’s Freeh reports. Don’t worry we’ve all been assured he’s assigned someone to investigate the matter.

Maybe a better way to facilitate job growth is to invest in Pennsylvanians. Putting our teachers back in classrooms, investing in transportation infrastructure and keeping residents healthy is a true investment in our work force.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Rhetoric v. Reality

As I always suspected, Pennsylvania Republican leaders like Mike Turzai say one thing, but really mean another. (Remember his swearing in speech when he waxed philosophical about maintaining decorum in the state House that is respectful, professional, and civil,” but whenever things aren’t going his way he exercises a historically rarely-used, now apparently commonplace, parliamentary procedure to shut off debate).

As luck would have it that was just the preview of the state House GOP’s strategy built on rhetoric rather than reality.

Example #1: Health Care Facilities Act of 2011

Championed by the Majority Leader himself, the Health Care Facilities Act of 2011 largely replicated language from a House bill. Lauded by sponsors and supporters as “…aimed at providing better care for people who may go to an abortion clinic…,” and specifically to prevent another Gosnell tragedy (which incidentally could have been avoided if existing regulation had been adhered to), we found out at a Republican State Committee meeting in June that in reality it is a “pro-life” bill.

In his candid (and recorded) address to party faithful, Rep. Turzai mentioned that this bill, once touted as a way to assure women are “being treated by trained personnel in a safe and sanitary environment,” was actually intended to advance the pro-life agenda.

When rattling off a list of GOP accomplishments (in their opinion), Turzai noted, “first pro-life legislation - abortion facility regulations - in 22 years, done.”

However this comment was largely overshadowed by what Mr. Turzai said next… but I’m getting ahead of myself

Example #2: Voter ID

Voter ID, decried by many as an unnecessary, big-government tactic to keep certain eligible voters home on Election Day, was flaunted by others as …an important piece of legislation; it is also a simple, straightforward piece of legislation,” and aimed at securing the integrity of “one person, one vote.

Supporters of the bill tastelessly compared the action of showing a photo ID to vote, to “When I [Turzai] go to the gym…I have to present a photo ID.” But as someone pointed out to me once: no one ever died for Mike Turzai’s right to take a Zumba class.

In the months following the measure’s passage, the PA Dept of State maintained that it was more than equipped to provide the small minority of people they claimed didn’t have a qualifying ID, and it would be easy for those without one, to get one.

We’ve all heard the actual statistics regarding Voter ID, including the people most likely to be disenfranchised according to the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law (spoiler alert: they don’t traditionally vote Republican).

But it turns out the number of registered Pennsylvania voters disenfranchised under the new law was nowhere near the number DoS had been speculating (side note: DoS dropped that tidbit after the budget passed and the day preceding a major holiday). Turns out 758,000+ registered voters in PA don’t have photo identification cards from PennDOT. That is over 9% of the state’s registered voters -- a whopping 18% of Philadelphia’s voters (not the 1% the DoS Secretary claimed).

However, along with urban counties like Philly and Allegheny, the others making up the highest percentage of disenfranchised include: Cameron, Centre, Cumberland, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lawrence, Montour and Union (all between 10% and 12% disenfranchised).

I guess the national conservative bosses who crafted this legislation figured PA could sacrifice a few GOP stronghold counties if it meant they block nearly 1 in every 5 voters in Philadelphia.

Example #3: Welcome back PayDay Lenders

Putting a little twist on the old phrase “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” the GOP members of the PA House recently decided rather than going through all the trouble of enforcing a law already on the books, we ought to just legalize whatever it is we don’t feel like enforcing.

The payday lending industry, otherwise referred to as the moneychangers in the temple during Christ's time, was kicked out of PA in 2005, and is nearing its way back at the invitation of the House Urban Affairs chairman.

In a column, the bill’s sponsor calls payday lending “potentially dangerous,” and said, “abusive collection practices that encourage borrowers to rollover debt into growing unpaid balances and outright fraud are more common than one might realize,” so naturally he drew the conclusion that we should legalize said “fraud”.

This theory begs 2 questions, 1) why stop with payday lending, with the sponsor’s logic why not legalize drugs and prostitution, and rescind speed limits; and 2) if the state Dept of Banking is too overwhelmed to enforce current law, how will it be able to enforce the new regulations?

The sponsor claims his bill (which still needs Senate approval) is aimed at consumer protection, but short term loan rates could amount to 369% APR.

To recap, according to the GOP the best way to protect Pennsylvanians is to legalize, in their words “potentially dangerous” payday loans. 

Yeah, it makes about as much sense as pouring millions of dollars into combating voter fraud that is virtually nonexistent.

Like many Pennsylvanians I’m giddy with anticipation about what Orwellian “Newspeak,” the GOP will try to deliver next. Will we find out school vouchers are also being promoted by a national interest group with campaign money in Pennsylvania? Or will the Corbett Administration cite different job creation numbers regarding PA’s proposed cracker plant depending on which region they’re speaking in?  Or will Mitt Romney call the health care law, modeled after his own, “bad policy” and promise to repeal it?

Stay tuned for what may be revealed next time the GOP speaks candidly.

Monday, June 25, 2012

You decide...

Every year countless groups visit the state Capitol to express their concerns and urge action on the policies that affect them.

Last week Governor Corbett claimed he was making history by standing with one such group. The group was supporting the passage of a $1.7 BILLION tax break for Royal Dutch Shell, which made $31 BILLION in profit last year.


But for some reason Governor Corbett won't stand with all the groups that visit the Capitol, and he doesn't listen to their calls to invest in Pennsylvanians by fully funding public education, services for the disabled, seniors and veterans.


You decide, which group shares your concerns?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fuzzy Math, or fuzzy memory?

In an email to Pennsylvanians last week, Gov. Corbett boasted about his record of making Pennsylvania a leader in job growth.  He practically described Pennsylvania as a utopia of private sector job creation since he took office. He’s even cited “evidence” to support his overstated claim. According to the email:

Governor Corbett is committed to creating an economic environment where job creators can flourish, and, in just one year, the commonwealth has been making progress. 2011 saw the largest one-year growth in private sector jobs in Pennsylvania since 1999 with the private sector adding 82,000 jobs.

Other than totally ignoring the condition of the overall US and state economies since 2008, he forgets that his policies have actually put tens of thousands Pennsylvanians out of work since he took office.

So apparently a laid off teacher with three part time jobs at a Walmart, Burger King and a convenience store is better for the jobs number (+3 jobs), than a teacher in a classroom (-1 job).

And remember this was the week after news broke that Gov. Corbett promised over $1.7 billion in tax breaks for Royal Dutch Shell – yep the same one with over $31 billion in profits last year.

However, what is most interesting is that just three days after the governor’s giddy email, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released its report regarding May’s employment numbers. And while unemployment was unchanged in May, Pennsylvania actually was among states with the highest number of jobs lost throughout the month -- nearly 10,000 jobs. Only North Carolina lost more.

So with an unchanged unemployment number, at best Corbett’s policies are treading water.

If I were Gov. Corbett I’d continually try to tout the Shell cracker plant as a job creator too, if I lost 10,000 jobs last month in addition to the tens of thousands of jobs last year.

By my math, $66 million a year (for 25 years) resulting in 10,000 jobs may buy us one more month of “unchanged” unemployment figures.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Not in my house.

Father’s Day is coming up, and I know one dad who isn’t vying for Father of the Year.

Tom Corbett.

He may be a great dad to his two kids, but in his role as governor he’s apparently inspired by Darth Vader.

Corbett's Dysfunctional Fiscal Family

In Corbett’s fiscal family, rather than valuing his kids’ education, keeping his recently laid-off neighbor off the street, and ensuring his elderly mother has the assistance she needs, he wants to offer billions from the Commonwealth account to some of the world’s most profitable corporations. Corbett likes to describe how he has to play the heavyweight role of dad at the imaginary kitchen table that the typical Pennsylvania family gathers around while discussing financially tough times.

He claims he doesn’t want to spend money his “family” doesn’t have, but he is ok in with passing on collecting a Marcellus Shale tax and in offering future incentives with funds he doesn’t have. Optimistically, Corbett won’t even be governor in 2017, when his 25 year-long master plan to kiss up to the $31 billion-profit- in-2011 Royal Dutch Shell, is set take effect.  

He’s handcuffing Pennsylvanians for a generation and we just can’t afford it.

It’s hard to imagine anything that could be more harmful than his flawed anti-extraction tax, anti-environmental regulation (and anti-local rule) policy on the natural gas industry and on the out-of-state drillers that neglects to put an additional $1.1 billion (what PA would collect for the benefit of citizens if we imposed same tax as WV) --  but running a close second is Corbett’s strategy to entice Shell to locate its proposed cracker plant in western Pennsylvania, which amounts to “don’t pay us, we’ll pay you.”

Both demonstrate Tom Corporate’s backing big business instead of investing in middle class taxpaying Pennsylvania families.

Attracting new businesses and industries is important, but we can do it without cutting funding for education, human services and veterans.

Attracting jobs is important, but Corbett’s policies have already left tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians out of work, and with his detrimental and shortsighted cuts to education and work force training, next generation’s workforce will lack the skills necessary to compete for jobs.

Finally, on this Shell deal, obviously Corbett knows his 2017 $66 million handout to Shell needs to be funded somehow, maybe that is why he proposed cutting human services funding like MH/MR and nursing by approximately $164 million. One year of cuts to the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable can fund nearly 3 years of handouts to Shell (if you don’t count the additional tax exemptions due to the proposed location in a KOZ, he’ll need to make more cuts for that).

Despite his fervent criticism of spending on assistance for Pennsylvania’s low income families, Corbett’s plan amounts to the biggest taxpayer-giveaway incentive package in the history of the Commonwealth  -- and it’s for one of the world’s most profitable corporations, not the family sitting around the table balancing its checkbook considering options of how to increase cash flow.

So this Father’s Day, when dads across the state are being appreciated for their guidance, their foresight and their commitment to their families, remember the head of Pennsylvania’s family, Tom Corbett, is giving away your money to big business.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

So you didn’t win last week’s Mega Millions?

What would you have done with last week’s $650 million jackpot?

Everyone has an idea of how they’d spend at least a chunk of last week’s record-breaking $650 million, even if they didn’t buy a ticket.

A beach vacation… home repairs… retirement… kid’s college tuition -- maybe all of the above.

Most of us can’t even fathom how much $650 million dollars really is (excluding the Romney’s of course). It’s fun to dream.

While $650 million is a lot of money for the average Pennsylvanian, it is a tiny slice of the overall Pennsylvania budget pie.  Still $650 million could go a long way toward restoring targeted programs that help Commonwealth residents every day…programs cut or eliminated by Gov. Corbett.

With $650 million, there are a number of Pennsylvanian priorities our state could use the money for:

·       Restore adultBasic funding. Using the jackpot funds, adultBasic health insurance could be restored to the 42,000 working Pennsylvanians who were kicked off their health insurance last year (many of whom have still been unable to acquire coverage) and the ALL of 505,624 people who were on the waiting list and were never admitted to the adultBasic rolls.

·       (Partially) Restore funding to public education. Although we couldn’t reinstate the entire billion-plus dollars cut from education funding by the Corbett administration last year, and cut again this year’s budget proposal, we could return funds to ensure some of the most critical programs remain intact and available to the Commonwealth’s students.

·       Return the $565 million funneled annually from the state’s Motor License Fund that pays for routine patrols by the State Police in municipalities which are home to 21% of residents and have opted to disband their own police departments.

·       Fund Year 1 of the Governor-appointed Transportation Funding Advisory Commission’s recommendation. At least this would put Pennsylvania on a path of beginning to repair our state’s ailing transportation infrastructure, to include over 5300 structurally deficient bridges and 8000 miles of poor roads. This would give Gov. Corbett another year to adhere to the wishes of Pennsylvanians and his own advisors, rather than a Washington, D.C. lobbyist.

·       Return the $629 million in cuts to DPW’s budget. Under the guise of eliminating fraud, waste and abuse 89,000 kids were cut from Medicaid since August, programs for mentally ill and intellectually disabled Pennsylvanians have been devastated, and our counties are left without the resources to meet the needs of their residents.

But these are just some of Pennsylvania residents’ priorities, chances are Gov. Corbett would probably use the $650 million to fund more tax breaks for his contributors.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Does your local school district make the list....

Is your local school district among those cut at least 10x more per student than two of the wealthiest districts in Pennsylvania since Gov. Corbett took office?  All the districts in Bedford, Bradford, Cameron, Clinton, Clearfield, Crawford, Fulton, Greene, Jefferson, Juniata, McKean, Mifflin, Northumberland, Perry, Philadelphia, Potter, Susquehanna, Tioga, Venango and Warren counties are cut by at least 10x more than Tredyffrin-Easttown SD (Chester County) and Radnor Twp. SD (Delaware County), but a total of 253 districts are being asked to endure cuts of at least $11,694 per classroom compared to $1169.

Rural and urban districts both lose….

Albert Gallatin Area SD
Aliquippa SD
Allegheny-Clarion Valley SD
Allentown City SD
Altoona Area SD
Ambridge Area SD
Apollo-Ridge SD
Athens Area SD
Austin Area SD
Avella Area SD
Avon Grove SD
Bald Eagle Area SD
Bangor Area SD
Bedford Area SD
Belle Vernon Area SD
Bentworth SD
Berlin Brothersvalley SD
Bermudian Springs SD
Berwick Area SD
Bethlehem-Center SD
Big Beaver Falls Area SD
Big Spring SD
Blacklick Valley SD
Blairsville-Saltsburg SD
Bloomsburg Area SD
Blue Ridge SD
Bradford Area SD
Bristol Borough SD
Bristol Twp SD
Brockway Area SD
Brookville Area SD
Brownsville Area SD
Burgettstown Area SD
California Area SD
Cambria Heights SD
Cameron County SD
Canton Area SD
Carbondale Area SD
Carmichaels Area SD
Central Fulton SD
Central Greene SD
Charleroi SD
Chester-Upland SD
Chestnut Ridge SD
Clairton City SD
Clarion-Limestone Area SD
Claysburg-Kimmel SD
Clearfield Area SD
Coatesville Area SD
Columbia Borough SD
Commodore Perry SD
Conemaugh Twp Area SD
Conemaugh Valley SD
Conneaut SD
Connellsville Area SD
Cornell SD
Corry Area SD
Coudersport Area SD
Cranberry Area SD
Crawford Central SD
Curwensville Area SD
Derry Area SD
Dubois Area SD
Duquesne City SD
East Allegheny SD
East Lycoming SD
Elk Lake SD
Ellwood City Area SD
Erie City SD
Everett Area SD
Farrell Area SD
Ferndale Area SD
Forbes Road SD
Forest City Regional SD
Forest Hills SD
Franklin Area SD
Galeton Area SD
Girard SD
Glendale SD
Greater Johnstown SD
Greater Nanticoke Area SD
Greensburg Salem SD
Greenville Area SD
Greenwood SD
Grove City Area SD
Halifax Area SD
Hanover Area SD
Harmony Area SD
Harrisburg City SD
Hazleton Area SD
Highlands SD
Hopewell Area SD
Huntingdon Area SD
Iroquois SD
Jamestown Area SD
Jeannette City SD
Jefferson-Morgan SD
Jersey Shore Area SD
Johnsonburg Area SD
Juniata County SD
Juniata Valley SD
Kane Area SD
Karns City Area SD
Keystone  SD
Keystone Central SD
Kiski Area SD
Lakeland SD
Lakeview SD
Lancaster SD
Laurel  SD
Laurel Highlands SD
Lebanon SD
Leechburg Area SD
Lehighton Area SD
Line Mountain SD
Mahanoy Area SD
Marion Center Area SD
McGuffey SD
McKeesport Area SD
Mercer Area SD
Meyersdale Area SD
Middletown Area SD
Midd-West SD
Midland Borough SD
Mifflin County SD
Mifflinburg Area SD
Millersburg Area SD
Milton Area SD
Minersville Area SD
Mohawk Area SD
Monessen City SD
Moniteau SD
Montrose Area SD
Moshannon Valley SD
Mount Carmel Area SD
Mount Pleasant Area SD
Mount Union Area SD
Mountain View SD
New Brighton Area SD
New Castle Area SD
New Kensington-Arnold SD
Newport SD
North East SD
North Schuylkill SD
North Star SD
Northeast Bradford SD
Northern Bedford County SD
Northern Cambria SD
Northern Lehigh SD
Northern Potter SD
Northern Tioga SD
Northwest Area SD
Northwestern SD
Octorara Area SD
Oil City Area SD
Old Forge SD
Oswayo Valley SD
Otto-Eldred SD
Oxford Area SD
Palmerton Area SD
Panther Valley SD
Penn Cambria SD
Penn Hills SD
Penncrest SD
Penns Manor Area SD
Penns Valley Area SD
Philadelphia City SD
Philipsburg-Osceola Area SD
Pine Grove Area SD
Pittsburgh SD
Pleasant Valley SD
Port Allegany SD
Portage Area SD
Pottstown SD
Pottsville Area SD
Punxsutawney Area SD
Purchase Line SD
Reading SD
Redbank Valley SD
Reynolds SD
Ridgway Area SD
Ringgold SD
Riverside Beaver Cty SD
Rochester Area SD
Saint Clair Area SD
Salisbury-Elk Lick SD
Sayre Area SD
Schuylkill Haven Area SD
Scranton SD
Shade-Central City SD
Shamokin Area SD
Sharon City SD
Sharpsville Area SD
Shenandoah Valley SD
Shenango Area SD
Shikellamy SD
Slippery Rock Area SD
Smethport Area SD
South Allegheny SD
South Side Area SD
South Williamsport Area SD
Southeast Delco SD
Southeastern Greene SD
Southern Fulton SD
Southern Huntingdon Cnty SD
Southern Tioga SD
Southmoreland SD
Spring Cove SD
Steel Valley SD
Steelton-Highspire SD
Sto-Rox SD
Susquehanna Community SD
Susquenita SD
Tamaqua Area SD
Titusville Area SD
Towanda Area SD
Troy Area SD
Turkeyfoot Valley Area SD
Tuscarora SD
Tussey Mountain SD
Tyrone Area SD
Union SD
Union Area SD
Union City Area SD
Uniontown Area SD
Upper Adams SD
Upper Darby SD
Upper Dauphin Area SD
Valley Grove SD
Warren Cnty SD
Warrior Run SD
Washington SD
Wattsburg Area SD
Weatherly Area SD
Wellsboro Area SD
West Branch Area SD
West Greene SD
West Middlesex Area SD
West Perry SD
Western Beaver Cnty SD
Wilkes-Barre Area SD
Wilkinsburg Borough SD
William Penn SD
Williams Valley SD
Williamsburg Community SD
Williamsport Area SD
Wilmington Area SD
Windber Area SD
Woodland Hills SD
Wyalusing Area SD
Wyoming Valley West SD
York City SD
Yough SD

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A tour of Pennsylvania's schools

As parents, students, teachers and other stakeholders discuss solutions to the fiscal crises facing Commonwealth school districts like Chester Upland, and with Gov. Corbett's second budget address just weeks away, here are some photos provided to the Education Law Center in Philadelphia by students from the schools and communities where we educate our children.

Last year's budget cut education by nearly $1 billion, and in an inequitable way. Chester Upland received a per classroom cut of over $28,000, while nearby district Radnor Township was cut by less than $1,000 per classroom. But Chester Upland isn't the only district struggling.

If Gov. Corbett was serious when he said "every child regardless of zip code or economic status, should have access to the best education possible," then 16 miles shouldn't be the difference between a great education and no education at all.

The library at Lower Merion High School (2011).

The library at Olney High School (2008).

The auditorium at Harriton High School (Lower Merion SD, 2011).

The auditorium at McKeesport High School (c. 2007). 

Community around Lower Merion School District.

Community around York City School District (2008).