Blogs

PA General Assembly, on guns: act now. save lives.

Lance Haver, in the Daily News, speaking about the shooting of his son, Daren Dieter:

My son is lying in a hospital bed unable to move. He cannot move and cannot breathe, and it's because he was shot with an illegal handgun…by someone he didn't know because our elected officials refused to stand up to the NRA.

Email your state rep/senator: demand one handgun a mo. rule and require owners to report lost/stolen guns.

Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States

By Chris Lilienthal, Third and State

Working families in Pennsylvania pay a far higher share of their income in state and local taxes than the state’s wealthiest earners, according to a new study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP).

Pennsylvania’s tax system scored so poorly that it made the list of the “Terrible 10” most regressive tax states in the nation.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) co-released the report, Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States, with ITEP. PBPC Director Sharon Ward made the point in a press release that "No one would deliberately design a tax system where low-income working families pay the greatest share of their income in taxes, but that is exactly the type of upside-down tax system we have in Pennsylvania.”

Middle-income families in Pennsylvania pay more than double the share of their income in taxes than the very wealthiest Pennsylvanians, while low-income families pay nearly three times as much as top earners, the report found. Get more details on the report, including a Pennsylvania fact sheet, here.

PA State & Local Taxes: Shares of family income for non-elderly taxpayers

The report should bury once and for all the myth of the makers vs. the takers. Low-income families in Pennsylvania are paying much more of their income in state and local taxes than the top 1%.

February 4 Non-Partisan Training: HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013: HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014

Because the response to our workshop on January 14 exceeded our expectations, we are doing it again!

Making A Difference!
How You Can Strengthen Democracy in Philadelphia

Come to this non-partisan training; learn how you can win one of these positions. Help strengthen women’s voices in our political process and protect the right to vote!

HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013
HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014

When: Monday, February 4, 2013 from 5:30-7:30 pm
Where: Community College of Philadelphia
Winnet Student Life Building
Lecture Hall S2-3
17th Street b/w Spring Garden and Callowhill Streets
Philadelphia Pa 19130

Speaker:
Stephanie Singer, City Commissioner

Running for committeeperson is a very easy entry point into electoral politics. You don’t need to raise money; you just need the time and willingness to talk to your neighbors. Running for committeeperson is a way to learn grassroots organizing skills, gain leadership experience, and learn how the political system works.

Running for Election board is an opportunity to ensure that we have fair elections. The Voter ID law, which is slated to be implemented in 2013, has drawn attention to what has been a very low profile position—the Judge of Elections. In each division, the Judge of Elections resolves disputes and makes determinations about voter eligibility in areas where the law is ambiguous. With the enactment of the Voter ID law, the position of Judge of Elections has become much more important. The Majority and Minority inspectors also play an important role in ensuring fair, well-run elections.

Sponsored by the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women and the Philadelphia Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, and West Philadelphia Coalition of Neighborhoods and Businesses.

Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion

By Sharon Ward, Third and State

There is growing bipartisan agreement that the optional expansion of Medicaid provided by the Affordable Care Act is too good an opportunity to pass up.

This month, the Governors of Arizona and North Dakota, both Republicans, announced their intention to opt-in to the Medicaid expansion, joining their counterparts in Nevada and New Mexico. To date, 14 states have decided to expand Medicaid in 2014, and another seven are leaning toward expansion. Pennsylvania remains among the 21 undecided states.

Support for Medicaid Expansion Growing

Here’s what Arizona Governor Jan Brewer had to say about Medicaid:

The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

By Stephen Herzenberg, Third and State

There's a good deal of crowing in conservative circles this week about the new 2012 numbers on union membership. Union membership nationally fell by about 400,000, to 14.4 million. Union membership in Pennsylvania declined 45,000, including 59,000 in the private sector.

Of course, for anyone who cares about, say, the American Dream, democracy, and rising living standards, the newest numbers are bad news. A simple chart put together by the Center for American Progress shows that unions are vital to the middle class. As unions have weakened, so has the share of income going to middle-income workers — and the gap between the 1% and the 99% has mushroomed.

Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor

From Marc Stier at Large

Barack Obama is back in office and moving in a liberal direction. So now it’s time to think ahead about building progressive power. The most important thing we can do in Pennsylvania is to replace Tom Corbett as Governor. So it’s a little surprising to me is that, with all the talk about this candidate or that, the one Pennsylvania politician who is best placed to defeat Governor Corbett, Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, is not being asked by everyone to run. The main reason, I suspect, is that most people who pay close attention to politics don’t think she will do so. And some folks, for the usual reasons, have trouble getting their head around the idea of a woman as Governor.

I have no inside knowledge about whether Congresswoman Schwartz is considering a race. But I strongly believe that she should run. After explaining why, I’ll come back to the issue of whether she will or not.

Mind the gap: Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Leaves Low-income Families Behind

By Michael Wood, Third and State

Federal health care reform is moving forward thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year — and it is a great deal for Pennsylvania. Unless the state decides to “opt out,” Medicaid coverage will be expanded to include many Pennsylvanians who are uninsured.

One group that will benefit immediately are parents with incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level ($25,390 for a family of three). The benefits don’t end there: others who don’t receive health coverage through their work will be able to buy insurance on a competitive health marketplace or exchange — making coverage more affordable.

However, if Governor Corbett prevents the Medicaid expansion, it will create a coverage gap for families between 46% and 100% of poverty, as the chart below shows (click on it for a larger view).

Those families between 46% and 100% of poverty earn too much to qualify for Medicaid (for a family of three, this means earning over $8,781 but less than the federal poverty line of $19,090). These families won’t receive Medicaid coverage, and they won’t receive subsidies to buy health coverage.

We all benefit when more people have health coverage. Let’s make the right decision in Pennsylvania and expand Medicaid coverage.

Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014

The Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women(NOW) and the Philadelphia Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women(CLUW) will hold a non-partisan workshop on:

HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013

HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014

When: Monday, January 14, 2013 from 5:30-7:30 pm
Where: 1606 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA

Speakers:

Stephanie Singer, City Commissioner

Norman Matlock, Esq., Judge of Elections, 9th ward, 2nd division

Nan Myers, Majority Inspector, 9th ward, 2nd division

Although NOW and CLUW are focusing on recruiting their members, the workshop is open to any woman or man interested in running for any of these positions. Both NOW and CLUW have male members who are committed to gender equality and share our outrage that women make up only 17% of the PA legislature, one of the lowest rates in the country.

Running for committeeperson is a very easy entry point into electoral politics. You don’t need to raise money; you just need the time and willingness to talk to your neighbors. Running for committeeperson is a way to learn grassroots organizing skills, gain leadership experience, and learn how the political system works.

The Voter ID law (slated to be implemented in 2013) has drawn attention to what has been a very low profile position—-the Judge of Elections. In each division, the Judge of Elections resolves disputes and makes determinations about voter eligibility in areas where the law is ambiguous. This has been an under the radar position with very few citizens actually running for the job. The Majority and Minority Inspectors also play an important role in ensuring fair, well-run elections. With the enactment of the Voter ID law, having a fair, knowledgeable Election Board matters more than ever.

Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday

D.A. Seth Williams stops by Philly For Change Meetup Wednesday night to talk about guns in the wake of recent violence. The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary has renewed the focus, at both the local and national level, to find solutions to gun violence.

Philly progressives are invited to meet the D.A. and join the discussion.

Also on the bill is Action United's Jasmine Rivera, who will tackle another hot topic in the new year: the proposed closure of 37 public schools in the city. Jasmine's helping lead the organizing to stop it. Come out and discover what's going on and what you can do.

Philly For Change January Meetup starts at 7pm on Wednesday the 9th at Tattooed Mom, 530 South Street, in the private room on the 2nd floor. T-Mom features Wednesday drink specials and $3 burgers and veggie burgers. Come out, meet local progressives, get involved, and have a great time doing it!

Jump into 2013's hottest progressive issues Wednesday night!

PA Revenue Strong Midway Through Year; Tax Cut Could Have Big Impact

By Michael Wood, Third and State

With a strong December showing, the commonwealth now has a General Fund revenue surplus of $171 million (1.4% above estimate) for the first half of the 2012-13 fiscal year, double the Corbett administration’s revised estimate for the entire fiscal year. The strong December collections exceeded estimate by $112 million (or 4.8%).

The increased revenue is a good sign of a modestly recovering national economy and a brightening of the state’s fiscal picture going into the 2013-14 budget season. This is a nice change from previous years when midyear shortfalls triggered cuts to state services.

In December, personal income, corporate, and realty transfer taxes exceeded revenue targets by 10.1%, with sales, inheritance and other taxes (on cigarettes, alcohol, and table games) falling short of expectations by 2.8%.  

A similar picture exists over the first half of 2012-13 — corporate, personal income and realty transfer tax collections are a combined 5% higher than expected, while sales, inheritance, and other taxes have fallen 2.4% short of budget estimates.

One area of concern is that sales tax collections (the state’s second largest tax source) are $125 million, or 2.7%, lower than projected. It is not clear the reason for this as vehicle sales and consumer spending have been increasing. Perhaps the new tax collections from some online retailers may not be as large as anticipated.

Compared to last year, collections are $583 million, or 5%, higher, with corporate ($254 million) and personal income tax ($186 million) collections making up most of the increase in 2012-13.

What to Make of the Fiscal Cliff Deal?

By Sharon Ward, Third and State

Tell us what you think about the Fiscal Cliff deal. Take our two-question survey.

The agreement reached by President Obama and Congress on January 1 was both historic and disappointing — and it leaves much unsettled. The urgency of the Fiscal Cliff has dissipated, but significant threats remain to federal funding for state and local services as well as refundable tax credits for low-income working families, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

There is much to dislike in this agreement. It makes permanent most of the Bush era tax cuts, ensuring that income from dividends and capital gains will be taxed at a lower rate than income from work. It makes permanent the estate tax but locks in a tax rate that creates a huge windfall for the top 0.3% of households. Sequestration cuts — the automatic spending cuts that members of both parties hated and the President said would not occur — have been postponed for two months, with three-quarters of FFY 2013 cuts ($85.6 billion) and $109 billion in annual cuts after that still in law through 2022. The President’s line in the sand on raising tax rates for the top 2% of earners got pushed way back, with top rates kicking in at $400,000 for an individual and $450,000 for a couple. A low-wage earner might need 20 years to make that much.

Few in PA Would Be Affected by Ending High-income Tax Cuts

By Sharon Ward, Third and State

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center is out today with a new analysis finding that President Obama’s plan to end federal tax cuts for high-income earners would have very little impact on taxpayers in most Pennsylvania counties.

In over half of the state's 67 counties, fewer than 1 in 100 residents (that's 1%) would pay the higher marginal tax rate on income above $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples.

In most counties, only a small number of individuals are affected. In 24 counties, fewer than 200 high-income earners would pay the higher rate. Almost two-thirds of the top earners who would be impacted reside in just six Pennsylvania counties.

Map 1. Percentage of Taxpayers in Each PA County with Incomes Over $250,000

Map 2. Number of Taxpayers in Each PA County with Incomes Over $250,000

Under President Obama’s plan, families earning over $250,000 would keep other tax breaks on the first $250,000 of income, including a lower bottom tax rate and preferential tax rates on capital gains and dividends — a savings of $12,112 per taxpayer. The top tax rates would be restored to those in effect in the 1990s when the nation added 23 million jobs.

In the Bid to Privatize PA's Lottery, One Is the Loneliest Number

By Stephen Herzenberg, Third and State

Three Dog Night: One

One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do …

Although I’m dating myself, some of you may recognize the Harry Nilsson song made famous by Three Dog Night. We recommend that Governor Tom Corbett download it to his iPod as he contemplates whether to accept a solitary bid from Camelot Global Services to take over the operation of the Pennsylvania Lottery. Whether privatizing state services or getting a new roof for your house, having a single lonely bidder is a red flag for a fleecing — for overpaying the contractor.

In its bid, Camelot promises 20 to 30 years of lottery profits that barely increase at the rate of inflation — even with the addition of new lottery games such as Keno and online gaming. The deal could produce big-time profits for Camelot with performance no better than the public system could produce. If the company maxes out its incentive-based compensation over the initial 20-year contract, it could receive $1.15 billion in today’s dollars; more when you count annual management fees.

A good deal for Camelot, but not for the Pennsylvania seniors who benefit from lottery proceeds, as the Keystone Research Center finds in a new report. The impact on seniors is critical since the lottery generates $1 billion a year for services that benefit area senior centers, low-cost prescription drugs, transportation for seniors, and property tax and rent rebates.

CITY COUNCILS CALL ON PRESIDENT AND CONGRESS TO AVOID CUTTING SERVICES

As the federal government faces major decisions regarding our nation’s budget and fiscal policies, cities around the country are passing resolutions calling on the President and Congress to prioritize the revitalization of the economy, the creation of millions of new jobs, and a return to broadly-shared prosperity.

Led by members of Local Progress, the new national municipal policy network, over the past two weeks the cities of Baltimore, Cambridge, Chicago, Hallandale Beach, Philadelphia, New York, Seattle, and Yonkers have signaled their official support for a solution that avoids cuts to vital services for the most disadvantaged members of society or to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits and that raises crucial revenue from the wealthiest two percent of Americans.

“Unwise cuts to federal spending inevitably shift costs onto states and municipalities, which, unlike the federal government, cannot cope with them through deficit spending,” said Joe Moore, a Chicago City Council Alderman. “Cuts to funding for housing, community development, public health, and public safety will deprive millions of poor Americans of basic necessities like food, medicine, and a home in a safe community.” The resolution introduced by Moore was supported by all 50 Aldermen.

“The American economy continues its slow and inadequate recovery from the Great Recession; twenty million people want to work full time but cannot; and a weak economy undermines the nation’s social fabric and deprives future generations of the opportunity to live rich and fulfilling lives,” said Chuck Lesnick, the Yonkers City Council President. “We need growth, not austerity.”

A Project for You to Consider

The following is a letter to Green Party members written by Chris Robinson. He asked me to post it here.

---------------

Hello, Green Party Member.

I want to share with you a discussion we had at the end of the last Green Party General Membership Meeting, www.gpop.org. If you were present at that meeting, please forgive my repetition.

At the November meeting of Green Party members, I took a few minutes to speak about my disappointment with the 2012 Presidential Election. I believed that the Green Party candidates, Jill Stein for President and Cheri Honkala for Vice President, www.jillstein.org, deserved a much higher vote than they received. Looking at that election – and all of the Presidential Elections during this century -- I have arrived at the following analysis.

If you look at the political geography, we now have a Democratic Party, which is in the service of the corporate establishment. That Democratic Party has seized the Republican’s high ground. All of the Democratic Party’s current policies are now really Republican Party policies, or what used to be called “moderate Republican” policies.

By seizing the high ground from Republicans, the Democratic Party has forced the new Republican Party to move way to the right into the valley which used to be called “extremism.” There are now very few Republican policies which are acceptable to voters. In fact, very few of the Democratic Party’s policies are acceptable to voters, either, because they are really corporate policies which serve the Top One Percent.

Take for example health care. The Democratic Party moved way to the right, accepting Obamacare (really Romneycare or government welfare for the insurance industry) as their policy, which will bankrupt the U.S. in the near future. This left the Republican Party with no healthcare policy, except anti-Obamacare.

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