A Big Win on Payday Lending, at Least for Now

Sorry to take so long for this update, but, despite hundreds of thousands of dollars of lobbying money, the payday lenders have lost a round in Pennsylvania. For now.

Consumer advocates in Pennsylvania won a hard-fought delay on Wednesday against a pending bill in the legislature that would once again permit payday lenders to charge predatory rates and victimize the state’s poor and downtrodden residents.

A bill that passed the Pennsylvania state house earlier this month that would raise the permissible annual percentage rate on small loans to 369 percent will be held in the state senate until the next legislative session in the fall, according to activists fighting against the bill.

The goal of the payday industry was to ram this through, quickly. Why? Because, the more attention legalizing loan sharking gets, the worse it is for the industry, and those who would enable it. So, while the payday lenders will be back in just a few short months, the delay into the fall is a real, substantive victory, won by a coalition of consumer advocates, religious groups and military veterans.

Of course, the battle is not over. And, in fact, the State Senators that still need the most education on the topic are largely the same ones that seemed on the verge of passing it. So, be ready in a few months, because a win is sweet, but a long term win would be a hell of a lot better.

Council Democrats Seal the Deal with Philly's 1%

Yesterday, Council repealed the wage tax rebate for the working poor. This landmark legislation, one of the signature achievements of the late Councilman David Cohen, was repealed by a 10-6 vote, with 8 of those repealing votes coming from Democrats. Voting in favor of repeal were the following:

Clarke D-5th District
Green D-At Large
Greenlee D-At Large
Henon D-6th District
Jones D-4th District
Kenney D-At Large
O’Neill R-10th District
Oh R-At Large
Reynolds-Brown D-At-Large
Tasco D-9th District

Voting against repeal were the following, including only 5 Democrats:

Bass D-8th District
Blackwell D-3rd District
Goode D-At Large
Johnson D-2nd District
O’Brien R-At Large
Squilla D-1st District

Generally I try not to engage in single-issue rating of politicians. But this is going to be a hard pill to swallow when it’s time to vote for the repealers again. The wage tax credit is the kind of tax provision that generally marks the divide between Democrats and Republicans. It’s targeted toward the working poor so only those that need it get it. Credit recipients recycle the money to the economy by spending it locally, rather than on overseas vacations, or by depositing it in offshore accounts. The City gains by enabling economically marginal families to pay their rent and utilities, thus keeping families intact and lowering pressure on local services.

These are the Philly State Senators who May Bring Payday Lending Back to PA

As discussed on Friday, the payday lending industry is spreading money around Harrisburg, in an attempt to return to Pennsylvania, all under the guise of a consumer protection bill… that has no support of any consumer protection groups. As I noted then, the payday lending bill barely passed the House of Representatives, depending on the support of some of Philly’s own State Reps—Keller, Taylor and Sabatina- to do so.

The bill is now in the Senate, and after talking with people in the know, here are the Philly State Senators that have, at minimum, wavered in stating their unequivocal opposition to bringing payday lenders and 300% plus interest rates back to Pennsylvania:

  • Michael Stack, (717) 787-9608
  • Anthony Williams, (717) 787-5970
  • Shirley Kitchen, (717) 787-6735
  • Leanna Washington, (717) 787-1427

None of these Senators have necessarily said that they support this bill, and Stack has basically said he is against it. But, the sense is that the four of them are wavering and that they may be looking for something— some additional pointless amendments for example— that would give them cover to vote for it. This is just wrong. There is no secret middle ground here— either you are against bringing an abusive industry back to Pennsylvania or you are not. Payday lending is built on a parasitic business model, feeding off of the struggles of someone waiting for another check, and the only way these companies would be OK with sets of amendments is if that fundamental reality was not changed.

Philly’s State Senators have to keep this simple and stand against legalizing loans at annual interest rates of 300 percent. If these Senators represent you, please contact them, and let them know that Philly does not need the loan sharks. There is still time for these Senators to be heroes in stopping this, rather than villains in letting them in the door. Contact them and let them know where you stand.

Piecing Together the PA Budget Framework

By Chris Lilienthal, Third and State

Some details emerged Thursday about the state budget framework unveiled midweek by Governor Tom Corbett and legislative leaders, but questions still remain. More details may be available later today when budget spreadsheets are released.

Funding for county human services is one area that appears to be in flux, as some House Republicans continue to voice concerns about a plan to block grant and cut that funding. 

A number of GOP House lawmakers want to add more dollars for the mental health and mental disability programs in that mix, said [Rep. Mario] Scavello.

A Senate-approved bill restores half of the $168 million spending cut for the human services programs initially proposed by Mr. Corbett. House members would like to restore even more money but have to balance that with cuts elsewhere, he added.

Although the statewide association representing county commissioners recently agreed to a two-year phase-in for the block grant, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-18, Bensalem, chairman of the House Human Services Committee, said he's trying to stop the block grant altogether and substitute a pilot program for several counties instead ...

The seven programs considered for a block grant include community mental health and mental disability services, the human services development fund, homeless assistance, child welfare grants, the Behavorial Health Services Initiative and Act 152 drug and alcohol treatment programs.

Hitting People When They Are Down: The Loan Sharks Are On Their Way Back To Pennsylvania

It has been a bad year or two for vulnerable Pennsylvanians. From school funding cuts, to the apparent elimination of very basic, humane general assistance, to slashes to higher education and the refusal to properly fund public transit, piece after piece of our state's basic social compact is methodically being cut away. The “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania” has rarely sounded like a more misplaced name.

And yet, to make matters worse, in a morbid move that feels like a gilded-age pincer attack, Pennsylvania may take it one step further. Because right as the same time as Pennsylvania is producing ever more struggling people, the state is poised to invite in the private industries that profit by... ripping off struggling people. First up on the list, fresh off of passage in the State House, are everyone's favorite loan sharks: payday lenders.

And, for those us in the City of Brotherly Love, if that wasn't bad enough, a number of Philly's own legislators appear poised to be help make it happen.

The backstory is that, despite being illegal, payday lenders once operated widely in Pennsylvania. But, through private lawsuits, through the closing of loopholes and through other government action, payday lenders and their illegally high interest rates were booted out of the state. What was long illegal stayed illegal. The good guys won. The storefronts closed. Less vulnerable people were hurt.

Let there be no question: Payday lending is a horrible thing. It is nothing more than credit heroin, with loans made at annual interest rates of over 300%. It is pitched to desperate people, with the express desire to get them hooked, so that every two weeks they have to return to the well, being forced to take out a new loan just to fill the budget gap caused by the first one.

So how, in this very moment of economic calamity, austerity and publicly-inflicted misery, did payday lenders set themselves up for this return? I will give you one guess:

One fast-tracked proposal would bring back the controversial practice of payday lending to stores in neighborhoods, strip malls, even hospitals.

The measure passed the House on a 102-90 vote Wednesday, after a veritable army of lobbyists for the short-term loan industry worked Capitol offices.

Among the firms represented: Cash America, one of the nation's largest payday lenders, which in this legislative session has reported spending $125,000 on lobbying in Harrisburg.

All those who selected “because they paid for it,” please collect your prizes on the way out.

As are so many horrible bills that target consumers, this one also has the Orwellian gift of being pitched as a consumer protection bill. Of course, if your bill is supposed to protect vulnerable consumers and it is opposed by, among other groups, the AARP, Community Legal Services, United Way, Pennsylvania's National Association of Consumer Advocates, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, The Reinvestment Fund, Regional Housing Legal Services, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and on and on, you might have a clue that, in fact, the bill is not protecting consumers.

Instead, in order to give cover for this so-called consumer protection, and so that the bill's sponsors can pretend to blur reality, the industry funded and founded a group, named the  “Consumer Rights Coalition.” This group, however, is actually “a payday lobby group that’s donned a name intended to create the illusion that this product has grassroots consumer support when it doesn’t.” Of course it is. It was founded by the executive leadership of Cash America, the internet payday lender, and leading beneficiary of the bill. That's pretty close to the extent of who supports this: rich loan sharks, their front group, and the politicians who enable them.  

Which brings us to where we are now. The bill just barely passed the House of Representatives, with a number of Republicans crossing over to vote against it.  Sadly, helping pass this in the House were, among other people, three State Reps from Philly: Keller, Sabatina and Taylor. (Fighting the good fight, and helping lead a charge that almost defeated the bill was State Rep. Cherelle Parker.)

Now, the bill is before the Senate and it is time for our Philly-based State Senators to state clearly that they oppose legalizing loan sharking and stand with their constituents, not the army of payday lenders and their lobbyists that are currently encircling Harrisburg. Our Philly-based Senators are:

Anthony Williams
Leanna Washington
Christina Tartaglione
Mike Stack
Shirley Kitchen
Larry Farnese
Vince Hughes

Each of these Senators represents many, many constituents that would be directly hurt by this bill. Most of them will likely do the right thing. But, it is really odd that a single one would even consider supporting it. I mean, if you were, for example, planning to run for Mayor, would you really be thinking about legalizing a business that openly targets poor people, while every single consumer advocacy group tells you not to? And yet, the rumblings are that someone like Senator Williams is wavering, at best.

Luckily, nothing is yet set in stone and there is still time for every single one of our Senators to do the right thing, join the fight, and stop this thing. Contact them, let them know where you stand, and ask them to do the same. And, if you hear back from them, let us all know.

Now, right as we slash social services, forcing people to become ever more vulnerable and desperate, is not the time to invite 21st century loan sharks back into Pennsylvania.

What's the rush? Save the Cohen wage tax rebate!

One of the last accomplishments of long time progressive Councilmember David Cohen—a rebate on the wage tax for those with low incomes—may be repealed tomorrow. It shouldn’t be.

There are good policy arguments both for and against the wage tax rebate. I’ll come to some of them in a moment. But, frankly, at the moment those arguments are secondary. The key reason not to repeal the legislation tomorrow is that the decision to put off AVI for a year means that Council is going carry out a broad examination of taxation in the city next year. The Cohen wage tax rebate is not scheduled to go into effect until 2016 anyway. So there is plenty of time to reconsider it as we think through the future of taxation in Philadelphia.

Any city like Philadelphia has to balance considerations of progressivity and economic growth.

While, progressive taxation has very little negative impact on economic growth in the nation as a whole, and relatively little in states, it can have an impact on cities. If city taxes fall too much on people with higher incomes and businesses, then they can move with their feet.

On the other hand, when a quarter of our city or more is poor, a reduction in taxes targeted at those with low incomes really helps people who are struggling at fairy low cost.

AVI, when implemented, will make our taxes more progressive and help low income folks. Its’ impact might be greater than a targeted wage tax cut. So, had we implemented AVI this year, I might have been less concerned about losing the Cohen wage tax rebate.

But, now that we are waiting for AVI—and while we are uncertain whether it will ever be implemented in a progressive fashion—here’s good reason to keep the Cohen wage tax rebate on the books and reconsider it as part of a complete overhaul of our taxes.

Another victory for democracy, transparency in the Democratic Party—this time in the Pennsylvania Democratic party!

Some friends of mine who are very disillusioned with the Democratic Party and see little hope for improvement ask me why I bother working within the Democratic Party. Every once in awhile something happens which makes me think it might be worth it after all.

Progress shouldn’t be this painfully slow, but the determination and persistence of Tracey Gordon and Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus has finally paid off. The Philadelphia Democratic Party finally acknowledged that Tracey Gordon won election as committeeperson in 2010 and seated her. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Pennsylvania Democratic Progressive Caucus, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party is becoming more democratic, more transparent.

On June 9 a resolution initiated by the PA Democratic Progressive Caucus was passed unanimously by Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee. The resolution stated:

Whereas, that in all 67 counties in the State of Pennsylvania there is
only one process in effect for the election of Democratic Committee
people and that the Committee person election process has guidelines
set forth by the Pa. Dept. of State and State election laws; and

Whereas, we recognize that that all 67 Democratic County Committees
are obligated to have rules and by-laws that are consistent with our
State Party by-laws; and

Whereas, it should only be practical, that in all 67 counties that
there is only one process in effect to remove an elected county
committee person from office within the Pennsylvania Democratic Party;

Council DEMOCRATS poised to kill tax break for low-wage workers.

Isn’t it nice that we have a Democratic City Council by a margin of 15-2? That must mean that, like the federal and state governments, the City does something to make its income-based tax progressive. And, indeed, in 2004, City Council enacted such a break, enabling workers classified as working poor by the State to knock their wage tax down to 1.5%, a meaningful cut.

But Council really didn’t like it. To get this little piece of tax justice passed, its sponsor, the late, great, Councilman David Cohen, had to agree to phase it in over a six year period. Soon after Cohen’s death, multiple efforts were launched to repeal it outright. Although these were unsuccessful, the tax break was postponed three additional times, and the benefit itself was sharply reduced, to no more than 1% under the general rate of the tax.

As restructured, the wage tax credit is now scheduled to begin taking effect in 2016. But the restructuring and the delay did not reduce Mayor Nutter’s zeal for doing away with it altogether. With little fanfare he introduced a bill to repeal it altogether along with his budget for next year. Now it has been voted out of Committee to the floor of Council by a 9-8 vote.

Remember, the wage tax is about as regressive a tax as you can have based on income. It excludes all sources of income but wages. It is flat, levied currently at a rate of 3.93%, on a worker’s first and every other dollar of wages. No deductions, exemptions, credits or reductions of any kind apply for low wage workers. Upper income workers who deduct taxes from their federal taxes, however, may pay as much as a third less than the nominal rate.

This is not a City in which there is a general reluctance to cut taxes, at least not those that benefit the 1%. Just recently Council defined wages to exclude those paid to hedge fund managers. Since 1996, the rate of the wage tax has been cut 16 times to bring it down from 4.96% to its current rate. All of those cuts benefited the rich far more than the poor. That’s simple to see. A cut of 1% is worth $1,000 to someone earning $100,000, but only $100 to someone earning $10,000.

Why would Democrats fight the idea of giving low wage workers some additional bit of relief from this heavy tax burden in a town with a poverty rate exceeding 25%? Good question. Please call and ask them before a final vote is taken next Thursday. All we need is one of them to come to their senses and reject this war on the poor. When you talk to them, ask them what they think it means to be a Democrat in Philadelphia.

Here are the Democrats who voted to repeal this little piece of tax justice and decency:

Green (At Large)
Greenlee (At Large)
Henon (6th District)
Jones (4th District)
Reynolds Brown (At Large)
Tasco (9th District)
Clarke (5th District)

Also, two Republicans voted to repeal:

O'Neill (10th District)
Oh (At Large)

Ask them why any Democrat should vote for them. They got plenty of Democratic votes in the last election. (You can get contact info for Council members here.) You can find out who your District Councilperson is here.

And here are the 8 members who voted to keep the tax cut:

Bass (8th District)
Blackwell (3rd District)
Goode (At Large)
Johnson (2nd District)
Kenney (At Large)
O'Brien (At Large)
Squilla (1st District)

Call and thank them. Note O’Brien: a Republican who did the right thing. How often can you say that?

The .00001 have again spoken; peasants, go away . . .

Today’s Inky reports that the Chamber of Commerce is getting all up on its 1% haunches about Councilman Bill Green’s proposal to raise the Use and Occupancy tax for the schools. It just gets me the way the “liberal media” goes all wobbly at the knees whenever the Chamber in all its imperial wisdom speaks. Today our lordly overseer says that raising the U & O is a no no because, among many other things, “tenants remain mobile and react swiftly to price changes in this environment." That quote is from Rob Wonderling, the former Republican State Senator and present Chamber President. Several other wise men are quoted in agreement. The Inky can seem to find no one who disagrees.

So what is this horrible U & O tax? It’s a tax on the value of real estate occupied by businesses. It’s been around for thirty years or so as a workaround of PA law which bars commercial real estate from being taxed at a higher level than residential. As the Inky does acknowledge, that means -- compared to other Northeastern cities -- Philadelphia businesses don't pay a whole lot of real estate tax. But you have to scroll down to get to that. Way up high you have the prediction of Mr. Crocodile Tears himself (also known as Robert Zuritsky, president of Parkway Corp.) that increasing the tax would cost 10,000 to 25,000 jobs in two years.

Be scared out of your bejabbers everyone, very scared. Apparently Bill Green who sponsored the U & O increase is appropriately, awesomely scared, because according to the article, he’s abandoned his own bill. Others in Council are listed as skeptical to say the least.

The Myths Behind Governor Corbett's PA Budget Myths

By Sharon Ward, Third and State

Governor Tom Corbett's May 21 newsletter offered up responses to five "myths" the administration claims are circulating about his proposed budget for next year. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center examined these myths and the myths behind the myths to give you a clear picture about what is fact and what is fiction in Harrisburg.

Governor's Myth #1: Pennsylvania spends more money building prisons than building schools. 

We’re not sure where this one came from, but we will give it a whirl.

Fact: The Corbett administration’s budget includes a moratorium on new school construction projections, and NO FUNDING for school district projects in the pipeline.

Fact: If the Governor’s proposed plan for higher education is adopted, Pennsylvania will spend twice as much on prisons as it does on colleges. In 2009-10, the state's corrections budget was $1.8 billion and college funding was $1.5 billion. If the Governor had his way, Pennsylvania would spend $1.9 billion on corrections and $980 million on colleges in 2012-13.  

Fact: It costs the state much more to house prisoners than it does to educate a child. In 2011-12, Pennsylvania will house 49,000 inmates at a cost of $35,188 per inmate and spend $9.3 billion to educate 1.8 million students at a cost in state dollars of $5,305 per child.

Fact: It is better to build schools than to build prisons. 

Governor's Myth #2: The reductions in higher education funding will cause universities to raise tuition.  

After two years, the will of the voters is upheld in the Tracey Gordon case.

After two years, Tracey Gordon and the Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus (PDPC) won Round 1! In 2010, Tracey Gordon was elected to be a committee member of the 40th Ward in the Philadelphia Democratic Party, but despite that election, she was denied her seat by the vote of the Ward. See “When Elections Don't Matter: The city Democratic Party doesn't always care what voters think” The Philadelphia Democratic Party and its chair, Bob Brady, refused to fix the problem.

Despite repeated attempts to resolve the matter by Tracey, her supporters, her attorney Irv Acklesberg, and the PDPC, it wasn’t resolved until Irv Acklesberg filed a lawsuit seeking not only to reinstate Tracey, but to permanently enjoin future election nullifications by the Philadelphia Democratic Party. See the chronology of the case posted at YPP.

No doubt realizing that it would lose the court fight, the Philadelphia Democratic Party reinstated Tracey Gordon. On May 17, 2012, under the direction of the Party, the 40th Ward voted to rescind the illegal resolution it passed almost two years ago. Because Tracy is now serving as a Deputy City Commissioner—a job in which she is continuing to protect the right to vote—she had to resign from her elected position. (City ethics rules do not permit employees to hold party office.)

A face of Philly ed reform likes the womenfolk silent and tending to the children

If there's any question about the intent behind the people driving Philadelphia's current wave of education reform, look no further than this galling op-ed by Mark Gleason, executive director of the Philadelphia Schools Partnership which has an explicit mandate to support religious schools and is pushing for expanding school choice at any cost:

I was struck that morning by one mother in particular. She had three girls in tow, two of them elementary-school-age and one too young for school. The two older girls wore blue shirts and khaki pants, and they carried backpacks and lunches that their mother had probably made early that morning.

I wanted to ask the mother about the specifics of her choice for her children. I wanted to ask what she thought about the SRC’s plan to transform the School District and expand the number of great public-school options in Philadelphia. But she was too busy making sure the girls could find seats on the train, tying the littlest one’s shoes, and reminding them about this and that. She was too busy taking advantage of her educational options.

It reminded me that public opinion can’t be judged solely by the loudest voices in a protest or public meeting. . .

But let’s remember the mother I saw on the train, and the other students on that train and many others. They deserve more great schools closer to home. If we could ask them if it’s important to expand the number of great schools available to them — if it’s worth it to give more kids the same opportunities they’re seizing — I’m sure they would say it is.

It takes some kinda something to:

  1. Reference Richard Nixon on anything in the hopes of gaining credibility.
  2. Equate a woman tying her children's shoes and finding seats for them on a train with "exercising your educational options" and THEN tie that to your own organization's promotion of a school district plan that seeks to dismantle public education in favor of a free-enterprise market.
  3. Project your ideas on women and children (is that one category or two?) with whom you don't bother to speak in order to speak for them.

Mr. Gleason, a New Jerseyan with a keen interest in "other people's children" (as Lisa Delpit has coined) bemoans the fact that a "handful of activists" have created a "myth" that SOME people out there actually support public education. He conveniently dismisses the thousands of parents who have been speaking out clearly and cogently against the Distict's plan for the past six weeks. He won't hear the thousands of grandmothers, aunts, mothers and sisters in the street yesterday speaking up for public education and a sustainable system of choice. He ignores the dozens of nurses who've marched every Wednesday since December against cuts that have the District saying it can assure nursing care only to the "most medically fragile."

He'll dismiss "activists with an agenda" yet hide behind Nixon's silent majority in order to promote PSP's own very explicit activist agenda. Consider Gleason's statements while he served as a New Jersey school board member:

"My problem is with the opposition mounted by the superintendent, board and community on the grounds that a charter school would take public funds away from public schools. The catchphrase of their argument is that Hua Mei would benefit a few at the expense of the many. In fact, that is what public education in America has done for many decades. All taxpayers contribute to cover the educational costs of those taxpayers who choose to have children and then choose to send them to public schools."

Damn it's hard living in a democracy.

What Philadelphians were promised by the District was a short-term financial plan designed to help stabilize the District. What Gleason confirms is that we got an ideological agenda driven by those who benefit the most through silencing the public.

In the playbook of ed reform, clear spoken women? Activists with an agenda. Silent women simply tending to the kids? Ah, yes. Just the way it should be.

Philly Property Taxes

Dave Davies wrote this excellent piece on a tax estimator I prepared. http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/off-mic/item/38850

My comment to it as follows: Transparency & PA Constitution — Bill Green 2012-05-21 22:57
In addition to Dave's much better summary than my own I would add the following. The public should have enough knowledge about what the administration proposes to form an opinion. They really had no data without the spreadsheet. I don't predict what people will think about the data. It may well be that knowing the best and worst case people want AVI. I would argue putting bounds on it may be helpful although I am not making a judgement about whether or not it will be. Openness and transparency and adequate time for active citizen engagement should be our touchstone for anything this important. It was missing.

Also, we are the only major city in the country to not have the ability to tax residential properties at a different rate from commercial and industrial properties due to the uniformity clause of the PA constitution. The use and occupancy tax is the work around. It does not make us less competitive. The business taxes we have, especially the 6.5% net income tax DESTROY JOBS.

Finally, if the numbers I have are wrong, I will change my conclusion. I make decisions on data and evidence. If the data is different, my conclusion will be. I am being asked to act, I am assessing the data I have, I wish I had more data.

To see the release and estimator go to http://www.greenforphiladelphia.com/content/councilman-bill-green-introd...

PA Job Numbers Out, The War On Unemployment Insurance, and Inequality

By Mark Price, Third and State

Happy Sunny Friday, people! Now for the not so good news. The job numbers for Pennsylvania came out Thursday, and the overall picture was somewhat disappointing. The unemployment rate edged down slightly to 7.4% and nonfarm payrolls declined by 600 jobs. Focusing on the jobs data, the biggest loser in April was construction, which shed an eye-popping 5,400 jobs. That is a big swing at a time of year when construction projects should be ramping up. Odds are that loss is driven by sampling error rather than real trends in construction activity. Another troubling stat was the loss of 1,700 jobs in the public sector.

Because monthly data are somewhat erratic, you shouldn't make too much out of any one-month change in employment overall or within a sector. Looking at nonfarm payrolls since October, the jobs picture is somewhat brighter with Pennsylvania adding, on average, 3,900 jobs a month. So Pennsylvania's labor market, like the national labor market, is continuing to recover.

Now for the bad news: if you were hoping the Pennsylvania economy would finally return to full employment by 2015 (remember, the recession started in December 2007), nonfarm payrolls need to grow by about 10,000 jobs a month. So by that metric, we are a long way from fully recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Pennsylvania Hunger Games Diet: Cash for Corporations, Cuts for Kids

By Mark Price, Third and State

On Tuesday Marty Moss-Coane, the host of WHYY's Radio Times, moderated a question-and-answer session with Governor Tom Corbett at an event sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. The Governor ran wild with analogies.

Corbett repeated a folksy analogy to the business suit-and-tie audience, saying that state revenue amounted to an eight-inch pizza pie before the 2008 financial crisis. Now, he said, it’s a six-inch pie “but with the same mouths to feed.”

Moss-Coane noted near the end of the hour-long conversation that Corbett could hear demonstrators beating drums and chanting slogans outside. What would he say to them, she asked.

“I understand that you’re upset because we’ve had to put the state on a diet, for want of a better description,” Corbett said. “I haven’t met anybody who likes to go on diets. It is not easy. It is not what we want to do.”

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