MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR
The economic news is looking better in Pennsylvania and around the nation. We are enjoying robust job growth, still-falling unemployment rates, and a faster recovery from the pandemic downturn than in the Great Recession of 2009 thanks to the bipartisan rescue plans passed in 2020 and 2021 and to the American Rescue Plan enacted by Congressional Democrats last March.
Higher prices are hurting many working families. That’s why we need policies to mitigate today’s high energy costs and to permanently avoid oil price spikes in the future by accelerating the transition to cheap renewable energy. We also need policies that lower other core components of a basic family budget—lowering health care and prescription drug costs, making child care more affordable, and, oh yes, giving all families with children a break on their taxes.There are still plenty of opportunities for Congress to move these popular proposals forward.
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February Jobs Numbers and Health of PA Economy
Stephen Herzenberg | 3/25/22 | Statement
Following the release of February job numbers for Pennsylvania this morning, Keystone Research Center research analyst Maisum Murtaza released the following statement on the health of the state’s economy.
“Pennsylvania gained almost 35,000 jobs in February and 58,000 in the first two months of 2022. With upward revisions of some earlier numbers, the state is now within 200,000 jobs of the pre-pandemic number. Although the possibility of another virus spike still exists, our economy is shaking off the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, with more workers also rejoining the labor force in some cases (but not enough) encouraged by more generous pay.
. . .
The state’s unemployment rate also fell to 5.1% in February, close to the pre-pandemic 5.0%.
The newest data in small business revenues [also show the economy rebounding]. Updated after a long delay, these now show small business revenues in Pennsylvania are about 5% above levels in January 2020, shortly before the pandemic began.
Time to Help People, Not Oil Companies
Marc Stier | 03/25/202 | Blog & Policy Brief
Pennsylvania families and our economy are currently being stressed by a rise in prices that is the result of an unexpectedly quick economic recovery the supply chain issues it created, the gas price spike created by Russia’s war on the Ukraine, and the determination on the part of multi-national corporations to take advantage of these conditions to maximize their profits. As we have shown elsewhere, the state will have an accumulated surplus of $10.2 billion at the end of the current fiscal year. The Republican-controlled General Assembly has left much ARP money unspent and added far more of it than necessary to the General Fund to balance the budget. It’s time to use that money to deal with the current difficulties faced by Pennsylvania families—including the rise in gas prices—which in turn threaten to slow our economic recovery.
It’s Time to Reinstate the Philadelphia Intangible Wealth Tax
Marc Stier and Eugene Henninger-Voss | 03/29/2022 | Policy Brief
Wealth inequality in America, in Pennsylvania, and in our region has been growing strikingly since the late 1970s. And wealth inequality continues to increase during the pandemic. The dramatic rise in wealth inequality threatens economic growth, reduces the tax revenues needed to fund vital public institutions, and undermines our democracy.
To counter wealth inequality and to raise the revenue needed to fund programs that support the well-being of working people in our city, we call for the reinstitution of a wealth tax of 4 mill or .4% of the value of intangible wealth in Philadelphia. We estimate that this tax would raise more than $200 million per year in revenues for the city, which would provide the funds necessary to create and / or expand programs that would enable us to break down the barriers of class, race, and gender that stand in the way of opportunity for so many of our fellow Philadelphians. Doing that—as well as supplying public amenities that the city cannot now afford—would also make our city a better place for everyone to live.
Register for the Budget and Policy Summit
It’s not too late to register for the Budget and Policy Summit.
Join us at 1 p.m., Thursday, March 31, for the 3rd week of the 4-week series.
Choose from 2 workshop sessions:
- Addressing Housing Affordability in the COVID-19 Period & Beyond: Overview on Curbing Evictions in Pennsylvania Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) & Possible Solutions
- The Future of Pennsylvania’s Democracy
Click here to register.
IN THE NEWS
Philadelphia Inquirer | 3/29/22
“‘The tax system in America is broken, and it allows the rich and the powerful to make themselves richer and more powerful at the expense of working families,’ Warren said at a virtual news conference with Brooks. ‘These proposals are popular with Americans, and they’re popular because Americans understand that the tax system is rigged.’”
ABC 27 | Harrisburg | 3/21/22
“‘Families need some help,’ Keystone Research Center Economist, Stephen Herzenberg said. His concern? ‘Whether gas prices are going up or coming down, it’s not news that the gas companies pass on the price increase right away and don’t pass back the cut quickly.’
Indeed, Gas Buddy data for the first few days of Maryland’s tax cut shows prices in Maryland have dropped by more than in Pennsylvania and the nation, but by less than if gas stations passed the entire tax cut through to consumers. Herzenberg favors direct relief. One example…
‘To give a $250 per car break to Pennsylvanians. So if you’ve got to register a car, therefore you drive, you have some gas expenses,’ Herzenberg said. ‘If we give money directly to low-income Pennsylvanians and to drivers in Pennsylvania, that’s going to hit the mark better.’”
Northeast Times | Philadelphia | 3/23/22
“Gym was joined by For Our Future PA, Protect Our Care PA, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, the Pennsylvania Health Access Network and Family Friendly Pennsylvania.
They argued that the law’s provisions have lowered costs, expanded access to care, eliminated lifetime caps, expanded Medicaid and secured protections for millions living with pre-existing conditions.”