A Bipartisan Attempt at Business Tax Reform

Supporters say they’ve found a solid middle ground on business tax reform in Pennsylvania.  “You’ve got folks who support the tax cut side.  You’ve got folks who support only the Delaware Loophole side,” says House Republican Policy Chair Dave Reed (R-Indiana).  “But merging the two together may be the right equation to get the ball over the goal line.” 

The bill Reed’s pushing alongside Democrat Eugene DePasquale (D-York) would gradually lower the state’s corporate net income tax from 9.99% to 6.99%, over the course of six years.  It would also close the so-called Delaware Loophole with an “expense add-back” provision, which Reed says would target specific companies that are using the loophole with the sole purpose of avoiding paying their Pennsylvania taxes. 

State Rep. Eugene DePasquale

State Rep. Eugene DePasquale

Rep. DePasquale says Pennsylvania’s high CNI is a black eye on the state, which is stifling job growth.  “I believe… that this will lead to actually more revenue in the future because you will have greater job growth.”  Both of the prime sponsors say their effort is aimed at creating a fair tax climate in the state.   

The “expense add-back” approach may be new to Pennsylvania, but supporters say it’s already used by 23 other states.  At an unrelated capitol news conference, Senate Democrats expressed their continued support through closing the Delaware Loophole through combined reporting.  “There is a way to transition to mandatory combined reporting in a way that would allow for revenue neutrality because we’d be expanding the base,” says Senator John Blake (D-Lackawanna).

Joe Paterno Funeral Today

    There will be another 4 hours of visitation today, giving fans and mourners a chance to pass by Joe Paterno’s coffin in State College. On Tuesday, tens of thousands of people filed past the closed casket, paying their respects to the man who gave 61 years of his life to Penn State University. The wait in line was up to two hours at some points.

    A private family funeral will follow today’s visitation. The funeral procession will then pass through State College, taking the longtime coach to his final resting place.

    Tomorrow, thousands will pack the Bryce Jordan Center, adjacent to Beaver Stadium, for “A Memorial for Joe,” Penn State’s public tribute. Free tickets for the event were snatched up in just minutes on Tuesday. Some fans who were in line for Tuesday’s viewing said they believe the tickets were all claimed in about 40 seconds, based on their attempts to acquire them online. Sadly, within hours Tuesday there were attempts by some to sell the tickets on eBay, but that website’s policy against selling free tickets to an event resulted in those auctions being pulled from the site.

    Thursday’s public memorial service is scheduled to begin at 2:00pm. Doors open at 1:00pm. Shuttle buses will be operating between the Bryce Jordan Center and the Nittany Lion Inn, as well as the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel from 12:00pm until 2 hours after the conclusion of the memorial service. Parking will also be available in the Stadium West Commuter Parking Lot, East Deck on Bigler Road and Innovation Park.



Lawmakers Say Eliminating Aircraft Tax Would Create Jobs

The state house is expected to take up a bill soon that would eliminate a sales and use tax on aircraft sales, parts, maintenance and repair.  Supporters say Pennsylvania is  losing out to neighboring states, which have enacted some type of tax reform on fixed wing aircraft.

Representative Peter Daley (D-Fayette/Washington) says HB 1100 is not about a tax break for the wealthy; it’s about creating and retaining jobs. He says when a similar measure was passed for helicopters; a company in West Chester added more than 400 jobs.  He says if HB 1100 is enacted, it will open up the door for the aviation industry to set up shop at Pennsylvania airports with businesses that service aircraft, sell parts, perform routine inspections and even build and sell aircraft.

Representative Daley says similar measures have worked in Ohio and New York.

Craig Stephan, Vice President of Cheyenne Air Service in Washington PA, says the tax  has affected their operations. He says one of their main challenges has been in the avionics area.  He says they’ve had to cut back and lay off personnel from good, family sustaining jobs.  He says eliminating the tax would boost business.

John Graham III, President of the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, says 80% of their graduates go to jobs in other states.  He says it’s time to stop the brain drain. He says Pennsylvania should not be chasing talent away over a tax that generates so little revenue and could hinder business.

Representative Rick Mirabito (D-Lycoming) says they’re seeing a huge increase in the number of planes coming into the Williamsport Regional Airport due to the Marcellus Shale boom, and this bill could help create jobs. Right now, he says people are literally flying over the state to do their maintenance and repair in other places.

Representative Dan Moul (R-Adams/Franklin) is a private pilot, and he believes the tax is costing Pennsylvania business. He says when other states around us have a 6% advantage, before companies in this state even put out a bid for work, you can understand very quickly why the jobs are leaving Pennsylvania.

In December, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center called the bill a luxury tax break that would create a subsidy for wealthy Pennsylvanians.  The center says similar aircraft industry tax breaks have failed to deliver on jobs in other states.

Long Lines of Mourners Pay Their Respects

Over his 61 years at Penn State, Joe Paterno made thousands of friends and countless fans.  The legendary football coach’s wide-ranging impact is evident in the long lines of mourners waiting to pay their respects to Paterno on this the first day of a two-day public viewing. 

The closed casket will be accessible for viewing until 11pm tonight, and again from 8am to noon on Tuesday, at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on campus.  A private, family funeral will follow on Wednesday afternoon.  

Paterno Viewing

If you look closely in this picture, you can see a white steeple in the distance. That's the front of the line.

Thursday’s public memorial service, “A Memorial for Joe,” will be held in the 15,000 seat Bryce Jordan Center.  Penn State officials made free tickets available starting at 10am this morning; within minutes there were none left. 

Joe Paterno passed away on Sunday at the age of 85.  If you plan to attend any of this week’s remembrances, be prepared for crowds.

Committee Advances Bill to Reduce Size of State House

Some say the 203-member state House is too big for its own good, and HB 153 would slash membership by 50 following the 2020 Census.  It received some bipartisan support in the House State Government Committee on Tuesday.  Its next stop is the House floor. 

Knowing that similar bills have never seen the light of day, State Rep. Seth Grove (R-York) called it a historic day.  “We get to send a message to the residents of Pennsylvania that we are serious about looking at the foundation of our General Assembly, we are serious about cutting our costs, we are serious about right-sizing government,” Grove said prior to the vote. 

HB 153 is sponsored by Speaker of the House Sam Smith (R-Jefferson) and capitol observers say that kind of clout gives this measure a better shot at passing than previous efforts. 

Critics, however, contend that larger House districts would create a whole new set of problems.  “You are making us more dependent on special interest group money if you do decrease the size of the legislature,” says Delaware County Democrat Greg Vitali, who also questions whether such an effort would actually save taxpayers money. 

Reducing the size of the state House would require a constitutional amendment, which means this bill would have to pass two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly before being put to a voter referendum.  HB 153 would not make any changes to the 50-member state Senate.

Two Weeks ‘Till Governor’s Budget Address

Just past the half-way mark of the current fiscal year, Governor Tom Corbett says he’s dealing with the state’s difficult budget reality.  “People elected me to bring fiscal discipline to Harrisburg,” Corbett said on Radio PA’s Ask the Governor program.  “That isn’t always the easiest thing, I can tell you it’s not the most popular thing.  But it’s necessary if we’re going to get through this period of time.”

In two weeks, Governor Corbett will address a joint session of the General Assembly to present is spending play for fiscal year 2012-2013.  Year-to-date revenues, for the current fiscal year, are already running a half-billion dollars below expectations.  Earlier this month, Corbett ordered a budget freeze of nearly $160-million in state spending. 

While the governor isn’t revealing any budget details ahead of time, he doesn’t want to cut basic education subsidies.  “At this point in time, it would be nice if we could increase that some, I certainly don’t want to cut it at all, but it might be that we end up at that same level as last year.” 

Many Democrats call Governor Corbett’s first budget a disaster, however, and are wary of what may be coming in his February 7th proposal.  “Governor Corbett’s first budget defunded welfare and other support programs, to the point of completely undercutting our social safety net at a time when people need it the most,” says Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn.

Christman Blog – Joe Paterno: Legend, Icon…Human

    It was November 9th, 2011 and the Penn State Board of Trustees had just announced the firing of Joe Paterno. My first thoughts were not of the countless Saturdays I spent watching JoePa prowl the sidelines, or of the 409 wins that will probably stand as a Division I record forever. These were ingrained and cherished memories I would later relive, but first the journalist in me began began analyzing where the Jerry Sandusky scandal would fit in to this legendary icon’s eventual obituary.

    Sadly, today we have our answer to that question, and it has come far too soon. Just 74 days after his dismissal, Joe Paterno passed away at the Mount Nittany Medical Center on Sunday morning. The official cause of death was complications from lung cancer, but as everyone in Penn State country knows, it may very well have been a broken heart that ended the coach’s life.

    Upon his death, almost immediately the internet comment boards accompanying each Paterno obituary lit up with arguments over what manner of man Paterno was. Was he the iconic legend known to the world for most of his 61 incredible years at Penn State? Was he a man who should first be remembered for perhaps looking the other way as the Sandusky allegations quietly swirled in the State College winds for years? To be fair, Paterno met his legal obligations according to state prosecutors handling the Sandusky case. Paterno was never a target of the investigation and he cooperated fully with the grand jury. However, it was only days after the release of the first grand jury presentment against Sandusky that questions were being asked. What did Joe know? When did he know it? Why didn’t he follow up with police after reporting an alleged 2002 shower incident to his Athletic Director? They were complicated questions, and even today it’s difficult to know if there is enough information to accurately answer them.

    But the great debate has clouded what should be a day to remember all of the good Joe Paterno contributed to his school and the community he loved so dearly. Should the obituary ignore the Sandusky matter that led to Paterno’s firing? Absolutely not. Should it be the lead in the story? Again, absolutely not.

    Only history will tell us how JoePa will be remembered, and there is much of the Jerry Sandusky story yet to be told. It will be many months before Sandusky gets his day in court, and the testimony and eventual outcome of that trial will be a large chapter in the life of Joe Paterno as well.

    For today, though, this Penn State fan is taking the time to remember those countless Saturdays, the 409 wins, the black sneakers, the thick glasses and the rolled up pants. I’m also remembering the millions of dollars Joe Paterno and wife Sue have donated to their school and community. I’m remembering all the high school football players who entered Joe Paterno’s program as boys and left as men. And, I’m remembering that while Joe Paterno was an icon, and a legend, he was also a man. No human being is perfect, and we all leave this plane of existence with regrets. JoePa was no different.


Joseph Vincent Paterno: 1926-2012

    He spent 61 years serving the university he loved, and today millions of fans are mourning the death of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

    “JoePa” spent 46 of his years at Penn State as Head Coach, guiding his teams to five undefeated seasons and two national championships in 1982 and 1986. His 409 wins is a Division I record that may never be broken. He was a modern day throwback to another era of football, often sharing with reporters stories of Vince Lombardi and other names from the sport’s great past. His black sneakers, rolled up pantlegs, white socks and trademark glasses were part of Penn State Saturdays for decades. His “Grand Experiment” focused on making sure his players were student athletes, and the graduation rates reflected that philosophy.

    Paterno is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and according to the university, he donated more than $5 million to the school, including the library that bears his name along with wife Sue Paterno. He contributed more than $1 million to the Mount Nittany Medical Center, where he passed away this morning.

    Paterno was fired from his longtime position on November 9th following the scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. While Paterno was never a target in the criminal probe, many questioned his failure to do more than simply report the allegations to his Athletic Director, Tim Curley. According to a grand jury presentment, Paterno was made aware of an alleged 2002 incident involving Sandusky in a football facility shower. Curley and another university administrator were charged with failure to report that case to authorities.

    While Paterno had tended to his legal obligations according to state prosecutors, many said he had a higher moral responsibility to follow up on the case with police. Among them, the Penn State University Board of Trustees, who dismissed Paterno 74 days ago. Shortly thereafter, it was announced the coach was undergoing treatment for a “treatable” form of lung cancer. He was admitted to Mount Nittany Medical Center nine days ago with complications, and passed away at 9:25am Sunday morning. The previous evening, his family had gathered at his bedside for their final goodbyes, even as some media outlets were prematurely reporting Paterno’s death.

    Joe Paterno was 85 years old.

Pennsylvania’s Jobless Rate Declines in December

For the third straight month, Pennsylvania is seeing improvement in its unemployment rate. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry reports that December’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate was 7.6%, down three tenths from November and nearly a full point compared to the previous year.  The state’s rate also remained below the national average for the 62nd month in a row.

 The civilian labor force was down by 2 thousand in December but resident employment rose by 11 thousand. The state’s labor force was 25 thousand above December 2010.

Goods producing industries accounted for the majority of the increase. Construction was also up for the month as nine of the state’s 11 supersectors added jobs.