- Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States
- February 4 Non-Partisan Training: HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013: HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion
- The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
- Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor
- Mind the gap: Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Leaves Low-income Families Behind
- Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday
- PA Revenue Strong Midway Through Year; Tax Cut Could Have Big Impact
- What to Make of the Fiscal Cliff Deal?
Monday RoundUp: Budget chaos, gambling free for all, immigration and health care, the BRT usual – and city leaders are where?
It’s all budgets all the time with the news that a veto-proof agreement may have been crafted. The compromise however leaves a lot of areas hanging:
Education: The compromise blows a major hole in the education budget as reported by Dan Hardy, confirming rumors that have been swirling for months (edit: a bit of hyperbole there - rumors have been swirling for a few weeks, not months). The School District is expected to be at least $140 million short – a move that one District insider said months ago would be "the end of the world." Hardest hit are likely to be pre-school and help for students looking to return to school and get their diplomas. The SRC meanwhile has chosen to postpone its September meeting dates without explanation. Explaining to the public how you didn’t really have a Plan B is such a chore. Read more at the Public School Notebook.
PICA punts on Plan C: Speaking of a lack of plans, the city buys time when PICA declines to weigh in on Plan C, saving the Mayor an embarrassing rejection as one Councilman notes. But it does highlight a widespread lack of faith in the alternative the Mayor has submitted.
Look on the Bright Side: Now we can play poker to really class up those slots barns! Although it looks like neighborhood bars may not get their video poker, the state believes its second highest revenue generator – expanded gambling through table games – is still the magic bullet to plug holes. Sort of. Actually only briefly. $200 million this year and a 40% drop in revenues next year (casino industry estimates by the way, and we know how reliable those are). Meanwhile, with the political gambling contributions ban eliminated, it’s a virtual free for all for the casino industry to ensure table games are as individually profitable as they are likely.
In other news, the Inky puts another foot on the BRT’s keister with a series of stories on the new tax assessments. Patrick Kerkstra notes that it’s "business as usual" for one city block where some assessments tripled. Meanwhile the BRT follows incompetence with – what else? More incompetence!
Among the findings:
Hundreds of the new commercial numbers were thrown off by mistakes littering the BRT's property records, including incorrectly sized lots and buildings that don't exist. At Seventh and Arch Streets, for example, the BRT calculated a new value of $5.2 million on what the agency thought was a huge, 200-space parking lot. But there is no such lot, just a narrow walkway next to the Federal Detention Center.
Instead of trying to figure out a property's real worth, the BRT's assessors slapped the same percentage increases on thousands of parcels across the city. More than 500 would get the same 40 percent increase - properties as different as a $6 million shopping center on Castor Avenue and a long-empty hoagie shop in North Philadelphia.
More than 6,000 commercial properties - a quarter of the total - are missing entirely, left undone as the BRT rushed to send the AVI numbers to impatient city officials last spring.
Apparent glitches in the BRT's computer models produced some bizarre results. Parking lots in a drug-ravaged section of Frankford, for example, were valued at a steep $140 per square foot - more pricey than many lots in Center City.
The most telling line:
Mayor Nutter, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment.
And finally, Michael Smerconish, who when googling past columns of his, I came across the unfortunate nature of his Philly Mag profile. I do not advise.
Anyway, he takes on the Joe Wilson-immigrant reform-Obama health care controversy, even though not a one links logically to the another.
Now for the record, Smerconish actually published a column about his diversifying of America paranoia:
I know I'm not alone in my belief that today's immigrants - those here both legally and illegally - are not assimilating the way my forefathers did when they arrived.
And before I'm shouted down as a xenophobe, hear me out. My intent isn't to amplify the shrill debate surrounding illegal immigration. What I'm interested in is defending the tradition to which my grandparents adhered: the one that led them to a new name and a better life in this country.
I fear we are leaving it behind.
Leaving aside the philly.com comment stream, and they are particularly colorful whenever immigration is raised – Smerconish nevertheless raises sensible points about why the far right’s call to completely deny undocumented people from receiving health care is bad policy:
- It would require the undoing of the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act requiring care for anyone who visits an emergency room.
- It would require doctors and caregivers to function as immigration agents first, and health care professionals second.
- It wouldn’t keep with our national rep to deny health care to people who were gunshot victims, or giving birth, or in a car accident, or suffering from a communicable disease, say.
- And it doesn’t help the fact that what health care professionals are more concerned about are insurance protections than verifying legal status.
Smerconish omits one other important reality, and that’s the fact that so many families in the U.S. are of mixed immigration status. Back in 1999, the Urban Institute reported that as many as one in ten American families had at least one family member who was undocumented. A more recent Pew study shows that 75% of the children of undocumented immigrants are U.S. citizens. So it kinda makes it complicated when you start trying to deny citizen kids health care check-ups for school when their parents don't have the right paperwork.
In the end, though, Obama’s health care reform bill is meant to address health insurance plans and medical coverage in general. It’s not meant to rewrite every single law that deals with health care. And although Smerconish raises some good points, it’s just plain misdirection to raise the 1986 law and try to hang it on the president’s neck.