The Update: What’s New in Harrisburg and DC – May 10, 2021

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MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR

The American Rescue Plan and subsequent proposals from the Biden administration offer great opportunities to move our country in the right direction — and away from just letting working people fend for themselves in a difficult time. Take a look below for specific proposals on high-speed broadband as one example.

The one thing we know is that we can’t use these funds, which are specifically designated for economic recovery, to patch up the budget mistakes that our legislature has made in the past. We know that there will be proposals to try to use relief dollars to cover unaddressed structural deficits—but that is the absolute last thing we should do with relief and recovery funding. We will never lift ourselves out of the pandemic recession or out of the deep inequities that pre-date the pandemic by patching holes in the budget created by an unwillingness to raise the revenues that we need. We must use these funds to lift working people up and take advantage of this time to build an infrastructure that works for all. It’s time to invest in us.

Onward!

Stephen Herzenberg
Executive Director


Keystone Research Center Statement

It’s Time to Invest in Affordable, High-Speed Broadband for All

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined in bright red that high-quality, affordable broadband is a foundation for modern life in America—like access to water and electricity. Without it, businesses may fail, schools and their students fall behind, communities lose population and hope. Without it, we cannot modernize our electric grid, vital to reducing carbon emissions, or spread smart farming.

To put it simply, with high-speed broadband, many beautiful, rural places could enjoy a resurgence in the wake of the pandemic. Without it, many will spiral down.”

Read more.


We The People-PA Statement

House and Senate Democrats Have Bold Proposals for ARP Funds

“Following the creation of House Democrats’ PA Rescue Plan for using American Rescue Plan funds, the Senate Democrats released their New Deal for PA this morning. Like the House plan, it is a bold proposal for spending ARP funds in ways that will bring immediate relief to those still reeling from the impact of the pandemic and will make important investments to address long-term problems and inequities in the Commonwealth. The plan is divided into three parts: people; projects; and public health. Each part dedicates funds to the Pennsylvania students, workers, and employers who most need assistance, including immigrants who have been left out of most relief efforts. The funds will also go to enhancing the physical, institutional, and governmental infrastructure needed to contribute to a recovery that helps all Pennsylvanians, no matter where they live or what they look like.

While the details are impressive, just as important is that with this plan the Senate Democrats are encouraging exactly the kind of public debate and discussion that we should be having at this moment. It’s time for the Republicans, who hold the majority in the House and Senate, to join this debate and tell us if they plan to use the ARP funds to invest in Pennsylvanians rather than to, in the words of House Majority Leader Benninghoff, “take care (of) structural deficits” that were created by corporate tax cuts enacted by the General Assembly and that have nothing to do with the pandemic.”


IN THE NEWS

$1 billion in pandemic relief going to Pa. families
ABC 27 News

All of those families need it, but for some, this could be lifesaving.

“For black and Latino children, the situation is even more dire. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports up to 28 percent of children in black households and up to 23 percent in Latino households live in households where children didn’t get enough to eat in the last seven days because the household couldn’t afford it,” said Acting Secretary Meg Snead, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.

Mahoning Township latest Carbon County municipality to pass resolution demanding fair funding for school districts
PA Homepage

“They have a constitutional mandate to fund the schools to a certain degree and right now the residents are paying double because we’re funding the schools via normal state taxes and via property taxes to the school district,” Penn Forest Township supervisor Christian Bartulovich said in a phone interview.

According to the Pennsylvania budget and policy center, the state share of funding of K-12 schools has been declining since the 1970’s. Local municipalities have had to raise property taxes to pick up the slack. Summit Hill councilman David Wargo says Panther Valley School District’s budget proposed raising the property tax rate to 11 mills.

Economists: Restructuring Plan “Disastrous” for PA Universities
Keystone State News Connection

A new report says the proposed consolidation of Pennsylvania’s 14 public universities would mean significant job losses and economic decline in surrounding communities.

Marc Stier, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, blamed decades of declining state spending for higher education for the enrollment drop. He said state funding for PASSHE has fallen to just 38% of the level it was in 1983 and ’84.

Pennsylvania workers are being left behind.’ Why our minimum wage trails neighboring states

The Pocono Record

“I actually think the prospects are fairly good that we’ll get some increase,” said Marc Stier, the director of the progressive Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center in Harrisburg.

Stier said he thinks that Republicans are starting to realize that the state’s relatively low minimum wage is a statewide problem and an increase would help many of their constituents in Pennsylvania’s rural areas.

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