Liberal Pennsylvania Group Pushes for Union-Friendly Budget

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) is in Harrisburg today lobbying legislators to pass a budget that favors one of its major funding sources, labor unions.

The event, State Budget Advocacy Day, will focus on union-backed reforms including more education funding, ending corporate tax breaks, expanding Medicaid, and hiking taxes on natural gas drillers.

PBPC is a project of the Keystone Research Center (KRC) and describes itself as a “nonpartisan research and policy organization.” KRC is a member of the union-funded Progressive States Network.

Education Funding

PBPC advocates for more state education spending, even though Republican Governor Tom Corbett has spent more on General Education funding than any other governor. PBPC has worked with the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) and the American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania (AFT-PA), however, to perpetuate the “Big Lie” that Corbett has cut education funding by $1 billion even though the cut in education funding was actually the result of Pres. Barack Obama’s stimulus coming to an end.

Pennsylvania’s faculty union — the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) — has made similar demands to increase state funding to education.

Both PSEA Vice-President Jerry Oleksiak and Eric Elliot, Director of Research for School Funding and Finance, sit on KRC’s Board. And in 2013, PSEA gave $33,025 to the Keystone Research Center. Not to mention PSEA owns the building out of which PBPC and KRC operate in Harrisburg.

AFT-PA staff member Alison Ocmand also sits on the KRC board, and AFT’s national headquarters gave KRC $15,000 in 2013.

It is unclear if APSCUF has also sent money to the Keystone Research Center, but former APSCUF President Steve Hicks is also on the KRC board.

Ending Corporate Tax Breaks

PBPC has called for an end to corporate tax breaks, claiming they “take a bite out of the pie” of the state budget by decreasing state revenues. PBPC will be delivering pies to legislators today, as they did back in 2013, to ask them to “grow the pie” — meaning increase taxes so the government can grow and spend more.

The United Steelworkers (USW) union has similarly called corporate tax breaks “dead wrong”. USW is represented on KRC’s board of directors by Ike Gittlen, staff member and co-chair of the Pennsylvania Steel Alliance.

Medicaid Expansion

In comments to the state Department of Public Welfare, PBPC stated, “From the standpoint of administration, cost, and quality of coverage, expanding traditional Medicaid is the best option for the citizens of the Commonwealth.”

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 668 submitted a resolution during the 2014 AFL-CIO Convention similarly supporting Medicaid expansion. “The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and its affiliates continue to promote the adoption of federal Medicaid expansion in our state,” the resolution reads.

The SEIU Pennsylvania Leadership Council paid KRC $20,000 in 2013.

Tax on Natural Gas Drillers

Calling for a new tax on fracking for oil and natural gas is a large part of PBPC’s “Grow the Pie” message they will be confronting legislators with today in Harrisburg. PBPC supports more taxes on energy companies to increase state revenue and expand state government.

Advocates of a severance tax on the natural gas industry like to point out that other natural-gas-producing states, such as Texas, have a severance tax while Pennsylvania does not — but they fail to mention the fact that Texas does not have a corporate income tax.

Pennsylvania has the highest effective corporate income tax rate in the industrialized world.

“This is a fair tax, a wise investment, and a proposal that taxpayers want and that our students need,” PSEA President Michael Crossey said in a statement echoing PBPC and KRC talking points. “Pennsylvania is the nation’s third largest producer of natural gas – and we are the only major producer that doesn’t tax it. There’s something wrong with this picture, and this plan will start to make it right.”