As several states (Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Oregon) look to rid themselves of antiquated government-run liquor systems, the defenders of state-control status quo are fighting back harder than ever. And some aren't letting facts get in the way of their arguments.
More than a year ago, Washington state privatized liquor sales. Opponents of privatization in Oregon are nervously looking north, and touting a new "study" that shows emergency room visits in Washington have increased, as have thefts of liquor stores and alcohol accessibility to minors. The study, though, was actually a PowerPoint presentation by longtime liquor privatization opponents. Last week in Forbes, Donald Rieck, Executive Director of Statistical Assessment Service noted that many of the study’s claims are dubious at best and ignore general positive trends following privatization in Washington state.
In fact, according to the Washington Health Youth Survey, binge drinking (at historic lows) and other levels of problem drinking declined for grades 8, 10, and 12. There continues to be growing awareness among the same age group of alcohol’s harmful effects. As for the other questionable claims, Rieck notes, "the preponderance of data on the effects of privatization on Washington State suggests the exact opposite of the meaning conveyed by the [study]."
As we have continually detailed, liquor privatization does not lead to an increase in social problems, nor is there a correlation between government control of liquor and safety. Thankfully, the rhetoric here in Pennsylvania about the collapsing of society’s social fabric isn't fooling anyone: More than 60 percent of Pennsylvanians support liquor privatization.
It’s time to end the conflict of interest ingrained in Pennsylvania’s state system that promotes and regulates alcohol.
RELATED : PRIVATIZATION, LIQUOR STORE PRIVATIZATION
Federal charges of racketeering and arson against several Philadelphia union members, who called themselves The Helpful Union Guys (or T.H.U.G.s) has renewed interest in closing a loophole in state law, exempting parties in a labor dispute from prosecution.
Under current law, anyone involved in a labor dispute is exempted from laws against stalking, harassment, and even threatening to use weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). In a recent court case, charges of harassment against a union leader stemming from threats made at a restaurant were dismissed on grounds that it was related to a union dispute.
HB 1154 would remove these exemptions. Shockingly, union leaders defend the exemptions. They argue that stalking, harassment, and threatening to use WMDs are somehow vital to free speech. They also offer the defense "hey businesses do it too."
"We think the law works," Pennsylvania AFL-CIO president Rick Bloomingdale said to reporters last week, explaining that the exemption is necessary to protect labor free speech rights. ...
Frank Snyder, secretary-treasurer of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, tells the Lehigh Valley Morning Call the exemptions protect free speech and claims National Labor Relations Board figures "show employers routinely, and with total disregard for the law, intimidate, harass, stalk and even fire people who try to form unions."
There's a huge flaw in Mr. Snyder's logic. HB 1154 would remove the exemption for all parties in a labor dispute, both unions and employers. If he truly believes that business owners are getting away with harassment, he should support removing that loophole from the law to crack down on abuses.
The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette reports that HB 1154 could be voted on in the Pennsylvania House this week.
Find out more about the issue at StopUnionViolence.com
Last night, I spoke with ABC 27 about polling that shows the vast majority of union household support ending taxpayer collection of union political money.
See the video below:
In response, Rep. Mike Sturla makes the claim that union dues aren't used on politics. As we've explained before, there are two reasons why he is wrong.
First, public resources are used to collect union campaign contributions that are given to candidates for office, through the same payroll deduction process. Government union PACs contributed nearly $4 million to state candidates in 2011-12.
Second, while union dues can't be directly given to candidates, they are used to fund political TV and radio ads, mailers supporting or opposing candidates, lobbying, fundraising for union PACs, and independent expenditures supporting a candidate in an election. We've chronicled a list of union political spending here. Just today, we highlighted a union-funded ad which distorts state education funding.
Union dues also fund other political organizations, such as Keystone Progress (the group claiming Gov. Corbett is murdering people), the Keystone Research Center, and "Pennsylvanians for Accountability," a group running anti-Republican attack pieces.
Taxpayer resources are used to collect union dues and campaign contributions, union dues are being used for politics, and union members don't like it!
RELATED : UNIONS & LABOR POLICY, UNION DUES AND POLITICS
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) took out full-page, color ads in several major state newspapers last week proclaiming Gov. Corbett "closed neighborhood schools" and laid off teachers in Philadelphia through massive education funding cuts. In the western part of the state the ad warns, "Don’t let Allegheny County be the next Philadelphia."
These ads were grossly misleading. State funding for public schools is at an all-time high. The $1 billion in "cuts" was the expiration of temporary federal stimulus money.
So we ran our own ad today correcting the record.
AFT claims Gov. Corbett and state lawmakers "cut $1 billion" in education spending in the state budget. But the real facts about education spending are something else entirely.
The 2013-14 budget spends nearly $10 billion and the proposed 2014-15 budget calls for $10.1 billion for PreK-12 schools—an all-time high, even exceeding when the state budget included federal stimulus funds. As you can see in the chart below, the AFT's claims are simply untrue.
But the worst part of the AFT's misleading campaign is how it was funded—by teachers' dues collected using taxpayer resources. It’s time unions are held accountable for dishonest political ads they run at the expense of educators and taxpayers across the state.
We should stop this practice which gives government unions an unfair political privilege to engage in politics.
RELATED : EDUCATION SPENDING, TEACHER UNIONS, UNIONS & LABOR POLICY, EDUCATION, UNION DUES AND POLITICS
Lottery winners on welfare, millionaires on food stamps and supervisors that turn a blind eye to fraud; these are the stories that drive Pennsylvanians crazy. But the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) has good news. Thanks to efforts preventing abuse, the department has saved almost $2 billion since 2011.
That’s billions of dollars that will go to the truly needy instead of those “working the system.” Savings include:
- $338 million from partnering with the Office of Inspector General:
- $233.7 million in "cost avoidance," or the cost of fraud for six months. The administration assumes all 75,698 cases deemed high-risk since January 2011 would have resulted in some type of fraud.
- $97.5 million from actual overpayment recoveries,
- and $6.7 million from program disqualifications after 3,879 fraud actions, 2,944 of which were criminal complaints, according to DPW.
- $476 million through DPW's integrity efforts, including:
- $10.9 million from reviewing out-of-state Electronic Benefit Transfer card use,
- $6.9 million from cross-checking federal and state income and benefit information,
- plus casualty, health insurance and estate audit recoveries.
- $1.1 billion from cost avoidance, or stopping fraud before it begins via recipient restrictions programs, reviewing managed care organizations and making sure Medicaid is the payer of last resort.
DPW Budget Director David Spishock noted, “We will try to save dollars up front to save the money before it goes out the door instead of going back and paying and chasing the money later on.”
The transition from pay and chase to upfront detection is a welcome development. In addition, legislation sponsored by Rep. C. Adam Harris to restrict welfare for lottery winners passed the state house. And forthcoming legislation by Senators Argall and Scarnati to increase fraud penalties, address lottery winners, cut down on EBT card fraud and adjust the food stamp (SNAP) asset test would add deterrents for those out to game the system.
However, Pennsylvania can make the welfare system even more secure and, most importantly, more effective at alleviating poverty by restructuring programs to encourage employment and ultimately independence. How? By continuing to pursue more flexibility from the federal government to customize anti-poverty programs and tackling the welfare cliff, where families’ lose income for taking a promotion or working longer hours.
RELATED : WELFARE
I live in the Malvern area, served 24 years in the military and this year started my 15th year of public school teaching in the Phoenixville Area. After having read the op-ed by Bob Dick, I felt compelled to respond to what I feel is an example of misleading and slanted writing that I would not allow my students to submit for a grade.
But the author never gets around to addressing any "misleading and slanted" claims in my op-ed. This is understandable because the rest of his letter is almost an exact copy of another that appeared in a different paper under a different name.
The first letter was published by The Delaware County Daily Times on February 24. It’s signed by a retired teacher from Springfield—a couple of sample paragraphs follow:
But Gov. Tom Corbett and his special interest allies, along with some members of the General Assembly, are pushing a legislative attack on workers’ voluntary deductions, for two simple reasons – to silence the voice of the workers, and improve his re-election chances.
Pennsylvania is just the latest state for this political scheme. Out-of-state billionaires and corporate special interest groups, who are working behind the scenes in Harrisburg, have pushed similar legislation in other states. Here in Pennsylvania, one of the front groups is the right-wing Commonwealth Foundation. Bob Dick, a representative of that group, recently claimed in an op-ed that opponents of this scheme were not truthful – strange words coming from an organization that refuses to identify its wealthy donors.
The other letter, signed by a current public school teacher, was published in The Mercury a day later. Notice anything familiar?
But Gov. Tom Corbett and his special interest allies, along with some members of the General Assembly, are pushing a legislative attack on workers’ voluntary payroll deductions, for two simple reasons — to silence the voices of workers, and improve his re-election chances.
Pennsylvania is just the latest state for this political scheme. Out-of-state billionaires and corporate special interest groups, who are working behind the scenes in Harrisburg, have pushed similar legislation in other states. Here in Pennsylvania, one of the front groups is the right-wing Commonwealth Foundation. Bob Dick, a representative of that group, recently claimed in an op-ed that opponents of this scheme were not truthful — strange words coming from an organization which refuses to identify its wealthy donors.
Aside from the introductory paragraph, the letters are identical.
Unfortunately, this isn't the first time unions have resorted to plagiarizing to misinform the public. And of all people, teachers should know better.
Clearly, we are supposed to believe that teachers around the state are up in arms over paycheck protection legislation. But 80 percent of union households don’t think taxpayer resources should be used to collect campaign contributions.
I can only hope that these teachers and their unions set better examples of integrity and honesty for our students in the future.
RELATED : UNIONS & LABOR POLICY, UNION DUES AND POLITICS
Students in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh had their hopes dashed last week when they lost out on the chance to land one of the few vacant openings in charter schools.
In Pittsburgh, more than 500 applied for openings at Environmental Charter School, but only 28 spots were available. The school, as required by law, held a lottery to determine the lucky winners and the unfortunate families who would be denied the opportunity this year.
The same story—even magnified—took place on the other side of the state. Philadelphia's Math and Science Technology charter schools (MaST) received an incredible 5,000 applications for 98 slots. The school earned a 90 on the new School Performance Profile, which Newsworks reports as the highest score for a non-magnet school in Philadelphia.
As Anastasia heard her daughter's name– Nicole Ratkova– called over the speakers, her heart pounded and tears welled in her eyes.
Nicole had been selected for the top spot on the 9th-grade waiting list – an outcome tied in part to the fact that her younger brother attends kindergarten at the school. Siblings of MaST students get a boost in the lottery.
Waiting list was the best news for which the pair could hope. The only new students MaST admitted in the lottery were those applying for kindergarten. For the 4,219 students hoping to get into grades 1-12, the ride on the wait-list was predetermined. The parents were there to jockey only for order.
According to the PA Coalition of Public Charter Schools, 44,000 students currently are on waiting lists to get into charter schools. Why are so many students dependent on a lottery to determine their fate?
Currently, charter schools must apply to a local school district to get approval. As many school districts view charters as unwanted competition, this can be a difficult process. Indeed, it is akin to requiring McDonald's to approve any new Wendy's in the same area.
In Philadelphia, the situation has gotten worse. The School District of Philadelphia is demanding that all charter schools agree to caps on enrollment. Effectively, they are trying to set up a wall to keep students trapped in schools they want to leave.
These caps are illegal in every other district, but Philadelphia's School Reform Commission has broad exemptions from the law. Unfortunately, by limiting charter schools, they are simply limiting the opportunities available for student and denying families the choices they are demanding.
Pending legislation would help alleviate this logjam, giving universities the ability to authorize new charter schools. At least 16 states allow multiple authorizers, including 13 states that empower universities to approve charter schools' application.
Pennsylvania should follow their lead and open up new avenues for school choice, rather than continue to write sad stories of doors being closed on bright futures because of how a ping pong ball bounces.
RELATED : EDUCATION
As we've pointed out in the past, unions—often using campaign contributions collected at taxpayer expense—dominate political spending and electioneering.
Well, the first campaign finance reports for the 2014 gubernatorial election have been released, and sure enough, unions (along with millionaires self-financing their own campaigns) are pouring money in. As Media Trackers PA reports, union PACs have given more than $500,000 directly to candidates already, not counting the millions unions spend from dues supporting or opposing candidates with independent ads.
Media Trackers’ review of campaign finance documents filed with the PA Department of State reveals that, to date, labor unions have collectively made contributions totaling more than $550,000 to State Treasurer Rob McCord and Montgomery County Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz.
We've noted before the unfortunate irony that State Treasurer Rob McCord signs the checks that fund government union PACs before those union PACs contribute to his (or his opponents') campaign.
Another former state treasurer has also weighed in on the issue of taxpayer collection of union political money. Bob Casey, now U.S. Senator, also signed checks from the state treasury over to government union PACs, while his campaigns were funded by those same union PACs. According to FollowtheMoney.org, Casey's top eight "noteworthy contributors" as a candidate for state offices were all Union PACS, five of which use taxpayer resources to help collect their political money.
Not surprising, Casey supports this political power cycle.
|SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION
Public Sector Unions
|UNITED FOOD & COMMERCIAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION
General Trade Unions
|INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS
General Trade Unions
|INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS
|ELECTRICAL WORKERS LOCAL 98
General Trade Unions
General Trade Unions
|AFSCME COUNCIL 13
Public Sector Unions
|ASSOCIATION OF PENNSYLVANIA STATE COLLEGE & UNIVERSITY FACULTIES
Public Sector Unions
Taxpayer resources should never be used for politics. Click here to tell your lawmakers to end this practice and its corrupting influence.
RELATED : UNIONS & LABOR POLICY, UNION DUES AND POLITICS
Taxpayers have spent millions on four different occasions to subsidize the infamous "Sony site" in Westmoreland County. In the 1970’s Volkswagen got $70 million in state aid under Gov. Milton Shapp. Under Gov. Bob Casey, Sony moved in with $40 million in taxpayer cash, and secured another $1 million under Gov. Rendell before moving out just two years later in 2007. Finally, in 2011 taxpayers gave $10 million to rehabilitate the site.
The Sony saga is hardly an anomaly. We've identified $706 million in "economic development" grant and tax credit programs from the 2013-14. This total doesn't include independent agencies like the Commonwealth Financing Authority or borrowing for Redevelopment Assistance Capital Spending.
|Corporate Welfare Grant & Loan Programs||2013-14 Budget (Thousands)|
|General and Special Funds|
|Agricultural Promotion, Education and Exports||$196|
|Ben Franklin Tech Development Authority Transfer||$14,500|
|Commonwealth Financing Authority Transfer||$78,019|
|Council on the Arts||$886|
|Discovered in PA Developed in PA||$9,900|
|Food and Marketing Research||$494|
|Grants to the Arts||$8,179|
|Hardwoods Research and Promotion||$350|
|Infrastructure and Facilities Improvement Grants||$19,409|
|Marketing to Attract Business||$3,442|
|Marketing to Attract Tourists||$7,435|
|Municipalitites Financial Recovery Revolving Fund Transfer||$7,096|
|New Choices/New Options||$500|
|Open Dairy Show||$177|
|Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance||$11,880|
|Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund||$301,225|
|World Trade PA||$7,296|
|Total General and Special Funds||$524,551|
|Targeted Tax Credits|
|Film Tax Credit||$60,000|
|Job Creation Tax Credit||$10,100|
|Research and Development Tax Credit||$55,000|
|Keystone Opportunity Zone||$21,800|
|Keystone Innovation Zone||$25,000|
|Alternative Energy Production Tax Credit||$10,000|
|Total Targeted Tax Credits||$181,900|
By eliminating these targeted incentives and instead creating tax relief for all businesses, Pennsylvania could lower the corporate tax rate by 2.91 percent, dropping the tax rate from 9.99 to 7.08 percent. That's assuming a purely static model, not factoring in new businesses attracted with the lower rate.
Instead of having the second-highest corporate tax rate in the nation (and the highest flat rate), Pennsylvania would land in the middle of the pack with the 22nd highest ranking. That is, we would bypass 20 states that currently have lower corporate income taxes.
Other states are catching on to the failure of targeted tax incentives. According to the Tax Foundation, New Mexico recently passed a business tax rate reduction and reduced the number of special interest tax credits, with a Democratic legislature. Indiana is keeping corporate tax reductions on track and North Carolina cut their corporate tax, and repealed some selective credits.
As other states continue to reduce the barriers for business, Pennsylvania will become even more uncompetitive despite the billions spent to woo businesses each year.
For more on the failure of Pennsylvania’s corporate welfare spending see our Blueprint for a Prosperous Pennsylvania.
RELATED : TAXES & SPENDING, CORPORATE WELFARE, TAXATION
There are many myths circulating about how much Pennsylvania spends on public education. One such myth is that the state government used to provide 50 percent of all revenue for public schools, equaling the local share. State records indicate otherwise.
The state's share of education funding has never been as high as 50 percent. Records from the Pennsylvania Department of Education show that the state's percentage of education revenue reached an all-time high of 45 percent in 1974-75.
While the state share declined from 45 percent to 36 percent of total school district revenue, this was not due to a reduction in state subsidies for education. State aid—adjusted for inflation—increased by 41 percent since 1974. The state share only declined because local tax revenue—also adjusted for inflation—increased 98 percent over that frame.
Moreover, claims about the percentage of education revenue coming from the state is often used to advocate for more state spending.
However, according to NCES data, Pennsylvania’s state aid per student is about the national average, and we rank middle-of-the-pack in state revenue per student. The "state share" is lower because Pennsylvania’s local education revenue is nearly $3,000 per student more than the national average, ranking Pennsylvania 7th in the nation.
Indeed, Pennsylvania taxpayers spend significantly more per student—about $3,000 above the U.S. average—and more than most other states.
|Per Pupil Revenue||Total||Federal||State||Local|
|Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, Table 235.20. Revenues for public elementary and secondary schools, by source of funds and state or jurisdiction: 2010-11, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_235.20.asp|
RELATED : EDUCATION SPENDING, EDUCATION
Total Records: 5170
Who are We?
The Commonwealth Foundation is Pennsylvania's free-market think tank. The Commonwealth Foundation crafts free-market policies, convinces Pennsylvanians of their benefits, and counters attacks on liberty.