Scary Holloween Extra: Ryan and his Budget could Win . . . along with that Romney Guy

Bottom line to this too long essay: we’ve all got to get out and work as hard for Obama as we did in 2008. Or maybe harder because the Republicans are crazier. Here are some ways how:

1) First the Obama campaign is organizing door-to-door canvasses throughout our area. To find the ones nearest to you, go here.

2) One of the few good things about Citizens’ United is that it allows unions to collaborate with community folks to do joint work. Presto! Workers’ Voice was created and it's canvassing swing and apathetic voters in the City’s swingiest area, the great Northeast, in the final days. On Saturday the canvass will jump off at 9 AM. On Tuesday there will be three shifts, 9, 12 and 3. Each of those shifts will gather at the Sprinkle Fitters Union, 14002 McNulty Rd. You can just show up, or you can contact either of the following with questions or to let them know you’re coming:

Liz McElroy, 267-455-8191, emcelroy@philaflcio.org.
Nick Alpers, 215-518-8760, nalpers@philaflcio.org

3) Workers’ Voice also has a calling tool that you can use to call your Facebook friends. You can find that here.

4) Fight for Philly is also organizing weekend canvasses, in the Spring Garden area of the City. To sign up with them, click here.

Council Can Give the SRC the Money to NOT Privatize the System

Helen and Dan have laid bare the SRC’s plan to kill public education and to use the Mayor’s AVI initiative to fund the murder to the tune of $94 million. I have nothing to add to their brilliant exposure of the crime scene. However I do want to point out that Council does not have to collaborate. In fact Council can help prevent the sell-off of the School District through a simple carrot and stick approach.

All it has to do is sequester the $94 million and hold it back until the community gets what it wants and deserves.

Here’s how Council can do that:

1) Amend the pending Operating Budget Bill to appropriate $94 million to the City’s Sinking Fund Commission, a traditional place for parking money intended to be used later for other purposes. Putting the $94 million there would mean the School District couldn’t get it until Council passed another ordinance approving its transfer later in the year.

2) Amend the Mayor’s AVI bill to shift the revenue targets so that the City is getting $94 million more (the money that would go to the Sinking Fund) and the School District $94 million less.

3) Work with labor and the community to come up with a plan that works to keep the School District public and thriving, and refuse to send the $94 million until the SRC goes along.

What if the SRC doesn’t meet our demands by the end of the next fiscal year and insists on going forward with its fun and games? Well, then the $94 million would merge back into the City’s General Fund to be allocated the following year either for other purposes or to enable tax rates to be reduced. Or it could be used next year to reduce the pain from the Governor's social services cuts.

That’s it. It’s not rocket science; it’s just about Council’s sincerity in opposing the privatization of the District. They can fight it if they want.

Pennsylvania families can't afford this budget

Earlier today, Governor Corbett's office released the following glowing statement about his budget:

"A Welcome Change."

That is how one commentator recently described Governor Corbett's 2012-13 proposed budget.

From all over Pennsylvania, people and organizations are voicing support for the Governor's budget. The Sun Gazette described Pennsylvania as "being boxed into a fiscal corner," forcing the Governor to make tough decisions. The Patriot News called the Governor's plan to reform foster care a "win-win situation." The Reading Eagle praised the budget for its continued phase out of The Capital Stock and Foreign Franchise Tax.

The budget has been described by job creators and business leaders as close to perfect. The Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association called the budget a "commitment to fiscal discipline, pro-growth policy." The National Federation of Independent Business called it a "solid fiscal blueprint for Pennsylvania." At Penn State University's College of Agricultural Science, the budget was greeted as "excellent news."

Here's how I would have written it:

More eco-cops to be layed off in new Corbett budget...

There's two ways to think about the ineffectiveness of Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection as described in this video.

Of course, a lot of folks' prejudices tend them toward the former, but the evidence suggests that the real problem is the latter.

If we keep laying off eco-cops, do we really expect polluters not to try to get away with polluting more? And who can catch them but DEP? Answer: almost no one.

That's why Clean Water Action thinks the real environmental news today isn't the quibbling over a severance tax. It's the fact that the state's GOP has agreed on a budget that will cut environmental enforcement staff another $10 million.

This is what strength in numbers looks like

Most of the folks in this video are Clean Water Action staff, but there's a few of the rank and file Lobby Day attendees there. On Tuesday, environmentalists hit Harrisburg big [check out these photos]. You might have seen press reports about the rally. To me, though, the real story is what happened before the rally, as normal people went to visit their legislators and talk issues around the Marcellus Shale.

Folks were talking to legislators about the budget for environmental enforcement, rules to protect drinking water, a commonsense moratorium and taxing the revenues from shale to pay for cleaning up the drillers' destruction. Before the day happened, we had folks registered to come from 47 out of the 50 State Senate Districts, and our drop-off rate was really low. So not only was there a big noisy rally, but legislative offices were hearing from real voters. That's where change comes from.

It was also great to see the environmental community so unified.

State House Budget Hearing on DEP today -- CWA calls for an end to cuts for eco-cops

(Harrisburg) – Clean Water Action called on the Pennsylvania General Assembly to commit to restoring the one-third of the Department of Environment Protection’s (DEP) budget that has been cut in recent years. The State House Appropriations Committee is holding their budget hearing on DEP’s budget today at 10:30 in Room140 of the Main Capitol.

“Gov. Corbett is proposing to reduce overall state spending to the 2008/2009 levels. However, DEP has lost over a third of their budget since that year. To fail to restore DEP’s budget is to establish a deliberate policy of weakening protection for clean water and clean air in our state,” stated Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action.

Gov. Corbett proposed an additional 5% budget cut for DEP this year, continuing five straight years of budget cuts for DEP. Including these new proposed cuts, over $77 million, or 36% of DEP’s budget has been cut since the 2008/2009 budget.

Click Read More for more on this issue...

Tax Policy (Part II) It’s About Life and Death

So the question for liberals/progressives (pick your label or Glenn Beck will pick it for you) isn’t: “should we pay attention to business taxes in Philly.” It should be “can we afford not to pay attention to business taxes in Philly?”

We need to face this stark truth: business tax rates in Philly are now a life or death issue. The state is about to take a big knife to city subsidies, and the federal government will be doing the same. There are just no other ways to raise replacement funds that are even slightly progressive (as that term is used in tax lingo) –- other than raising business taxes. As I noted in my Friday post, the wage and sales taxes are both capped under state law, and the real estate tax is applied in an utterly arbitrary and capricious manner. Furthermore, the real estate tax just went up 10% last year and a further increase would face massive, justifiable resistance.

So that leaves us with the Business Privilege Tax. We need to get to know it better.

Good thing we're cutting all the funding out DEP. God knows they don't need it.

The Scripps News Service has a story out published in Ohio's The Republic on the poor oversight of natural gas drillers.

Data supplied by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources show that well operators in that state have received 14,409 notices of violation since 2000.

Many of the violations reflect paperwork oversights, but many others are for environmental harm. The Ohio data, analyzed by Scripps, show 1,972 violations alone for pollution and contamination. Nearly 2,000 violations have no electronic record of when -- or if -- they've been fixed.

Pennsylvania officials say their records are in similar shape. The state has issued 8,309 violations since 2007, but officials there caution that their files - which include thousands of violations that have no date of being fixed - cannot be trusted as accurate. Instead of keeping their books up-to-date, inspectors are devoting their limited manpower in the field rather than completing paperwork.

State Budget Continues to Slash Environmental Protection -Over 1/3 of DEP budget cut over two years

UPDATE: We did a report on DEP funding, adjusted for inflation, for the last ten years. You can see it here

(Harrisburg) – Clean Water Action issued a strong statement today calling for restoration of large cuts to the budget for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The proposed state budget deal released yesterday by the Governor and legislative leaders cuts DEP’s budget by 9.2%. This is on top of last year’s budget cut of 26% for DEP. [ATTACHED - PDF of 2000-2008 budgets in actual numbers, not accounting for inflation]

Tell America Speaks: Don't Strangle the Stimulus, Stupid [TODAY!]

If you haven't heard, the America Speaks town halls on the federal budget come to Philly Saturday June 26, and with them, no doubt, will come a gray reactionary band of Teabaggers calling for the end of civil society, Social Security included.

This is an election year. Media will be present. It's critical that progressive priorities are stated loud, clear, and logically at the town hall. Here, in America's hometown, we know history, so we must let the town hall and media know:

Conservatives created the deficit with two wars and tax cuts for the wealthy.

Conservatives created the economic crisis with 30 years of deregulation.

Conservatives now would crush the recovery by strangling the stimulus.

Progressive groups like MoveOn, Philly For Change, US Action, Penn Action, Neighborhood Networks, and others are organizing to make our voices heard, and especially to support Social Security, which of course has supported millions of Americans for decades.

It's important that the town hall and media know that progressive budget priorities mean jobs, a healthy recovery, and health care for all. Progressives oppose cutting programs vital to Americans, such as Social Security, especially after 30 years of handing corporations and the wealthy everything they've wanted.

Grab your coffee and head to West Philly to rally for Social Security and a Progressive Priorities!

Registration for the America Speaks Town Hall begins today, Saturday June 26, at 10:30 am at the Philadelphia Grand Ballroom, 3801 Market Street on the 3rd floor.

COUNTDOWN...Historical, Unprecedented, Urgent! "Philadelphia Town Meeting: Our Budget, Our Economy"

AmericaSpeaks, "Our Budget Our Economy"

Philadelphia Town Meeting: Our Budget, Our Economy

Our national deficit is projected to grow at an unsustainable rate over the next 10 years. This threatens our ability to fund what’s most important to us. We remain deeply divided over what our national priorities are and what we, as a people, are prepared to do to support them. Clearly we need to do something and let our leaders know what we will support. It's time to come together as a country to make the tough choices that will ensure America's future.

Sign Up Online today!

www.usabudgetdiscussion.org or call toll free at 866-755-6263

Join Americans at meeting halls across the country linked together by satellite and the Internet! This is a chance to:

-Learn About the Issues
-Find Common Ground
-Present priorities to leaders in Washington

State Forest Drilling Moratorium bill, HB 2235, moves out of committee

What our state forests could look like with more drillingVitali's bill to put a moratorium on Natural Gas Drilling in State Forests (HB 2235) was voted out of committee just now. he and Rep. Levdansky led this charge, along with a coalition of Democrats calling themselves the Green Dogs. The vote was 16-9. GOP members Harper and Everett voted for the bill, which is great news.

Read HB 2235 here.

The Green Dogs believe that they were sold a bill of goods by the Governor last year. The Governor asked them to support his budget with some prescribed forest leasing. In exchange, he said he wouldn't ask to lease more land this year.

But he has.

Hit Read More, below, yo.

Trash Fee = Flat is Whack

On March 17, we joined many concerned citizens and groups to comment in council on the proposal to add a "soda tax" and more importantly a flat fee for trash collection.

Since the soda tax really isn't the classic excise tax, we gave it short shrift. It'll bring in some revenue, that's about it.

But the regressivity of the flat fee for trash collection really needs to be re-examined. after a brief flurry of news and noise, attention has drifted, so I wanted to bring it back and keep in peoples' minds.

The impact on poorer areas is truly astonishing. The tables attached to our testimony makes that clear. In many neighborhoods, the flat trash fee far exceeds the total property tax an average house pays, and when the city portion of the property tax is isolated the numbers go off the charts bad.

It is always a good thing when our government works well

About 24 hours have passed since the massivee snow storm. 72 hours until the next one begins. I am not sure if I am surprised, or what, but in my neighborhood Philadelphia, and Philadelphia government did its just really, really well.

  • On Friday, everyone parked, and stayed off the streets on Saturday.
  • On Saturday, most people shoveled their sidewalks, and did so pretty quickly. And the plows were going pretty quickly. I walked to Center City on Saturday afternoon, and just about every sidewalk was clear, and every major street was plowed.
  • Then, at some point yesterday, even the sidestreets (except for the very small ones) saw plows rolling down, too.

When I was a kid, and we got out thirty inches of snow, the city shut down for a week. Now? Take away the snow banks, and you would never know what happened. We are in a period of recession-driven, shrinking revenues. Paying the millions it took to clean up so thoroughly like this is not simply a mandatory response, because at times in the past, we have been told that a through clean up costs too much money. Instead, it was a conscious decision made by the Mayor, which will have ramifications on the bottom line of our budget.

But, this kind of thing is worth it for two reasons. First, on a very basic level, a week of snow-misery sucks, and, it is nice to not to have to deal with it. And second, and most important, it is good for people to see city government functioning, and functioning well.

There are going to be a lot of pitched battles over the next year- from the budget to union contracts- and it will force the city into another year of our municipal budgeting nightmare- seemingly without the inclusiveness that we saw the last time. As we think about cutting services, or better targeting some taxes (like the BRT change proposed by Stan, and studied by Councilwoman Quinones Sanchez and Green), or whatever else we consider, it is heartening to head into the process with a clear demonstration that in one of its most basic functions, the city’s government can perform really, really well.

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