Revised Plan Would Change PA’s Electoral Process

A top Republican lawmaker in Harrisburg has revamped his plan to change the way Pennsylvania awards its electoral votes in presidential elections.  Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware/Chester) believes it should be done “proportionately,” instead of the current winner-take-all model. 

A co-sponsorship memo, circulating in the Senate, states that the new system would more accurately reflect the will of the state’s voters.

One of the key changes from last year’s bill is simply the timing.  “One of the criticisms that we received (last session) was that it was too close to the presidential election,” says Pileggi spokesman Erik Arneson, “so in an attempt to eliminate that concern – by introducing it now – clearly we couldn’t be farther away from the next presidential election than we are right now.” 

Also, last year’s bill would have divvied up the state’s 20-electoral votes based on Congressional district, while the new plan would award them based on the percentage of popular vote the candidates receive. 

Had this bill been in effect during the latest presidential election, President Obama would have received 12 of the state’s 20 electoral votes, and Arneson points out that it certainly would not have changed the course of history. 

Maine and Nebraska are the only two states that don’t currently employ a winner-take-all electoral model.

Youth Employment is Low, PA Fares Better than Most

A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation pegs the nation’s teen employment rate at 26%.  Director of Economic Development & Integration Initiatives Patrice Cromwell tells Radio PA we haven’t seen numbers like this since the early 1950s.  “Just in the last ten years, it’s dropped by close to 50%,” she explains. “Back in 2000, one out of two teens was able to get a job; today that’s only one out of four.” 

She says youth employment is important because the data show that early work experience pays off later in life, so work experience is critical whether a young person is in or out of school.

The new KIDS COUNT report shows teen employment rates varying among states, from a low of 18% in California to a high of 46% in North Dakota.  Pennsylvania is among the top states with a teen (16-19-years old) employment rate of 39%. 

When the report looks young adults (20-24-years-old) Pennsylvania shows 62% employment, one percentage point higher than the national average.

PA Budget Debate

Closing in on the Fiscal Cliff

The federal government is less than a month away from driving straight off the “fiscal cliff,” but U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) believes there’s still time to avoid it.  “The great dangers of the fiscal cliff are the massive tax increases that are scheduled to go into effect on January 1st,” Toomey told reporters on a recent conference call.  “If that were to happen, it would very likely throw the economy into a recession and cost us hundreds of thousands – if not over a million – jobs.”

Toomey is in the thick of Senate discussions, and has been meeting privately with Democratic Senators in an effort to broaden support for a plan he first put forward in last year’s Super Committee.  It would call for lower income tax rates for all – with limitations on deductions, loopholes and write-offs that will raise hundreds of billions of dollars in net revenue over time. 

Inaction will lead to rate hikes on income taxes, estate taxes, dividends and capital gains.  The White House says a median-income Pennsylvania family of four (earning $80,400) could see its income taxes rise by $2,200.  A 2-percentage point payroll tax cut would also expire.      

But that’s just the tax hike side of the equation.  The fiscal cliff also includes $1.2-trillion dollars in federal spending cuts over the next ten years. 

Professor David Passmore with Penn State’s Institute for Research in Training and Development crunched the numbers to see how sequestration alone would affect the Keystone State.  “Pennsylvania’s share would be in the order of 35 – 40,000 jobs; the loss of about $6-billion in total economic output; about $3.5-billion in industry sales; and about $2.1-billion in after tax personal income,” he explains to Radio PA.  The report was first published in Pennsylvania Business Central.   

Like Toomey, Passmore believes the “fiscal cliff” is the recipe for another tough recession.

Report Sheds Light on Firefighter Recruitment Trends

A lot has changed in the past 11-years, but roughly the same number of Pennsylvania firefighters is responding to calls in 2012 as in 2001.  “In 2001 there were 18.2… and in 2012 it was 16.8, about 17, so a change in only one person.  Statistically speaking, that’s not significant,” explains Jonathan Johnson, a senior policy analyst with the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. 

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute surveyed fire chiefs statewide in both 2001 and 2012, and they’ve been able to identify trends in recruitment and retention.  Johnson calls it a mixed bag

“On the whole it looks like fire companies are able to recruit members and retain members, but there are companies that are clearly struggling.” 

36% of Pennsylvania fire companies showed a net loss in members in 2012, and Johnson says the majority of them serve populations of 5,000 or less. 

Also, Pennsylvania firefighters are aging.  “How to address that is going to be a real struggle,” Johnson says.  “There’s no one size fits all kind of prescription.”  35% of Pennsylvania firefighters are now over 40-years-old. 

This new report is being delivered to policymakers in Harrisburg, and Johnson hopes it will begin a dialog on fire companies’ needs.  He tells us that a follow-up study will examine fire companies’ fundraising and budget issues.