#PAGov: Wolf Disagrees with Cuomo’s Fracking Ban

The moratorium supporters failed to move any Democratic candidates for Governor into their column during the primary, so this isn’t surprising. Wolf continues to support a moratorium on gas drilling on public land, so I’m expecting a high profile reversal of Tom Corbett’s recent moves approving drilling on state lands when Wolf gets into office in January.

But expect the banning pen to get put away shortly after that. Wolf is counting on substantial new revenues from a 5+% severance tax on natural gas production to fulfill his promise to restore education funding and to fix the giant deficit mess that the “fiscally responsible” Republican Party left in a flaming bag on his doorstep.

In my opinion, getting the money is best, as long as Wolf follows through on his pledge to regulate methane leakage through DEP, and does some other things to ensure that only well-capitalized players can play this game the environmentally-responsible way: hiking bonding requirements, passing stricter wastewater management rules, and generally making it harder for small operators who can’t clean up their own messes without public assistance to get in on the action.

Posted in Elections, Energy, Environment, Governor

#PA6: Obvious Thing Happens

The job little Jiminy Gerlach has been trying out for this whole time is finally his. In Congress, he fought against health insurance expansion and for unaffordable corporate tax breaks. And now he’ll get paid a whole lot more to do the same job outside of government. Nice how that works.

Posted in Elections, US House

Sorry, a 5% Severance Tax Won’t “Cripple” PA’s Economy

Only 0.5% of the PA workforce is employed by the natural gas sector. Yes, there are some other auxiliary industries that benefit from natural gas activity that aren’t counted in that. Yes, low gas prices support some additional economic activity than under a high gas prices scenario.

But you’d have to be smoking crack to believe that a 5% severance tax on gas drilling will “cripple” PA’s economy. It’s just not that significant a part of our economy.

Posted in Economy, Energy, Environment

Most of PA Policed by Militias

That’s what you call a 5 or 10-person “police department” of mostly part-time officers right?

Did you know that two-thirds of the state’s police officers are part-time, and 15% of the departments are part-time? And that the federal government is giving these lil’ militias terrifying weapons of war to play with in the course of their township policing duties.

Also, a little less than half of PA’s municipalities fall into the category where they are too small, have too little governing capacity, or are too tax-allergic/exurban, that they mooch off the state police for coverage at a cost of about $500 million to state taxpayers. Police department consolidation is the second place Tom Wolf should go looking to close the Republican budget deficit, after canceling tax subsidies for fossil fuels.

Posted in Budget, Issues, Social Services

#PHL2015 Candidates Have a “Duty to Respond” on Stuff They Can’t Do Anything About

This op-ed by James Lytle is Exhibit A in the case for not spending too much time talking about education in the 2015 Philly Mayoral race, even though that’s the issue most people seem to want to debate next year.

Titled “Education issues to consider in the mayoral race,” the op-ed proceeds with a list of very important, but overwhelmingly state education issues that were already considered in the 2014 Governor’s race, or need to be considered in the 2016 state legislative elections.

Then at the end there’s a list of stuff that city policy touches on somewhat, but most of which would still need to be signed off on by the state-controlled School Reform Commission – to which the Mayor gets two of the five appointees.

How can services to special needs students, recent immigrants, and English language learners be improved? Is it possible to have more school closings or employee givebacks to reduce budget problems without reducing educational quality? What can be done to satisfy middle-class families with young children who threaten to abandon District schools? How should schools be held to account? Is high school completion more important than test scores? Should charter schools be required to publish detailed annual budgets and audit reports? How can the city’s extraordinary higher education, medical, cultural and community resources contribute to educating school-aged children?

Of course the Mayoral candidates should say what they think should happen with all of these important issues, but if you really want to hold elected officials accountable for this stuff, you need to ask Tom Wolf and the relevant state legislative leaders what they want to do, because that’s whose opinions are ultimately going to carry the day here.

The sad fact is that the Mayoral candidates just don’t have very much in the way of real control over education policy, and it would be totally nuts to spend the campaign season having essentially a symbolic debate about what the direction of state policy should be. Hearing all the candidates talk about this stuff so far, to a person, the pitch is basically “I’ll be the best education lobbyist to the state for Philly, because x, y, z.

That’s crazy. If we want a lobbyist, let’s hire a lobbyist. If we want more effective political communicators for the message local education activists want delivered to Harrisburg, then let’s elect some more state lawmakers with decent political communication skills – currently a small minority of the Philly delegation.

But let’s hire a Mayor to do the things that the Mayor actually controls and manages on a day to day basis like transportation and planning, police and fire safety, economic development, and so on.

Posted in Elections, Philadelphia 2015

Takin Mah Toys and Goin Home

Translation: Cynical contrarian posturing is more important to me than proactively assessing my actual level of agreement with either of the political parties’ platforms.

Posted in Elections

#PASen: Bob Casey to the Right of Michael Krancer and the Voters on Climate

(Been hangin’ out with this guy too much)

Five years off from reelection and Bob Casey is already getting irritable bowel syndrome on climate politics – an issue that has yet to claim the political career of any Democrats, and especially not any with famous political dynasty names.

Casey went whining to President Obama about his plan to use the EPA’s authority to cut power plant emissions from dirty coal-fired plants, saying it’s unfair to Pennsylvania. As a Democrat, he’s making the necessary noises about the need for bold action on climate, but once the throat-clearing is over, you see that he’s really against bold action for the fifth highest CO2-emitting state.

What’s remarkable is that not only is Casey tacking to the right of the voters on this issue (a new Hart poll found 66% of Pennsylvanians support EPA action cracking down on power plant polluters), he’s actually to the right of ex-Corbett DEP head Michael Krancer too.

And y’all know about Krancer.

Back in July, Krancer published an op-ed in Forbes touting the benefits, and even potential for electricity savings, from Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and even agreeing with Tom Wolf that Pennsylvania should join its neighboring states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – the regional cap and trade program.

What does it say about Casey’s political compunction that he’s taking more right wing positions on climate than a gas industry flack?

Posted in Elections, US Senate

Your Crow Sandwich, Mr. Fitzpatrick

Mark Kleiman:

Any pundit or politician who helped promote the Benghazi! hoax, and who doesn’t fully retract and apologize now that a Republican-dominated House committee has fully debunked all the accusations against the Administration other than having paid attention to what turned out to be inaccurate initial reports from the intelligence agencies, should from now on be conclusively presumed a fool and a scoundrel.

Anybody wanna ask Mike Fitzpatrick about this, considering the amount of energy he spent stomping his feet for the committee?

Posted in Elections, US House

Derp: Larry Ceisler Thinks Lynn Abraham is #PHL2015 Frontrunner

LOL. Has PoliticsPA ever been less essential?

Posted in Elections, Philadelphia 2015

No Child Pornos, Turns Out

Still pretty gross. Why would a grown man send another grown man a picture of a little boy looking into a little girl’s underpants? Y’all are so weird. Can we see who got CC’d on that one?

Posted in Ethics