September 4, 2013
THE LATEST dismal poll numbers about Gov. Corbett's job performance prove that you can't fool all of the people all of the time. Only 20 percent of the voters believe that he should be re-elected, according to the latest Daily News /Franklin & Marshall poll. Sounds about right. Corbett won in 2010 on the strength of his no-new-taxes pledge. But that was really just a shell game. We now know he meant only state taxes. Lots of local governments in Pennsylvania have had to increase their taxes to fill in the holes left by Corbett's slash-and-burn approach to state programs, particularly education.
August 23, 2013
THERE IS a lot of talk these days about the sorry state of many public pension funds and the need for "reform. " Most of the attention is focused on the unfunded liabilities of municipal- and state-pension plans, which are only now starting to deal with the adverse impact of the stock market crash of 2008 and the collapse of the mortgage speculation bubble. Most of the so-called reforms being proposed and enacted by politicians are focused on cutting back or eliminating benefits for workers and retirees, and changing the fundamental public-employee pension plan from a defined benefit plan that guarantees a minimally stable future for workers to a defined-contribution plan that decreases employer responsibility while shifting most of the risk to the individual workers who then are at the mercy of the same Wall Street bankers who caused the market to crash.
August 7, 2013 |
WITH SCHOOLS set to open next month, the Nutter administration and the Philadelphia School District are calling on City Council to move forward with a plan to send funding from an extension of the 1 percent sales-tax increase to the financially troubled school system. Part of Gov. Corbett's rescue plan allows the city to borrow $50 million against an extension of the sales tax, which beginning in fiscal year 2015 would bring in $120 million for schools annually. The Nutter administration's original plan to help the district close a $304 million budget hole was to enact a new $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes, but that failed to get approval in Harrisburg.
August 7, 2013
SCHOOL opens in 34 days. And since our editorial last week enumerating the many things that must happen for schools to get the money they need to open - a total of $304 million from the state, the city and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers - zero progress has been made. There are promises of money from a variety of sources, but the district doesn't yet have full commitments or access to the money. For example, $50 million that would come from an extension of the 1-percent hike in the sales tax has not been authorized by City Council; some members, including Council President Darrell Clarke, want to split up the proceeds from the sales tax between the schools and pension fund.
July 19, 2013 |
GOV. CORBETT AND the Legislature have done just about all they're going to do to save Philly's cash-poor school district, and that includes dedicated funding from an extension of the 1 percent sales-tax increase. But, that approach isn't necessarily something with which elected officials locally agree. The sales tax, which was slated to expire in June, was raised from 7 percent to 8 percent in 2009 to aid the city during the recession. That extra percentage increase brings in about $143 million.
July 18, 2013 |
Philadelphia City Council President Darrell L. Clarke said Tuesday that he was pushing a plan to divide the city's now-permanent extra 1 percent sales tax between the perpetually underfunded schools and the public employee pension system. That idea clashes with part of a state rescue package for city schools, which would have directed nearly the full amount of the extra sales-tax revenue - about $120 million - to the schools, starting July 1, 2014. But city leaders have been eyeing that money for the pension system, which was less than half-funded in 2012.
July 3, 2013 |
PART OF GOV. Corbett's so-called rescue plan for the Philadelphia school district involves funding that city lawmakers had their eyes on to fix an equally vexing problem - the drastically underfunded pension. Corbett's plan included funding earned through the extension of a 1 percent sales-tax increase, which had been set to expire in June, but city lawmakers say they had been considering the tax as a way to help the city from sinking under ever-increasing pension costs. "I think the pension problem is as diffreicult and challenging as the school district problem is," Council President Darrell Clarke said Monday.
July 1, 2013 |
Skeptics say there's no such thing as a "temporary" tax. Like the two-year property tax increase City Council passed in 2010 that, lo and behold, is still with us. Or another dreaded levy: the wage tax. It was passed in 1939 as a short-term fix for the city's finances, but succeeding generations have nonetheless been forced to accept its bite in their paychecks. The latest tax under consideration for immortality is the 1 percent sales-tax increase the state allowed Philadelphia to impose in 2009 as a bridge through the recession.
June 20, 2013 |
AS CITY COUNCIL President Darrell Clarke declared yesterday that the city has done its part to solve the school-funding crisis, Gov. Corbett and state and city officials were moving closer to a deal that could send up to $100 million to the struggling district. Sources cautioned, however, that securing a sum that high would be an uphill climb and that no plan had been finalized. Discussions included potentially diverting a portion of the 1 percent increase to the sales tax the city enacted in 2009, increasing state charter-school reimbursements or finding other revenue streams, according to sources, who said a more realistic figure would be closer to $66 million.
June 5, 2013
If New Jersey doesn't buy vacant land now, it will be gone in two decades. That's when geographers predict it will become the first state designated as "built out. " That means no room for new structures, just impervious surfaces diverting storm water into basements, or worse. Before that happens, New Jersey voters should have a say in whether they must live in an overdeveloped state where rainstorms bring the threat of destruction and death. Voters should decide whether the state dedicates more public funds to preserving open space and lessening the impact of flooding.