Dozens of Energy Orgs Ask Congress to Kill Bill They Say Would ‘Inevitably’ Lead to Carbon Taxes

Utah Rep. John Curtis

Dozens of energy policy and advocacy groups signed a Monday letter to Congress to express their opposition to a bill they say could be the first step toward carbon taxes or tariffs.

The letter urges House lawmakers to vote against the PROVE IT Act, a bill that has not yet been introduced in the lower chamber but is expected to be soon. The PROVE IT Act — which has already been introduced in the Senate — would have the Department of Energy (DOE) study the carbon intensity of goods, including aluminum, steel, plastic and crude oil, produced in the U.S. and the carbon intensity of products from other countries, according to E&E News.

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Report: 34 Percent of Pennsylvania Public Workers Pay Union Dues

AFSCME PA

Though not all data is publicly available, Pennsylvania is one of the most union-dense states in America for government workers.

A recent analysis by the Commonwealth Foundation found that Pennsylvania has 34% of its public workers paying union dues. Of all the public workers represented by a union, 74% of them pay union dues.

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Data Analysis Reframes Pennsylvania Education Issues

As Pennsylvania’s legislators prepare to return to Harrisburg to sort out the state’s education system and budget, a new report challenges what they call “funding cuts and teacher shortage myths.” 

A recently released report by the Commonwealth Foundation provides data showing increased spending and hiring alongside dropping enrollment numbers – suggesting more efficient spending options, including pension system reforms. 

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Republican Lawmaker Want Pennsylvania Corporate Tax Reduced Further

State representative Dallas Kephart (R-PA-Clearfield) wants to reduce Pennsylvania’s corporate net income tax (CNIT) to four percent by 2025. 

Last year, lawmakers budgeted a gradual decrease in the CNIT from 9.99 percent to 4.99 percent over the coming decade. Before the change, the Keystone State charged corporations the highest state business tax in the U.S., behind New Jersey’s 11.5 percent rate. Now at 8.99 percent, Pennsylvania’s levy is 8.99 percent — the fifth highest. Assuming other states’ rates stay constant, Pennsylvania’s CNIT will end up roughly in the middle in terms of corporate taxes in 2031. 

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Pennsylvania GOP Senate to Tackle Budget That Overspends Shapiro Proposal by $1.1 Billion

At first, Keystone State Republicans viewed Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro’s Fiscal Year 2023-24 budget proposal with mere skepticism. This week, state House Democrats larded it with an extra $1.1 billion and passed it, making a fray between their chamber and the Republican-run Senate even more probable. 

The nearly $47 billion spending plan, approved by representatives along party lines, hikes spending by $5.7 billion over the current fiscal year, a more than a 13-percent increase. Members of the Republican minority excoriated their Democratic colleagues for rushing the plan to passage within six hours of its completion, a move they said reflected poor transparency. Representative Doyle Heffley (R-Weissport) spoke for many in his party when he called the House-passed plan a “poison pill” for Pennsylvania’s economy. 

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Pennsylvania Representatives Want to Limit Food-Stamp Balances to Curb Fraud

Two Pennsylvania state lawmakers are spearheading legislation to curb food-stamp fraud by limiting the balances recipients can accumulate.

Representative Ann Flood (R-Pen Argyl) is drafting a bill requiring the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) to request a federal waiver allowing the commonwealth to cap the benefits a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) user can amass.  Kerry Beninghoff (R-Bellefonte) has meanwhile begun preparing a resolution asking the Biden administration to set such limits itself. Currently, the federally funded but state administered entitlement does not require those who draw SNAP benefits to spend them in order to remain eligible for them. 

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Committee Passes Accelerated Pennsylvania Corporate Tax Cut in Bipartisan Vote

In a bipartisan 8-3 vote on Tuesday, Pennsylvania’s Senate Finance Committee passed legislation to speed the state’s reduction of its corporate net income tax (CNIT). 

Last year, as part of the Keystone State’s budget, lawmakers initiated a reduction of the CNIT from 9.99 percent to 4.99 percent over the next decade. Before the change, Pennsylvania had the second-highest state corporate tax in the U.S. behind New Jersey’s 11.5-percent rate. 

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Pennsylvania House Committee Passes Forced-Unionism Amendment

A bill to enshrine union coercion in the Pennsylvania Constitution passed the state House Labor and Industry Committee 12-9 on Monday. 

The measure, identical to an Illinois constitutional amendment that Prairie State voters narrowly ratified last autumn, would prevent adoption of a “right-to-work” law saying nonunion workers can’t be forced to pay union dues. More broadly, the amendment would counteract statutes that check the power of labor organizations and, opponents fear, give public-sector union contracts primacy over state law. 

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Proposal Uses Pennsylvania Rainy Day Fund To Pay Down Unfunded Pension Liability

A Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to use the state’s Rainy Day Fund to pay down the state’s unfunded pension liabilities that total more than $60 billion.

State Representative Joe Ciresi (D-Royersford) is asking colleagues to cosponsor a bill to move $670 million from the fund to the Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) and $330 million to the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS). A memorandum describing his legislation avers it could save local real-estate taxpayers $2.1 billion over the next 20 years. 

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Republican State Senator Proposes $15 Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Bill

Pennsylvania’s state Senate Republican Policy chair on Friday said he’s sponsoring legislation gradually raising the commonwealth’s minimum hourly wage to $15 and thence indexing it to inflation.

Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie), one of his chamber’s most moderate Republicans representing one of its most electorally competitive districts, said in a statement that he carefully mulled the issue before announcing his measure. The Keystone State’s pay floor rose to $7.25 per hour in 2008, matching the federal minimum wage, and the senator insisted now is the time for an increase, observing that 30 states now set their floors higher. 

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National Nonprofit Ranks Pennsylvania 46th in Economic Performance

According to a new analysis by the nonprofit American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Pennsylvania ranks 46th among states for economic performance and 35th for economic outlook.

Now in its 16th edition, ALEC’s Rich States, Poor States compares states’ economic posture based on 15 policy factors. Pennsylvania’s performance only ranked ahead of West Virginia, Connecticut, Alaska and — in dead last — Louisiana. 

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Think Tank Files Brief Arguing Pennsylvania School Funding System Should Provide Choice

A brief filed this week in Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court by a Harrisburg think tank argues the school-funding system the court recently found unconstitutional must change to provide educational choice.

In the amicus curiae filing, the center-right Commonwealth Foundation (CF) notes it has frequently studied K-12 education spending in the Keystone State since CF’s founding 35 years ago. The foundation’s analyses have determined that increases in spending don’t necessarily improve learning outcomes. CF posits policymakers should consider this finding in light of the recent court ruling deeming numerous districts underfunded and instructing a new system that funds them more bountifully. 

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Pennsylvania Government Union Political Spending Skyrockets Even as Membership Declines

Even as Pennsylvania’s public-sector unions suffer net losses of members and dues, these groups continue to ramp up political donations, according to a new analysis by the Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Foundation (CF). 

According to the free-market nonprofit, spending from Keystone State government unions like the Pennsylvania State Education Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 13 totaled $6.34 million in the 2011-12 campaign cycle. That amount steadily rose over all gubernatorial and presidential cycles and reached a record $20.2 million in 2021-22. 

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Shapiro’s Planned Spending Increase Alarms Pennsylvania Budget Hawks

Pennsylvania Josh Shapiro asked the state General Assembly members on Tuesday to support his requested $45.9 billion budget, which would increase spending by approximately 4 percent over current outlays. 

The governor insisted he based his plan for Fiscal Year 2023-24 on “conservative” revenue estimates. And he did include some provisions appealing to anti-taxers and free-marketers including nixing the state cell-phone tax, a move he estimates would save Pennsylvanians $124 million annually. 

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Pennsylvania House Republicans Prepare to Fight for Fiscal Reforms

Republicans lost their majority in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last year, but on Tuesday GOP members voiced their hope that the state might still curb state spending and lighten the tax burden with which the commonwealth saddles residents and businesses. 

With that goal in mind, House Appropriations Committee Minority Chairman Seth Grove (R-York) led a roundtable discussion with several state fiscal-policy experts. 

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With New Majority, Pennsylvania House Democrats Prioritize Abortion and Stopping Voter ID

Pennsylvania Democrats in the House of Representatives are seizing their new majority in the state House of Representatives — secured this week with three special-election victories — to advance abortion and lose voting security. 

Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Sharif Street, who represents part of Philadelphia in the state Senate, issued a statement congratulating Joe McAndrew, Abigail Salisbury and Matt Gergely, all of whom won Allegheny County-based House seats. The chair said he looks forward to the work he believes House leadership wants to do to keep abortion widely available and ensure Pennsylvanians need not submit identification to vote at the polls. 

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Policy Constraints Force Electric Bills Up in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvanians’ electric bills rose by an average of nearly three-quarters over the last two years and policymakers have only made the problem worse, according to the Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Foundation (CF). 

State residents served by Pennsylvania Power and Light (PPL) have seen their rates go up by just over half since December 2020. Customers of the Philadelphia Electric Company (PECO) have meanwhile experienced a doubling of their power costs during that time. All other providers have also risen their rates considerably. 

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Report: Pennsylvania Lags in Health Care Due to Restrictions on Nurse Authority

Pennsylvania is out of step with its neighbors and deregulating some health care services could give residents of the commonwealth better access to treatment, a new analysis argues.

The Commonwealth Foundation released a report arguing that Maryland’s effort to grant nurse practitioners full practice authority is a model for Pennsylvania. 

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Taxpayers Have Tab for Estimated $2 Billion After ‘Reckless Policy Changes’ in Pennsylvania Medicaid

In Pennsylvania, Medicaid eligibility has expanded at the same time that officials have suspended verification. The result is that costs have gone up — along with the number of people getting benefits while not legally qualifying for them.

So explains a new report from the Commonwealth Foundation on Pennsylvania’s “Wayward Welfare State.”

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Analysis: New Pennsylvania Budget Boosts Corporate Welfare to $1.3B

Pennsylvania’s latest budget deal increased spending, and a good chunk favored private businesses, according to critics.

A new analysis from the Commonwealth Foundation says the budget carried $1.3 billion in corporate welfare spending.

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Pennsylvania Governor and Business Leaders Celebrate Corporate Tax Reduction

Pennsylvania business advocates joined Governor Tom Wolf (D) at the York County Economic Alliance on Monday to welcome an upcoming change in tax policy championed by entrepreneurs across the commonwealth.

Via the new budget agreed to this summer by Wolf and the Republican-controlled General Assembly, Pennsylvania will begin a decade-long phased halving of its corporate net income tax (CNIT). Of the forty-four states with a business income tax, the size of the Keystone State’s current 9.99-percent rate is second only to New Jersey’s 11.5-percent tax. Besides these two states, only four others levy top business income tax rates that exceed nine percent.

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Pennsylvania Governor Signs Budget

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on Friday signed Pennsylvania’s $45 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2022-23.

The governor and Republican-controlled legislature were only able to agree to the fiscal blueprint a week after the June 30 deadline. Revenues covering budget items include $42.8 billion in state taxpayer dollars and $2 billion in federal money. 

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Pennsylvania Heads into New Fiscal Year Without a Budget

As July begins, Pennsylvania enters into Fiscal Year 2022-23 without an FY 22-23 budget.

Republicans who control the General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf have yet to agree on all facets of the spending plan. Altogether, the governor has proposed allotting $43.7 billion in taxpayer money in the next budget cycle, a figure that Republicans have said is too high.

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Latest Pennsylvania Budget Estimate Has Modest Economic Growth, Dip in Tax Revenue

Pennsylvania’s economy will have modest real economic growth but also a dip in tax revenues in the next fiscal year as one-time boosts fade away, according to the latest revenue estimates from the Independent Fiscal Office.

The estimate for fiscal year 2022-23 does not assume a recession will hit, but does assume inflation will still be a problem, which cuts away at real gains in areas such as wages and salaries.

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Education Voucher Program Works Its Way Through the Pennsylvania Senate

Pennsylvania Capitol Building

The Pennsylvania General Assembly has moved another step closer in creating a scholarship program for students in underperforming schools to transfer elsewhere.

HB2169, narrowly passed in the House in April, would grant a $6,800 Lifeline Scholarship to students in the bottom 15% of the lowest-performing schools and allow them to use the money on tuition, tutoring, and other educational expenses.

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Survey Suggests Pennsylvanians Back Free-Market Reforms, Believe State Economy Needs Improvement

A new survey released Thursday by the Commonwealth Foundation (CF), a Harrisburg-based think tank, suggests Pennsylvanians broadly support free-market reforms the institute urges policymakers to embrace. 

CF publicized its Better Pennsylvania 2023 Plan, a list of 23 such recommendations, in conjunction with the poll. Executive vice president Jennifer Stefano said the foundation plans to distribute the agenda to state lawmakers and candidates for public office. She believes the ideas’ implementation will “restore hope to our citizens across the commonwealth and set us on a better path that allows all Pennsylvanians to flourish.”

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Tax Reform May Be Needed to Reverse Pennsylvania Population Decline

Before the pandemic hit, Pennsylvania’s economy had been steadily growing for a decade – but not its population. The population loss has both political and economic consequences.

Federally, Pennsylvania’s influence will lag. The state lost a Congressional district thanks to net emigration from the state. The future of economic growth, too, may fall off as natives and would-be migrants from other states look to growing areas of the South and West.

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New Report: Pennsylvania’s Government Spending Damaging Economy

A report released this week by the Commonwealth Foundation (CF), a Harrisburg-based think tank, underscores the drawbacks of lavish government spending for ordinary Pennsylvanians.

Inflation and the economic policies that fuel it have already weighed on the minds of Americans for months. Federal spending during the COVID-19 pandemic has skyrocketed to create a debt nearing $30 trillion, equating to 133 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product and amounting to $239,000 per taxpayer.

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Pennsylvania Senate Democrats Push for Public-School Funding Increase

Pennsylvania Senate Minority Appropriations Chairman Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) announced Monday he aims to achieve the largest public-school funding boost in state history this year.

Basic education funding has already seen a record-setting four-percent spending increase for the current fiscal year, with $7.07 billion in state-taxpayer dollars now going to public schools. (About twice that amount also gets allotted to schools annually from local property-tax revenues.)

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