August 30, 2011

Sen. Pileggi: Independent Fiscal Office Director Named

Matthew J. Knittel, a senior financial economist with the U.S. Department of Treasury, has been selected to serve as the first director of Pennsylvania's new Independent Fiscal Office, legislative leaders announced Tuesday.
            "The Independent Fiscal Office will be a great tool to help lawmakers craft policy," said Knittel. "Much like the Congressional Budget Office in Washington, D.C., the IFO will provide revenue and expenditure projections to help lawmakers make informed decisions and target limited resources to their best use. The office will also undertake special studies and report its findings and recommendations to the legislature and the public."
            Knittel, 43, holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Michigan State University, where he also earned an M.A. in Economics. He earned two bachelor's degrees, in economics and business administration, from Hope College in Holland, Michigan. Knittel's first day on the job is expected to be September 19.
            The Independent Fiscal Office, created by Act 120 of 2010, has several specific responsibilities, including:
-- Preparing annual revenue estimates;
-- Providing an annual assessment, by November 15 of each year, of the state's fiscal condition;
-- Developing performance measures for executive-level programs and departments;
-- Providing an analysis of all tax and revenue proposals made by the Governor or the Office of the Budget;
-- Studying and analyzing the existing sales and use tax law and making recommendations for change; and
-- Establishing a website for the agency.
            Knittel said he plans to use the IFO's website to provide visitors with a wide range of data, analysis and commentary relating to state, local, regional and even national economic trends. His goal is for the IFO to become a useful and dependable resource for both the legislature and the public.
            Knittel, who applied for the job after seeing it advertised on the website of the National Association of State Budget Officers, was chosen by the Independent Fiscal Office Selection and Organization Committee established in Act 120.
            Members of the Selection and Organization Committee include Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), Speaker of the House Sam Smith (R-Jefferson), Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny), Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jake Corman (R-Centre), Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee Chairman Vince Hughes (D-Philadelphia), House Appropriations Committee Chairman William F. Adolph Jr. (R-Delaware), and House Democratic Appropriations Committee Chairman Joseph F. Markosek (D-Allegheny).
            Pursuant to the provisions of Act 120, Knittel was appointed to a six-year term. The IFO was appropriated $1.9 million in the 2011-12 state budget. A total of 19 individuals applied for the position of director.

Perzel To Plead Guilty To Public Corruption Charges

Former Speaker Perzel To Plead Guilty To Public Corruption Charges

Tuesday NewsClips

Sen. Orie Charged With Multiple Counts Of Forgery, Perjury
Sen. Orie Hit With Charges Of Perjury, Forgery, Tampering
Orie Facing New Charges
Trial For Perzel, Other Defendants Moves 2 Weeks
Editorial: Judge Rightly Told To Justify Fumo Sentence
The Decline Of Montgomery County Republicans
Senate Dems Return Fajt To Gaming Board
Angeli Departs Gaming Board
Gaming Board Lifts Ban Of Erie's Rubino
State Liquor Store Profits Misses Budget Target
Western PA Jobless Rate Up To 7.4 Percent
Erie, Crawford Unemployment Rate Rises
NE Unemployment Rises To 9.4 Percent
Study Shows Marcellus Shale Benefits Economy, But Questions Remain
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August 26, 2011

Aug. 29 PA Environment Digest Now Available

August 29 PA Environment Digest now available. Click Here to print this Digest.

Northeast Environmental Partners Announce Awards Winners, October 27 Dinner

The winners of 21st Annual Environmental Partnership Awards were announced Tuesday by the Northeast Environmental Partners along with the winner of the Thomas P. Shelburne Environmental Leadership Award.
The award winners will be recognized at a special awards dinner on October 27 at the Woodlands Inn & Resort in Wilkes-Barre. Click Here to read more...

Governor Declares Emergency, PEMA Urges Pennsylvanians To Prepare For Hurricane Irene

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Thursday urged Pennsylvanians to prepare for expected high winds and heavy rain from Hurricane Irene this weekend. Although the storm is expected to primarily impact southeastern Pennsylvania, residents across the state should remain alert and be prepared.
In anticipation of the Hurricane, Gov. Tom Corbett Friday declared a state of emergency throughout Pennsylvania.
The worst conditions in Pennsylvania are due to hit Saturday evening into Sunday. Click Here to read more...

Governor Declares State Of Emergency Ahead Of Hurricane Irene

Gov. Tom Corbett Friday declared a statewide disaster emergency to enable state, county and municipal governments to respond effectively to the impact of Hurricane Irene, a massive storm expected to impact much of the eastern half of the state.
           The proclamation authorizes state agencies to use all available resources and personnel as necessary to cope with this emergency situation.
           Corbett issued the disaster proclamation this morning after meeting with Glenn Cannon, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, and other emergency officials at their headquarters in Harrisburg.
           “We are urging all Pennsylvanians to take action now to be prepared,’’ Corbett said. “We will continue to monitor this changing situation statewide and plan for all possible emergencies. Should the need arise, we will be able to help as quickly and efficiently as possible.’’
           Citizens can find a full list of helpful suggestions on how to plan for an emergency by visiting the state’s preparedness website,, or by calling 1-888-9-READY-PA.
           The state's Emergency Operations Center has been monitoring conditions statewide, as well as communicating with other states and federal officials, to assess conditions and coordinate any response necessary to support Pennsylvania’s counties and municipalities in the affected areas.
           The latest weather forecasts predict that the eastern portion of the state will bear the brunt of the storm with heavy rains of up to 10 inches, and strong winds gusting to 60 mph or more. The combination of wind and rain could result in downed trees and utility lines, possibly resulting in extensive power outages and flash flooding.
           In addition, state emergency officials are in communication with multiple state agencies, including the state departments of Transportation, Health, Public Welfare, General Services, State Police, Pennsylvania National Guard, Turnpike Commission, Public Utility Commission and the American Red Cross, to make sure supplies and personnel are ready if needed.
           Individuals needing assistance should call their local municipal emergency management office in the “Blue Pages” section of the phone book or, if they have an emergency, should call 911 immediately. Never call 911 to request or report road conditions. When calling 911 to report an emergency, it is critical for callers to stay on the line, even if for an extended series of rings, until the operator answers.
           Motorists can check road conditions on state roads by calling 511 or visiting Available 24 hours a day, the number provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, average traffic speeds on urban interstates and access to more than 500 traffic cameras. Regional Twitter alerts are also available on the 511PA website.

Friday NewsClips

Welfare Secretary's Second Job Raises Eyebrows
Education Reforms Discussion Continues At Capitol
Senate Considers Charter School Regs
Editorial: Set Standards For School Superintendents
Op-Ed: PA Takes Step Backward With Corbett's Education Cuts
House Transportation Committee Awaits Corbett's Proposals
Action Urged On Transportation Funding
Outlook Bleak For Transportation Funding
Op-Ed: Transportation System Needs To Be Addressed Sooner
UPMC, Highmark Remain At Odds
Pittsburgh Mayor Bends On Pension Strategy
Locals To State: More Money Please
Toomey Gun Aims At Casey
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August 19, 2011

Aug. 22 PA Environment Digest Now Available

August 22 PA Environment Digest now available. Click Here to print this Digest.

13th Annual PA Abandoned Mine Reclamation Conference Attended By Well-Known Faces

The PA Abandoned Mine Reclamation Conference has become known as a place for many things; where experts discuss the latest abandoned mine drainage treatment technologies, historians shed light on how the region's coal mining legacy shaped today's culture, and the PA AMR community joins for brainstorming ideas to keep the movement going into the future.
The 2011 conference, celebrating 13 years, was no exception. What made this year's Conference really stand out was the abundance of PA AMR community dignitaries.
Michael Krancer, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary, was the keynote speaker to kick off the Conference. Click here to read one reporter's take on Secretary Krancer's speech.
Joe Pizarchik, the 10th director of the U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and the former DEP Director of Bureau of Mining and Reclamation, spoke during the Conference lunch.
Pizarchik gracefully answered a round of questions about growing concern over the Title IV Set Aside funds and showed great empathy for struggling watershed associations in finding funds for continuing the work they do. Click Here to read more...

Friday NewsClips

Another Push For Games Of Chance In Taverns
Gaming Board Warned Of Clouds On Horizon
Patrols Look For Kids Left In Casino Parking Lots
Enrollment Falls At Three State Universities
Lawmakers Hear Testimony On School Choice
Former Education Secretary: Consider Limited Voucher Plan
Computer Glitch Hits LCCC Students
Editorial: Comcast Helps Low-Income Families
Unemployment Up In July, PA Stats Show
PA Jobs Slip But Economy Still In Gear
State Dept. Probes Foreign Student Worker Protest At Hershey
Law Preventing Harrisburg From Bankruptcy Takes Tool Away
Editorial: Sliced To Sauced, The Tomato Rules
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August 16, 2011

DCED Secretary Says More Drilling On State Forest Land Could Raise Over $60 Billion

In a interview Tuesday, Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary C. Alan Walker said new drilling on State Forest land could bring in $60 billion over the next 30 years to "solve just about every economic problem we have."
            Walker was quoted as saying, "But the way I look at it, the potential royalty income to the state of Pennsylvania-- at a 15 percent or 18 percent and a half percent royalty rate-- over the next 30 years, if we do lease the state land, is close to $60 billion.  That allows us to solve just about every economic problem we have that is hanging out there, including unfunded pension liability, infrastructure problems.
            "In my opinion, we'd be foolish not to use that money.  The way I look at it is that truly is the Commonwealth of the state of Pennsylvania and it should be used to solve Commonwealth problems, not one regional problem or a county problem.  That truly is where you get your resources to solve statewide problems.
            "The way the drilling platforms are being set up today, where you may only have to have one pad every so many square miles, it's a minium impact on the State Forest property, and in a matter of a couple years, it's going to be re-vegetated," Secretary Walker explained.
            To achieve the revenue envisioned by Secretary Walker, drilling would have to be increased by at least six times the current rate to bring in $60 billion over 30 years.  The question is whether there are enough remaining State Forest lands attractive enough for drillers to lease to meet that revenue estimate, especially given environmental concerns.
            According to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources natural gas impacts analysis, "no additional leasing involving surface disturbance can occur without significantly altering the ecological integrity and wild character of our State Forest system."
            The Rendell Administration leased about 137,000 acres of State Forest land for Marcellus Shale drilling before issuing a moratorium on more leasing a month before last November's election.  There are about 700,000 acres of the 2.2 million acres of State Forest land containing natural gas deposits of all types, including Marcellus Shale.
            So far, Gov. Corbett has not proposed leasing any more State Forest land for development and the FY 2011-12 state budget is not based on any increased leasing.  About $63 million in royalty income is expected from the leases already developed and producing for this fiscal year increasing to about $300 million per year in 10 to 15 years.
            The Governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission report issued in July recommended any future leasing of State Forest land should be limited to agreements which result in no or minimal surface impact to state-owned land, and prohibits surface disturbance in high conservation value forests and other ecologically important areas.
            At his Senate confirmation hearing in May, DCNR Secretary Richard Allan said there have been no discussions about changing the moratorium on leasing more Marcellus drilling on State Forest lands.  He said he and his staff have been focusing on developing best management practices and a better drilling monitoring program.
            With respect to enacting a drilling impact fee, Secretary Walker was quoted as saying, "I think the impact fee, if it goes through, to be fair should be used where the impact was had, not in a county that doesn’t have any natural gas production or where there hasn’t been any impact. It really should go make sure the roads are maintained, if there’s a big influx of population, you have to help with the school systems – it really should be an impact fee that goes to the communities and counties that are feeling the impact.”
            Walker's statement puts him at odds with Sen Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) and many House Republicans who said drilling fees could be use for statewide purposes ranging from plugging abandoned oil and gas wells to funding county conservation districts and renewing the Growing Greener Program.
            Over the last nine years, mostly during the Rendell Administration, $1.5 billion has been cut or diverted from environmental protection and restoration line items in balance the state budget or support program which could not get funding on their own, the award-winning Growing Greener Program has become all but bankrupt and over 600 of what was 3,200 positions at the Department of Environmental Protection have been eliminated.
            Funding and complement levels at both DEP are now below 1994 levels.

Tuesday NewsClips

PA Legislature 2nd Highest Pay In The U.S.
Op-Ed: Downsizing The Legislature Could Yield Many Benefits
PA Supreme Court Allows PCN To Air Its Court Sessions
PA Supreme Court Court Proceedings To Be Broadcast
Editorial: To Court Allows Arguments To Be Taped
Editorial: High Court Opening Its Digital Door
Lawmakers Consider Mail-Order Wine Deliveries
More Schools Flagged For Cheating Likely To Be Cleared
Blog: Rendell: Hillary In 2016
Harrisburg Mayor Says Public Supports Her Recovery Plan
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August 12, 2011

Aug. 15 PA Environment Digest

August 15 PA Environment Digest now available. Click Here to print this Digest.

PA Center For Environmental Ed Funding Zeroed Out, Former Director Recognized

The PA Center for Environmental Education was eliminated from the 2011-12 state budget. PCEE is currently working on a transition plan for PCEE and its online educational resources. The PCEE staff asks for your patience of our services during this time of transition. Thank you.
Kathleen Paul, former PCEE Director, was recently recognized by Gov. Tom Corbett and Sen. Mary Jo White (R-Venango), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, for her work and contributions to the Commonwealth. The Governor's letter lauds her commitment to environmental education in the commonwealth and the indelible mark she has made on the community.
The Senate citation outlined Paul's success in expanding the reach of PCEE by growing the website to more than four million views annually and establishing a satellite office in Kutztown. Paul also played an important role as a member of the Technical Advisory Committee that developed the nationally recognized 2009-2013 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan and served on former Gov. Edward G. Rendell's Outdoor Task Force, contributing to the 2008 report.
The citation was presented to Paul by Senator White at a gathering of PCEE staff. Click Here to read more...

Friday NewsClips

Liquor Prices In Line With Other States' Panel Told
Prices Would Rise If Liquor Stores Go Private Union Says
LCB Head: Prices Will Increase
LCB Boss Rips Sale Idea
Conti Defends Liquor Pricing At Privatization Hearing
Blog: LCB Ignored Warnings About Wine Kiosks
Editorial: Legislature Needs To Shrink
Parking Incident With DPW Official Latest Headache For Corbett
Corbett: Using Inmates To Work In Parks Better Than Natural Gas Tax
Luzerne Ex-Judge Gets 28-Year Sentence
Luzerne Judge Gets 28 Years
Editorial: Real Justice Lacking In Juvenile System
Hearing On Mayor's Recovery Plan Struggles
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August 5, 2011

August 8 PA Environment Digest

August 8 PA Environment Digest now available. Click Here to print this Digest.

New Poll Shows Voter Support For Marcellus Shale Drilling Fee Increasing

A new poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University shows Pennsylvania voters support the economic benefits of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale outweigh environmental concerns 59 – 32 percent, compared to 63 – 20 percent support in a June 14 survey.
The poll also found support for drilling is 79 – 16 percent among Republicans and 55 – 35 percent among independent voters. Democrats split 44 – 45 percent.
Voters support 63 – 28 percent, including 53 – 38 percent among Republicans, a new tax on companies drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale.
By an even larger 78 – 17 percent, voters support a proposed fee on drilling companies, with proceeds used to reimburse local communities for the impact of drilling. Support is high among all groups and in every region of the state.
“By almost 2-1 margins, Pennsylvania voters remain convinced of the benefits of tapping the natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “And by overwhelming margins, they want to tap the financial resources of the companies doing the drilling.” Click Here to read more….

Friday NewsClips

Blog: Prison Healthcare, State Park Services Could Be Privatized
Corbett Looks To Privatize More Than Liquor Stores
Critics Say PA Film Tax Credit Not Necessary
Editorial: Make Audit LCB's Last Call
LCB's Wine Kiosks May Be Ending
Rep. Grell Looks To Repeal Law Putting State Agencies In Harrisburg
5 Tough Sells For Harrisburg Mayor's Recovery Plan
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August 3, 2011

Shift By Women Voters Lifts Corbett's Approval Rating, Support Grows For Drilling Fees

A shift by women voters helps give Gov. Tom Corbett a 44 – 36 percent job approval, his first noticeable boost in job approval since he took office in January, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.
            These latest results are a jump from Gov. Corbett’s 39 – 38 percent approval rating in a June 14 survey by Quinnipiac University.  Women give Corbett a narrowly negative 37 – 41 percent approval, compared to negative 30 – 43 percent mark in June. Men approve 51 – 31 percent, compared to 48 – 34 percent in June.
            Pennsylvania voters like their governor as a person 48 – 15 percent, with 37 percent still undecided. But voters say 43 – 40 percent that they don’t like Corbett’s policies.
            Voters disapprove 45 – 41 percent of the way Corbett is handling the state budget, but that is a better score than many governors are getting during these difficult economic times.
            “Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who had a 39 percent job approval in each of our first three polls this year, might be seeing some daylight,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “He’s doing better than his Republican neighbors, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who had a negative 35 – 50 percent approval in our July 20 survey, and New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie, who had a negative 44 – 47 percent score June 21. Both of those governors suffer from big negatives among women voters.”
            Marcellus Shale Drilling/Fees
            Pennsylvania voters say 59 – 32 percent that the economic benefits of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale outweigh environmental concerns, compared to 63 – 20 percent support in Quinnipiac University’s June 14 survey.
            The poll also found support for drilling is 79 – 16 percent among Republicans and 55 – 35 percent among independent voters. Democrats split 44 – 45 percent.
            Voters support 63 – 28 percent, including 53 – 38 percent among Republicans, a new tax on companies drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale.
            By an even larger 78 – 17 percent, voters support a proposed fee on drilling companies, with proceeds used to reimburse local communities for the impact of drilling. Support is high among all groups and in every region of the state.
            “By almost 2-1 margins, Pennsylvania voters remain convinced of the benefits of tapping the natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale,” Malloy said. “And by overwhelming margins, they want to tap the financial resources of the companies doing the drilling.”
            Women in Government
            There should be more women in high elected office, 51 percent of Pennsylvania voters say, while 5 percent say there should be fewer women and 31 percent say the number of women is about right. Among women voters, 56 percent want more women in office, while 45 percent of men want more women elected.
            Pennsylvania voters personally hope 63 – 22 percent that the U.S. has a woman president in their lifetime. Hoping for a woman president are 67 percent of women and 58 percent of men. And voters expect 70 – 22 percent that there will be a woman president in their lifetime.
            Male officials are more likely than women officials to have sex scandals, voters say 71 – 1 percent, with 25 percent saying there is not much difference. These strong attitudes are shared by all groups and in every region of the state.
            There is not much difference between man and women officials on who would have the right priorities, 72 percent of voters say. Women officials would be better problem solvers, voters say 28 – 6 percent, with 63 percent saying there is not much difference.
            “Pennsylvania voters say we need more women in high political office. We can’t agree that they would be better problem solvers or would have better priorities, but almost everyone agrees there would be fewer sex scandals,” Malloy said.
            More complete poll results are available online.

Wednesday NewsClips

Former LCB Chief Comes Out In Favor Of Privatization
Former LCB Chair Throws Support Behind Privatization
Ex-LCB Chairman: Privatize
Ex-LCB Chief: Sell The State Stores
Editorial: Know Financial Implications In Liquor Privatization
Table Games Doing Well But
Slots Revenue Sets Record
PA Voters Turn Thumbs Down To Obama, Congress
Drunken Lawmaker Was Almost 4X Over Legal Limit
Editorial: Redistricting Should Be Free Of Politics
NE Lawmakers Assess Transportation Funding Proposals
House Transportation Committee Waiting For Corbett Green Light
Report: Copied Language In PA Legislation
Lehigh Valley Unemployment Rises To 8.7 Percent
Harrisburg Mayor Proposes Commuter Tax As Bargaining Chip
Harrisburg Mayor Releases Her Act 47 Plan
Fiscal Crisis Could Hurt Harrisburg Authority Project Financing
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August 2, 2011

Rep. Turzai: Former Chair Of Liquor Control Board Announces Support For Privatization

Former Liquor Control chairman Jonathan Newman Tuesday announced his support of privatizing the PLCB at a press conference with House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny). 
            Rep. Turzai has sponsored legislation, House Bill 11 (not yet online), to privatize the wholesale and retail operations of the PLCB.
            “Jonathan Newman knows the PLCB inside and out,” Rep. Turzai said. “The fact that he favors privatization speaks volumes. Government has no business selling alcohol. We have crafted a bill that moves Pennsylvania out of the Prohibition era while at the same time strengthening enforcement of liquor laws. This is a proposal whose time has come.”
            “The current system is antiquated – all anyone has to do is drive across the border to any of our neighboring states to see how out of touch the PLCB system is,” Newman said. “I am intimately familiar with the history and operations of the PLCB, as well as with modern retailing practices. There is no doubt in my mind that due to the inherent problems with the system, there is a desperate need to privatize. Privatization will lead to greater convenience and better prices. It is time to stop burdening       Pennsylvanians with this backwater system that dates back to Prohibition.”
            The current monopoly system was created in 1933 by then-Gov. Gifford Pinchot, who said the PLCB’s mission was to make liquor sales “as inconvenient and expensive as possible.” Currently only two states, Pennsylvania and Utah, have complete control over wholesale and retail operations. 
            Under Rep. Turzai’s privatization proposal, the PLCB’s role will focus solely on regulation and education, removing the conflict of interest that currently exists by having the same entity promote and regulate alcohol sales.
            “House Bill 11 is a commonsense proposal,” said Rep. Tom Killion (R-Chester), a co-sponsor of the legislation. “This legislation responsibly moves Pennsylvania out of the alcohol business, while at the same time maintaining state revenues and ensuring greater enforcement of the Commonwealth’s liquor laws. Privatization would enable to the PLCB to focus its priorities solely on regulation and education.”
            “The PLCB is an archaic dinosaur that is sorely out of step with the times,” said Rep. Curt Schroder (R-Chester), also a co-sponsor of House Bill 11. “The opposition’s arguments against privatizing are nothing but an attempt to protect the status quo and continue on with business as usual in Harrisburg. The people of Pennsylvania have spoken. Numerous opinion polls have shown a majority of Pennsylvanians are in favor of privatizing the PLCB. It’s time to move Pennsylvania into the modern age.”
            Specifically, House Bill 11 proposal would:
--Eliminate the 18 percent Johnstown Flood tax and the 30 percent markup by the PLCB. 
-- Implement a fairer gallonage tax. 
-- Enhance enforcement of liquor laws by providing concurrent jurisdiction for state and local police; requiring retail managers and employees to attend Responsible Alcohol Management Program (RAMP) training; mandating the use of ID scanners with age verification software; requiring retail operations to be maintained in a separate area dedicated to the sale of liquor and all retail store employees to be at least 21 years old; and subjecting retail licensees to “age compliance checks” to ensure against selling to minors. Licensees who fail to adhere to these standards will face heavy penalties and possible suspension or revocation of their licenses. 
-- Offer current PLCB employees the following opportunities: hiring preference in other state jobs; tax credits for employers to hire them full-time; and education grants to help retrain employees to perform other jobs.

Poll: Casey Better, Toomey Same, Obama Down, Everyone To Blame For Debt Crisis

Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Casey's job approval rating increased slightly since June, but is still below the magic 50 percent mark incumbents aim for, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday.
            Voters polled approved of Casey’s job handling, 48-29 percent. In all regions of the state, a majority of voters polled approved of Casey’s job handling. He polled strongest in Allegheny County (51-26 percent) and in the southeast (50-21 percent).
            Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey’s approval rating didn’t budge much, with his approval rating at 44 percent, disapproval at 31 percent, and voters saying they didn’t know at 25 percent. The last Q-Poll in June had his approval at 45 percent, disapproval at 28 percent and 27 percent of voters saying they didn’t know.
            Over half those polled-- 52 percent-- didn't think President Obama should be reelected.  42 percent said he deserves another term.
            Of likely Republican candidates running against Obama, Romney scored highest at 44 to 42 percent with former PA U.S. Senator Rick Santorum losing to Obama by 43 to 45 percent (not as much as last time).
            Voters were evenly divided in Pennsylvania over who was at fault in the debt ceiling crisis-- Republicans and Democrats tied at 37 percent each.
            More detailed poll results are available online.

Tuesday NewsClips

Panel Shows How To Raise $2.7 Billion For Transportation
Drivers Could Pay For Road Improvements
Recommendations: More Costly To Get Around
Blog: July State Revenue About Same As Last Year
Editorial: Retool Law On Campaign Cash
New Way To Rate Teachers Studied
Debt Deal Backed By Nearly All PA Regs
Toomey Lone Local To Oppose Debt Bill
Western PA Unemployment Rate Rises
Erie Unemployment Rate Rises In Erie
NE Unemployment Highest Among State Metro Areas
Harrisburg Mayor Plans Hearing On Recovery Plan
Investigators Gather Information On Harrisburg Incinerator Debt
Editorial: Harrisburg Commuter Tax Takes Residents For Ride
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July State Revenue About The Same As Last Year

Pennsylvania collected $1.7 billion in General Fund revenue in July, the first month of the 2011-12 fiscal year, Secretary of Revenue Daniel Meuser reported Monday.
           Sales tax receipts totaled $743.8 million; personal income tax revenue was $663.9 million; and corporation tax revenue was $78 million for July.
           General Fund revenue figures for July included $66.3 million in inheritance tax and $27.7 million in realty transfer tax.
           Other General Fund revenue, including cigarette, malt beverage, liquor and table games taxes totaled $113.3 million for the month.
           Non-tax revenue totaled $27.1 million for the month.
           In addition to the General Fund collections, the Motor License Fund received $191.1 million for the month, which includes the commonly known gas and diesel taxes, as well as other license, fine and fee revenues.
           As in years past, July collection data does not include a comparison against anticipated amounts because revenue estimates for each month are not yet finalized. The August collections release will include comparisons of collections to estimates.

August 1, 2011

Auditor General Audit Finds Rampant PLCB Waste and Mismanagement

The Commonwealth Foundation strongly condemned the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board today for systematic waste and abuse of taxpayer money and assets following a scathing Pa. Auditor General audit report that found rampant agency mismanagement of inventory and finances.
           Among the findings in the most recently released 48-page 2009-2010 audit, now quietly buried within the AG website without public comment or recommendations, AG investigators found:
The agency spent more than $66 million taxpayer dollars on the Enterprise Resource Planning system (ERP), a computerized inventory management tool that caused widespread shortages at PLCB distribution centers and cost two-and-a-half times the original plans. According to the report, "retail store managers began hoarding some merchandise items, leaving other retail stores without that merchandise. This exacerbated the existing inventory shortages at stores; items were out of stock and unavailable to customers."
           Compounding the problem, PLCB management then demanded purchasers order excessive inventory due to the shortages.  The report found, "In addition to acknowledging that it tried to buy itself out of the out-of-stock and hoarding situations, management also indicated that it could not change the volume of inventory coming into the distribution centers even though they were overflowing with excess product because vendors had already processed these orders."
           These decisions resulted in more inventory than space, a situation made worse by the fact that, despite already having excess, the PLCB couldn't stop the ERP system from ordering more.  Due to the mismanaged inventories, the PLCB then spent approximately $500,000 for trailer rentals and additional security guards.  According to investigators, "The trailers containing the merchandise were located off site and were in use for at least six weeks when our auditors uncovered the PLCB'S use of these non-temperature controlled trailers."
-- Scranton: Inventory more than doubled to 606,383 cases in 2010, causing additional warehouse space to be acquired.
Pittsburgh: Inventory jumped from 300,000 cases to 575,000 cases in 2010, exceeding storage capacity.  PLCB management decided to put 72,277 cases of excess merchandise in 57 non-temperature controlled trailers.
Philadelphia: Inventory reached 763,470 cases.  20,240 cases were moved to non-temperature controlled trailers.
           Moreover, investigators found PLCB management claimed storing excess inventory in non-temperature-controlled trailers, despite heat exceeding 100, did not put inventory at risk of spoilage.  Auditors found this to be false, observing, "merchandise stockpiled in the non-temperature controlled trailers such as wine and champagne actually was more susceptible to high heat." Contrary to the finding, the PLCB continues to deny widespread spoilage and an accurate account of money lost due to overheating remains unreported.
           Of the systemic problems, the audit went on to conclude, in part, that auditors, "received little response from management to demonstrate its follow up and resolution to ensure that store inventories are properly accounted for."
           "This fiasco is just the latest in a series of failures by the PLCB to be good stewards of taxpayer money, and clearly illustrates why legislators should be shouting 'last call' for government in the booze business," said Matthew J. Brouillette, Commonwealth Foundation president and CEO.  "It's unconscionable that Pennsylvania government continues to protect and promote a Prohibition-era monopoly so antiquated and inept that it has taken basic freedoms from consumers and robbed taxpayers and businesses of free-market benefits."
           The report comes just weeks after PLCB Chairman P.J. Stapleton III publically boasted about record-setting sales, but neglected to cite the AG audit that found that while overall sales have increased, net revenues from store operations have declined nearly 47 percent, from FY June 30, 2008 to FY June 30, 2010.  The PLCB release also failed to cite salaries, benefits and pension costs of more than $215 million last year or the millions spent each year to advertise and promote liquor sales.
           "In order to keep themselves in business, the PLCB is only giving taxpayers and consumers a glass-half-full spin, when in reality the glass is nearly empty," said Brouillette. "This proves once again that monopolies, whether public or private, fail to meet consumer and taxpayer needs."
           CF is calling for an immediate end to the PLCB's role as seller and distributor of wine and spirits, a system of full government control that now sees Pennsylvania as one of only two remaining states in the nation (the other is Utah) with such draconian measures.
          "The people of Pennsylvania know this issue isn't about just about liquor and money, it's about freedom and ridding ourselves of government monopolies, manipulation and mediocrity," said Brouillette.  "It's time our leaders listen to the demands of their constituents who want government to butt out of the booze business."
          A copy of the Auditor General's report is available online.