Third and State This Week: Big Budget Rally, Mexican Trade Deficit & Marcellus Shale Taxes

This week, we weighed in on a debate over the tax payments of drillers in Pennsylvania. We also blogged about the state's revenue surplus, a big rally at the State Capitol and the Pennsylvania jobs toll of a trade deficit with Mexico.


Revenue Analysis Goes Well Beyond Taxes Paid by Drillers

Sharon Ward, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC), issued the following statement in response to a new analysis of the taxes paid by the natural gas industry from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue:

The Department of Revenue’s new analysis makes an apples to oranges comparison of the taxes paid by companies engaged in natural gas drilling.

It alters the definition of drilling companies from what was reported in the Governor’s budget just two months ago. The definition was expanded to include companies that do not drill at all and would not be subject to a drilling tax, such as pipeline operators and suppliers of sand used in the fracking process. It also counts taxes paid by individuals and customers as taxes paid by the industry.

Third and State This Week: Zombies, Millionaire Taxes and Gas Drillers

This week, we blogged about New Jersey's millionaire tax, taxes and Marcellus Shale drillers, zombies and much more.


Millionaire Tax Didn't Chase the Rich From Jersey, So Why Not a Higher Tax Rate on Pa.'s Top Earners?

A blog post from Stephen Herzenberg, originally published on Third and State.

Anti-tax advocates maintain that higher tax rates on the wealthy lead to millionaire flight. But a study of a 2004 “millionaire tax” in New Jersey shows that, in fact, the rich don’t move to avoid higher taxes.

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...

If you want to help the working poor, then for God's sake gouge the rich

If you haven't seen it, have a look at this quote from President Obama's press conference on the deal he cut with the Republicans.

So this notion that somehow we are willing to compromise too much reminds me of the debate that we had during health care. This is the public option debate all over again. So I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health care for all Americans, something that Democrats had been fighting for for a hundred years, but because there was a provision in there that they didn't get that would have affected maybe a couple of million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people, that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise.

Now, if that's the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let's face it, we will never get anything done. People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime, the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of preexisting conditions or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.

It's a nice piece of rhetoric (Talking Points Memo has the transcript of the whole press conference), but it nails down precisely my problem with the President's approach. My problem with Health Care Reform aligns with my problem with the auto industry bailout, financial reform and the latest tax deal. In every instance, the President has hidden behind some vulnerable community in order to excuse himself from sticking it to the rich and the very rich, as he should.

Let's bust some trusts. We live in a world where the rich are so rich that their richness is fat and lazy and self-perpertuating it has left us with an ever more boring, decadent, uninventive world, a world where the captains of industry work harder to keep things easy than create new markets by coming up with new products or services that folks could really use. That's where we are as a people. Drug companies spend more money on advertising than research. Banks screw their depositors six ways from Sunday and call it "financial innovation" and the Scions of Microsoft sit in Seattle and look only for good ideas to steal rather than coming up with good ideas of their own. We live in a world where rich people only get richer at the expense of other people, and you can sure as hell bet that those other people aren't other rich people.

OK, that's going to be my only purely rhetorical paragraph: let's get to the point. Obama isn't willing to play the serious brinksmanship it's going to take for the very rich to finally lose a fight. The screed goes on. Hit the link below and hang with me past the break.

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.

Tax Reform can grow our economy according to Moody's Mark Zandi

Check out this great piece on the tax proposal by Maria and I.

Short version, do it now!

Helping Philly Based Businesses, Creating and Retaining Philly Jobs

At the Philly for Change meet up on Wednesday I promised to post the power point on YPP regarding the business privilege tax changes proposed by Maria Q. Sanchez and myself. There were 15 co-sponsors total.

Key features are:

Large multinationals pay more as they can't legally avoid the gross receipts tax like they can the net income tax

50,000 of the 84,000 tax payers will be taken off our tax roles as a result of our exempting the first 100,000 of revenue

Philadelphia based firms benefit

See attached for detail.


Bill Green on Tax Reform and More at PFC Meetup Tonight

Councilman Bill Green explains his and Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez's plan to shift business taxes to Gross Receipts (with big exemptions) at Philly For Change Meetup tonight at 7 at Tritone, 1508 South Street. Come out, bring your attention and good questions!

Also tonight, ACTION United's Julia Ramsey discusses strengthening (yes!) Social Security, and Penn Action's Hannah Miller weighs in on issues related to Marcellus Shale. And, of course, there will be big campaign updates, including Joe Sestak for US Senate, Dan Onorato for Governor, Bryan Lentz for US House, and a pitch for this week's canvass in Northeast Philly for Congressman Patrick Murphy.

So Where Do Our Tax Dollars Go?

On this Day After Tax Day, here are two graphics showing you how tax dollars are spent in Pennsylvania and the U.S.

First, this graphic, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, details how federal tax dollars are spent on public services that we rely upon everyday.

This graphic, created by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center using U.S. Census Bureau data, shows how state and local tax dollars are spent on similarly critical public services provided in our communities.

Fixing Philadelphia

In today’s (3/30/10) Philadelphia Inquirer, Kristen Graham reports “95,000 children are under DHS care in city schools and in out-of-school programs.” This number is way too high as it represents over 35% of the children in the school district. Think about it, we run a school district where more than one in three children are under the supervision of someone other than their parents.
We can sit by and do nothing about this as we have for many years. We can blame teachers as many have done for no reason and with no satisfactory results, or we could recognize and deal with the situation.
Just as we have schools that are so called drop out factories, I suspect, based on socio-economic factors and crime statistics, that we can identify neighborhoods where concentrations of parents at risk of raising children at risk are located. Certainly DHS can confirm if such neighborhoods exist.

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.


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