News & Brews March 14, 2024

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Pa. has lots of cash … and a structural budget deficit

Spotlight PA dives into Pennsylvania’s fiscal standing, reporting that despite our approximately “$14 billion in financial reserves,” Pa. still has a structural deficit. “The state’s annual costs, such as paying public servants and providing health care to people who can’t afford it, consistently exceed the state’s annual tax revenue.” And while Gov. Shapiro wants to spend more than $3 billion of this surplus in his current budget proposal, “if Pennsylvania had to rely solely on the tax revenue the Shapiro administration projects to bring in over the next few years, it wouldn’t be able to cover the tab…. That essentially leaves lawmakers with two choices: spend less or bring in more money.”

RGGI by another name? 

Yesterday, Gov. Shapiro said Pennsylvania could withdraw from the carbon tax and trade scheme known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative if one huge condition is met: Pa. must implement its own tax and trade scheme via the legislative process. “We will not take direction from anyone outside of this Commonwealth,” Shapiro said. “This initiative will be established by us, run by us, and benefit us. We will set our own cap. We will set our own price for those carbon credits, and we won’t have any other state determining what is right for us here in Pennsylvania.” In response, Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman said, “It now appears the governor agrees with the Commonwealth Court’s ruling asserting a cap-and-trade program for electric generation is a tax on electricity and would require legislative approval. The governor correctly points out it is time we stop losing to Ohio, however, any cap-and-trade program applying solely to electric generation in Pennsylvania and not our competitors, does not fit the bill.”

Lawmakers seek to ban taxpayer-funded lobbyists

On Monday, GOP Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (York County) introduced legislation that would prohibit state agencies from hiring lobbyists. The practice of taxpayer-funded lobbyists has long drawn criticism, but it came to the fore recently as news came out that the Game Commission had paid $10,000-per-month for a contract with a lobbying firm headed by former Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (the commission has since said it won’t renew the contract). In her co-sponsorship memo, Phillips-Hill says, “The money that goes toward paying these lobbying organizations is hard-working taxpayer dollars…. That money should be spent on public services to help all of our residents, not on continuing to pad pockets of lobbyists.”

Philly has lost >50K residents since pandemic began

The Inquirer reports that according to census data, “since April 2020, Philadelphia’s population has declined 3.3% — or 53,251 residents.” This includes more than 16,000 residents who left between July 2022 and July 2023, the time period covered by the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates. The story notes that the last time the city’s population declined for three consecutive years was between 2004 and 2006. “Among U.S. counties with one million residents or more, Philadelphia saw the eighth-largest population decline between 2020 and 2023.” The top seven counties for population loss during this time period? All in deep blue states (New York, California, and Illinois).

Here’s how Pa.’s U.S. reps voted on possible TikTok ban

The U.S. House voted overwhelmingly (352-65) yesterday for the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act,” which, in short, could ban TikTok in the U.S. Among the 17 members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation, 14 voted in favor of the bill, while three opposed. Those opposing were Democrat Reps. Brendan Boyle and Summer Lee and Republican Rep. Scott Perry.

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