News & Brews January 26, 2023

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Audit: School districts raising taxes while hoarding money 

Yesterday, Auditor General Tim DeFoor released an audit of a dozen school districts across Pennsylvania, which found that districts are “increasing taxes while holding large balances of funds.” The report notes that while this practice is legal, it “circumvent[s] the intent” of the law “to keep districts from increasing taxes when sufficient appropriable funds are available.” DeFoor stated, “These districts have found a way to use the law to their advantage so they could always raise property taxes. It’s basically a ‘shell game’ that allowed these 12 school districts to collectively raise taxes 37 times during the four years we reviewed, which increased their respective General Fund accounts to $390 million.” (Relatedly, if you want to see how much your school district is hoarding, the Commonwealth Foundation has a great searchable, sortable database.)

‘Listening tour’ kicks off, with Dems absent

Last evening, House Speaker Mark Rozzi’s “listening tour” made its first stop in Pittsburgh to hear ideas on how to get the House moving. Ironically, of the six working group members Rozzi had appointed—three Republicans and three Democrats—only the Republican members showed up. The next stop will be tomorrow in Philadelphia.

Pa. House remains ‘deadlocked’

Spotlight PA reports that the Pa. House “has been stuck in park since January as neither party has gained the traction to approve operating rules that allow committees to form and votes to be held.” The source of the deadlock is House Speaker Mark Rozzi, who was elected to the role on the promise that he’d switch parties from Democrat to Independent, but who instead has declined to change his party registration. He’s also declined to hold any votes and instead has embarked on the above-reported ‘listening tour’.

Advisory board makes mail-in voting recommendations 

Earlier this month, the Election Law Advisory Board, created by the same law that provided for no-excuse mail-in-voting in Pa., issued an interim report on our mail-in-voting process. Capirolwire reports that among the recommendations are “having an earlier deadline for mail-in and absentee ballot applications and making use of secrecy envelopes optional for mail-in and absentee voters.”

Biden, Harris to visit Philly next week

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are planning to come to Philly next week. The Inquirer reports that on Feb. 3, they’ll speak during the Democratic National Committee Meetings taking place there. According to the White House, they’ll “discuss the progress we have made, and their work implementing the Biden-Harris economic agenda that continues to deliver results for the American people.” It’s unclear if they’ll also address Pennsylvania’s low labor force participation rate or how the state has yet to recover from COVID job losses.

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