Who is Dan Meuser, Really?

Disclaimer:  I am not affiliated with any candidate in the race for the 9th Congressional District.  I am not affiliated with any organization which endorsed any candidate for any political office of any party in that district.  I raise these concerns because I care about the future of this country and our Commonwealth.

Most of us rely on slick commercials and campaign mailers to determine how we vote in elections but we really need to dig deeper.  We need to know and understand where those who seek our support in an election really stand.  That doesn’t mean getting into the dirt of personal attacks in the process of character assassination but we should at least be aware of the important part these candidates have played in shaping political policy and ideology.  We should be free to voice our concerns in the public forum about real issues that have an real impact or our lives.

Recently, the Dan Meuser campaign announced they have a proposal for the elimination of school property taxes. While, on the surface this sounds like good news for advocates of the proposal, I have to disagree. Dan Meuser is running for the 9th Congressional District in Pennsylvania. It’s a federal position, not a state position. The notion that a candidate who, if elected, would seek to violate the protection of state’s rights in establishing how they fund education in their state appalls me. It would be a direct violation of the 10th Amendment.

The Meuser campaign announced this as a proposal. That would mean a Federal bill since he’s not running for a state office. To then learn that some of our sponsors for the school property tax elimination plan are supporting this proposal only raises my concern about the political will to get this done at the state level. We’ve long held the concern about politicians who use this issue as a carrot on a stick in order to get elected or to hold on to their seats but haven’t fought for it once elected. Now Meuser is taking that Carrot to a whole new level.

The first official duty of every elected representative is to take an oath of office that includes pledging to uphold the Constitution. Congress has no enumerated powers to regulate how states fund education and for very good reason. It’s not a federal responsibility. The Meuser campaign is promising to violate the 10th Amendment to the Constitution and voter’s, because of their hatred for the tax, will base their vote on that promise without considering the consequences. The proposal is doomed to failure, but we need not worry about that because I strongly suspect that the proposal will go no further than a promise on the campaign trail. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be concerned that he would make such a promise to exploit voter’s in a district where this issue is important.

The 9th Congressional District represents the loudest voice in the entire Commonwealth concerning advocates for School Property Tax Elimination. The bill originated in the Reading area and quickly spread to bring strong advocates on board from Lebanon, Bethel and Schuylkill. The two successful citizen advocacy rallies dubbed the “Fill-A-Bus-Tours” originated from Lebanon through the Lebanon 9-12 Project. PA Liberty Alliance hails from Bethel. They’ve been behind the very successful door to door campaigns taking the message of school property tax elimination across the state. The founder of the PTCC hails from the Berks area.

The history of the town halls all have involvement from the Founder of the PTCC, The President of PA Liberty Alliance, who hails from the Schuylkill area and the Chair of the Lebanon 9-12 Project from Lebanon County. This is one of the hottest issues in this district and for it to be exploited for political purposes is an insult to those who have worked so hard to get this bill where it is.

The Berks County Patriots initiated a Tri-County effort that brought together representatives from Berks Patriots, PA Liberty Alliance, Lehigh Valley Patriots and the Lebanon 9-12 Project for the purpose of interviewing candidates. The hard work of this effort in doing research on the candidates that went beyond just interviews has brought very valuable information to the forefront.

As part of the Tri-County research team, this had me start doing some homework on this candidate. It turns out that this is not the first time that Dan Meuser has misrepresented facts to the people of Pennsylvania.

Dan Meuser was appointed as Secretary of Revenue during the Corbett Administration. In spite of Tom Corbett’s promise to sing the bill if it came to his desk. Corbett refused to use his office as Governor to advocate for the legislation. Even when he was seeking re-election, he refused to take this issue on the campaign trail.

As far as Dan Meuser, as Secretary of revenue he made two commitments to the people of the Commonwealth that were betrayed resulting in a cost in the millions that had to be paid for with tax payer dollars.

As Secretary of Revenue, Meuser pushed for privatizing the state run lottery system. He pushed to sell the lottery to a global lottery consulting firm, Camelot Global Services, not based in the United States, but a Canadian owned company operating out of the United Kingdom. The final decisions rested with Kathleen Kane but both Democrats and republicans in Pennsylvania voiced concerns about the legality of doing what Meuser proposed.

The Attorney general’s office reviewed the deal struck with Camelot Global and declared it unconstitutional. They pointed out that the deal included expanding the system of gambling in the Commonwealth beyond what was permitted by statutory law. The contract went beyond that which was approved by lawmakers when gambling was legalized in the state. It was also pointed out that profits from gambling in the state would have gone into a foreign based company rather than going to provide directly for services to seniors in the state. (https://www.watchdog.org/pennsylvania/updated-pa-s-private-lottery-contract-unconstitutional-ag-says/article_0ca2e77d-48a7-580b-9023-a50b0d48b80b.html)

And yet, Meuser still pushed for this. In 2013 AG DePasquale finally called for the termination of the deal which was originally supposed to cost taxpayers $725,000 to implement but had run up costs to $4.6 million, more than 4 times to original proposal. (http://www.paauditor.gov/press-releases/auditor-general-depasquale-urges-end-to-spending-on-lottery-privatization-calls-for-legislature-or-governor-to-act-by-dec-31)

As Secretary of Revenue Meuser also proposed an upgrade to the computer system that would cost Pennsylvanians $130 million dollars. The company hired to do the upgrade was Accenture, a global technology consultant, who had previously been fired by the state of Maryland for a similar project due to wasteful spending and missed deadlines. Dan Meuser assured Pennsylvanians that the same would not happen to Pennsylvania. He was wrong.

In 2015 the state cut ties with Accenture because it never delivered on it’s promise to upgrade the system. After over $100 million was spent they only upgraded state’s business tax system. A new firm had to be hired at an additional cost to taxpayers of $57 million dollars. (http://levittownnow.com/2018/03/08/pa-department-of-records-spending-57m-in-second-try-to-update-computer-system/)

Now Dan Meuser wants to take that type of fiscal irresponsibility to Washington D.C.

As we began to dig deeper we discovered some other troubling aspects.

Dan Meuser tells us that he supports building a wall to keep out illegal immigrants and yet Dan Meuser’s firm, Pride Mobility, was fined for hiring illegal aliens. Wayne County District Attorney noted that the fine was the largest fine ever levied on a Pennsylvania Manufacturing business consisting of 58 violations of immigration laws. The company was fined $41,000. According to Zimmer the first offense for hiring an illegal at the time was $2,000 per illegal alien. (https://www.timesleader.com/archive/272762/stories-records-on-fine-for-illegals-gone2c-meuser-says103673)

More digging revealed that Pride Mobility, Dan Meuser’s firm, “agreed to pay $80,000 to resolve its liability for violations of the kickback provision of the Civil Monetary Penalties Law.” according to the testimony of Dara Corrigan, Acting Principal Deputy Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services. That report includes the following statement: “In Pennsylvania, an OIG investigation revealed that, through a marketing program, Pride Mobility Products Corporation, a manufacturer of power wheelchairs, scooters, and lift chairs, solicited and received monthly payments from supplies in return for referring sales leads to those suppliers.” The official testimony also states, “in addition to the payment under the settlement agreement, the company was also required to adopt and implement certain compliance measures.” (https://oig.hhs.gov/testimony/docs/2004/042804fin.pdf)

Then it was discovered that, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times (7/9/07) and The Citizen’s Voice (6/30/07), Dan Meuser’s firm was forced to settle in case involving Software Piracy. The case involved a $380,000 fine to settle a software piracy case with the Business Software Alliance (BSA). As BSA noted “Software piracy is against the law, costing millions of dollars in tax revenues and lost jobs. In 2005, the United States lost $6.9 billion as a result of software piracy”. The Citizens Voice reported that Meuser’s company was fined for “unauthorized use of Adobe, Autodesk, Microsoft, and Symantec software”.

All of this information is particularly troubling to me as a resident of Lebanon County since The Lebanon County Republican Committee rushed through an endorsement of Dan Meuser without allowing for input from any of the other candidates in this race. The Lebanon County Republican Committee is chaired by Casey Long, who is working for the Meuser campaign, but did not disclose this to the other committee members. To my understanding the only issue that was addressed concerning Meuser is that he doesn’t reside in the 9th Congressional District. Blaming last minute redistricting and downplaying the importance of actually residing in the district you are representing was the excuse.

That brings me to the final issue…Campaign Contributions.

Dan Meuser has been a financial supporter of Matt Cartwright, a Democrat that is sometimes referred to as being left of Obama. If Meuser ran in the district he lives, he would have to challenge Matt Cartwright, someone he’s financially supported in elections. Troubling contributions through his PAC go beyond just his support of Matt Cartwright.

While Dan Meuser claims to support Lou Barletta as a Senate Candidate, financial contributions from the Meuser run PAC have gone to his Democrat opponent, Bob Casey. Other questionable contributions include donations to Hillary Clinton, Charlie Rangel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Those contributions helped to give the Democrats control of Congress which, at the time, gave us Obamacare.

It would be good to have honest answers to each of these concerns but Dan Meuser has worked hard to evade directly answering these relative questions. When confronted about the hiring of illegals, Dan Meuser stated he can’t produce the records on the case because they no longer exist. He refers to only 3 illegals, but as District Attorney Zimmer pointed out, the fine indicates the problem was much greater than Meuser admits. That information comes from the Times Leader article cited above.

Records from the Software Piracy case have also mysteriously disappeared as well. If not for archived newspaper accounts, this information would not be known because they’ve disappeared from the record. That makes me incredibly uncomfortable and very reminiscent of the Hillary Clinton talent for making things disappear.

As Thomas Jefferson stated “Shake off all the fears & servile prejudices under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Who is McKinsey and Company and why should we be concerned?

Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.

~André Malraux

Note: This piece is a follow-up to an article published on this blog called “Setting The Record Straight“.  The purpose of this article is to explore McKinsey and Company in their involvement in setting and establishing official government policy.  The average reader is very unfamiliar with McKinsey and those members of the general public who might be are generally only familiar with their name.  You have to dig and you have dig deep.  Even then, there are more unanswered questions because it appears to be the official policy of McKinsey that “it is the firm’s policy not to discuss any of its work with clients.” 

I have invested hours of my personal life in doing this research.  This is not just a fly-by-night hit piece.  I’ve found more than sufficient reasons to be concerned but I still have a lot of unanswered questions.  

In 2017, the Governor contracted with an outside firm using $1.8 million dollars of taxpayer funds to offer a no-bid contract to the consulting firm of McKinsey and Company to help him draft his budget proposal for 2017-18. This was at a time when Pennsylvania was facing a $700 million budget shortfall. Most of this happened out of public scrutiny since Steffi Langner, a spokeswoman for McKinsey, said it is her firm’s policy not to discuss any of its work with clients. i  I would learn, as I did more and more research, that answer seems to be consistent when McKinsey and Company is challenged by the press.

It was during this time period that I first became aware of McKinsey and Company and I did a little research but nothing too deep.  Then came the announcement of Paul Mango as a candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania.

In the 2016 election cycle, McKinsey and Company dumped $1,336,032 into the elections. $1,013,589 of that went to Democrats. The remaining money went to Republicans but to say that it certainly didn’t go to the more conservative members is an understatement.  On matters of defending Personal Liberty, it’s even worse. ii

There’s good reason for this. The more conservative members of the Federal Government have been working to put an end to many of things that McKinsey promotes but big money talks in politics. That’s true at the State and Federal levels. In exploring the Deep State, we’ll find McKinsey’s fingerprints everywhere.

McKinsey and Company has been a large proponent of Common Core. David Coleman, one of the main architects of the National Common Core System (NCCS) and now head of the College Board was a former partner at McKinsey. Sir Michael Barber, Chief Education Advisor for Pearson is a former McKinsey and Co partner and head of McKinsey global education practice.

Behind McKinsey’s push is the use or (or as many believe, the abuse of) “Big Data”…data-mining efforts in using educational resources to generate data concerning private medical decisions. Many are concerned that the goal is to place public data, test scores and private medical information from children among the most valuable data sets, into private hands for corporate profit and control.

According to McKinsey’s own research panel entitled: Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity– Capturing its value:

“Big data—large pools of data that can be captured, communicated, aggregated, stored, and analyzed—is now part of every sector and function of the global economy. Like other essential factors of production such as hard assets and human capital, it is increasingly the case that much of modern economic activity, innovation, and growth simply couldn’t take place without data.”iii

Among the leaders of this project is Martin N. Baily, a senior adviser to McKinsey.

During a February 2015 congressional hearing on “How Emerging Technology Affects Student Privacy,” Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin asked the panel to “provide a summary of all the information collected by the time a student reaches graduate school.” Joel Reidenberg, director of the Center on Law & Information Policy at Fordham Law School, responded:

“Just think George Orwell, and take it to the nth degree. We’re in an environment of surveillance, essentially. It will be an extraordinarily rich data set of your life.”

That comes from a Washington Post article “The astonishing amount of data being collected about your children” iv

That articles goes on to state:

Under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), medical and counseling records that are included in your child’s education records are unprotected by HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act passed by Congress in 1996). Thus, very sensitive mental and physical health information can be shared outside of the school without parent consent.

McKinsey was hired to consult at McGill University in Canada. It created a backlash that caused one commentator in 2011 to state:

“McKinsey has a reputation for prioritizing profits over people, and for doing so opaquely and without public accountability. The quality of our university should not be sacrificed in the name of efficiency. The very presence of McKinsey consultants caused the Seattle Education Association to develop an organized resistance in 2008. McKinsey was even a defendant in Hurricane Katrina litigations for faulty advising to the insurance industry, in which the Louisiana Attorney General characterized their service, “Deny, delay, defund” to home insurers taking claims from New Orleans residents. v

In a 2007 article by Bob Ross in the Times-Picayune we find this: New Mexico attorney David Berardinelli, wrote a book about the McKinsey company’s work for Allstate called “From Good Hands to Boxing Gloves.” The title of the book is taken from a McKinsey slide advising the company to don boxing gloves and pummel anyone who doesn’t accept settlements for pennies on the dollar.vi

Current and former McKinsey consultants now invested in corporate-model education reform include: Louis Gerstner (co-chair of Achieve-the group that helped sponsor Nation Common Core), Rajat Gupta (financial backer of the Harlem Children’s Zone), Marshall Lux (on the Board of the Harlem Children’s Zone), Andrés Satizábal (Harlem Charter School), Michael Stone (Chief External Relations Officer at New Schools for New Orleans), Terrence McDonough (English Teacher and Department Chair at Edward W. Brooke Charter School and 5th Grade Teacher at Teach for America), Luis de la Fuente (with the Broad Foundation, who develops and manages a portfolio of grants to school districts, charter management organizations, and innovative non-profits), Shantanu Sinha (COO of Kahn Academies), and Jerry Hauser ( who served as the Chief Operating Officer at Teach For America). This list could go on ad infinitum.

But one final player of note is Bobby Jindal, former McKinsey consultant, and Governor of Louisiana. He formed policies to privatize public education for the entire state of Louisiana. This sounds good except he was going in the direction of privatizing them for Corporate Controls through Common Core initiatives. In addition, Paul Pastorek, the former Louisiana Superintendent of Education, hired Sir Michael Barber to help redesign the Louisiana DOE.

Mitt Romney told the Wall Street Journal that if he is elected President, he will “probably” hire McKinsey to tell him how to reorganize the government. vii

This is the force and scope of the political influence of McKinsey and yet, many of us have never heard of them. They buy political influence. After graduating from Stanford with academic honors in history, in 2001, Chelsea Clinton studied for a master’s degree in international relations at Oxford’s University College. While at Oxford, however, she seemed to spend more time making social connections while clubbing with the likes of Paul McCartney, attending fashion shows and London premieres with her new friends Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kevin Spacey and cultivating her celebrity status before settling down to find employment with McKinsey and company. With no experience or background in the Healthcare industry; no expertise in statistical data collection…she was reported to have been paid a salary of $120,000 with a signing bonus of $10,000.viii

McKinsey and Company was Mayor Bloomberg’s favorite consulting firm.ix

The push for Common Core and data-mining permeates the mindset of Charter School Investors. A 2009 article in the New York Times praised to work of hedge-fund managers and in development of common core driven charter schools. NYT stated “Charters have attracted benefactors from many fields. But it is impossible to ignore that in New York, hedge funds are at the movement’s epicenter.” NYT adds that: “Younger on average than top executives at financial giants like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley hedge fund managers are often numbers-driven refugees of those banks, who chuck the suit and tie and work with a small staff, studying spreadsheets for investment opportunities.”x

Those spread sheets of “investment opportunities”, which we call our children, include the incessant number of mind-numbing and unreliable tests designed and evaluated by Pearson that our children are now forced to take.

In 2012 the state of Florida, through their Department of Education, released the following news: “McKinsey has been retained through Gates and Hewlett Foundation funding to develop the business model/establish governing entity to succeed PARCC.xi

Let’s translate that statement. McKinsey was hired to serve as or supervise the GOVERNING ENTITY to deliver state-wide testing/data collection from public school children. The Gates and Hewlett Foundations foot the bill to make this happen.

We all are aware that we have many problems in the educational complex and that we need to see real reforms come to our public school systems. We are also all aware that Common Core was not a solution. We invested billions in applying Common Core standards which now, after taking billions in taxpayer resources, even Bill Gates admits didn’t work.xii While a failure to the children in the classroom, Corporate Welfare tactics advanced by the likes of McKinsey exploited our children in ways that are no different from the exploitation of our children by the Teachers Unions. For them, it was a money making venture; a well-paid ride on the government funded education bandwagon leaving taxpayers and our children in the treads of the tires of that bus.

Now a former McKinsey consultant and partner in the Pittsburgh offices of McKinsey is selling education reform as part of his supposedly “conservative” driven agenda. Coincidentally, Scott Wagner announced his bid for Governor and shortly afterwards came out in a scathing attack against McKinsey and Company for that $1.8 million no-bid contract. Soon afterwards Paul Mango announces his candidacy as a challenger to Scott Wagner.

Paul Mango, in the 2015/16 election cycle, gave $188,142 in political donations to Republican candidates. He tells us that he is a solid Trump supporter and supports the Trump Agenda and yet we find that, of that $188,142, more than $30,000 of that went to Jeb Bush either directly or through his Right To Rise PAC. Jeb Bush was unable to maintain his pursuit of the presidency after conservatives learned of his ties and promotion of Common Core through his Charter Schools. After it became evident that Jeb Bush was out of the primary, Mango then steered his funding to Marco Rubio. It was only after Donald Trump won the Primary that Mango finally made a contribution to Donald Trump; an investment that paled in comparison to the money given to Jeb Bush.

The Right To Rise PAC was a Jeb Bush supporting PAC. To find where there money was coming from I went to their donor list. xiii It’s a virtual who’s who of Common Core Investors. The Washington Post tells us they took in more than $118 million to prop up Jeb Bush’s failed presidential bid. But where did that money go…The Washington Post says:

Almost $87 million went into a barrage of television ads, online videos, slick mailers and voter phone calls. The group flew an airplane with a banner mocking Donald Trump over a rally of his supporters, produced a 15-minute documentary detailing Bush’s biography, sent Bush supporters individual video players, took out a billboard mocking Trump and crammed the airwaves in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. In the final days, Right to Rise kept the spigot on, dumping another $1.9 million into South Carolina and Nevada.xiv

An airplane with a banner mocking Donald Trump; a billboard mocking Donald Trump….but wait; Paul Mango tells us he supports Trump and the Trump Agenda!

No Child Left Behind was a government controlled initiative that laid the ground work. Obama’s Race To The Top helped to expand those controls and push Common Core even further. Am I alone in thinking that Right To Rise sounds just a little too similar to the previous government controlled efforts to push for the “investment opportunities” of corporations in the name of violating the personal liberties of our own children.

Remember when Pennsylvania decided to push for legalizing Medical Cannabis as an alternative choice in dealing with many medical issues. If so, you might remember that Big Pharma came out in strong opposition to the legalization and so did the American Medical Association. I had to wonder why? Why wouldn’t the medical “profession” want to see all the options on the table in our healthcare choices?

I was provided with some inside information that the reason for the push against it wasn’t that they really opposed it, the problem was that they hadn’t yet figured out how to corner the market for maximum profit yet. Since that was hearsay with private conversations from insiders involved in this debate I sat on it because, it was hearsay, but then there was this article from U.S. News:

But for Big Pharma and Big Tobacco – who fund these anti-marijuana efforts – it’s really about the bottom line. For years, large corporations and well-heeled lobbyists have blocked the legalization of marijuana for medical use or recreational use in order to protect their own profits…xv

There’s also this from Alan Hirsch, CEO of Diagnostic Lab Corporation, a cannabis safety and science company:

“Big pharma is lobbying against legalization, on the purported grounds of safety, but in reality, they are just buying time to create their own synthetic cannabis medicines,” said Alan Hirsch, “Several biotech companies have started creating cannabinoid chemistry from rice or yeast, but eventually, these medicines will be manufactured by Big Pharma in Schedule 1 facilities.”

Just where was McKinsey on all of this. That’s hard to say…remember the standard talking point is “our firm’s policy is not to discuss any of its work with clients.

I find it very difficult to think that McKinsey played no role in the opposition to the legalization of medical cannabis because, as consultants, they are consultants for Big Pharma and the Healthcare Insurance moguls, not you and me and our healthcare. Time and again, it’s profit margin as the defining measure of what is right and wrong. It is not a matter of what is in our best interest…it’s a matter of “investment opportunities”.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m not opposed to profit! I am, however, not at all comfortable with government policy that provides for protected classes within the business world that crushes one business model to protect the profit margin and “investment opportunities” of the Corporate world. I also don’t like being identified as an “Investment Opportunity” where I am an unknowing and unwilling participant in a hidden system where everything I do is going into some centralized data-base to be exploited and used in controlling things like my healthcare choices.

The “Investment Opportunity” mentality is why our Public Servant pension system is in the mess it is. Here’s a case where the private sector is expected to invest, through the barrel of a gun called taxation, to provide for the exorbitant pensions of those in the Public Sector. With little accountability in this investment scheme, we pay, while it is proven time and again that our money is then taken to invest in high-risk entities that fail to return on those investments. It doesn’t matter though because when the returns fail, the “investment opportunity” is there to be forced to pick up the tab. That’s called marketing. It’s also called exploitation.

Our tax dollars are being used to invest in companies that we might choose not to support and in advancing policies and issues that we may passionately disagree with. Once again, as you dig you continue to find the fingerprints of McKinsey. Unfortunately for us, the depth of that will remain largely unknown because, as McKinsey says “our firm’s policy is not to discuss any of its work with clients.” That apparently applies even when it’s taxpayers dollars being used to fund that endeavor. That included that $1.8 million in consulting fees paid to McKinsey by our Governor. I can’t be the only one who sees something wrong with that!

These protected “investment opportunities” provide little gamble for the investors because they are utilizing taxpayer funded incentives in a system of Corporate Welfare. If they fail, we’re the ones on the hook.

Paul Mango tells us that he created jobs through his partnership at McKinsey and Company. Penn-live requested specific information with regards to this claim and campaign adviser Matt Bevins stated “Paul led the growth of a multi-hundred million dollar business at McKinsey & Company and in the course of this hired hundreds of employees over 8 years as the head of this business,” he said. “He also advised scores of clients on growth strategies both within and beyond Pennsylvania.xvi

However, the reputation of McKinsey and Company is not about job-creation. It’s about down-sizing. As the Penn-live article states:

In fact, the record of Mango’s former employer, McKinsey & Co, suggests that they are wizards in the black arts of corporate downsizing.

If what Mr. Bevins said about Paul Mango is true, then Paul Mango is not just another simple consultant or a low-level player at McKinsey. He’s is a policy setter with ties to one of the most influential policy consulting firms that has their hands in things that make most conservatives cringe.

Paul Mango loves to attack Scott Wagner because of a non-discrimination bill Wagner supported and yet one division of McKinsey and Company is their organization called GLAM. It is LGBT centered organiztion allowing GLAM to drive policy for McKinsey and Company.xvii

On their own website they tell us how they push GLAM:

McKinsey is a founding sponsor of groups such as Reaching Out MBA in the United States and Brazil, Out for Undergraduates in Business, IvyQ, and Open for Business, a business-led coalition focused on the business and economic case for global LGBTQ rights.

You will find our LGBTQ consultants at many schools meeting with students and providing insight into the working and welcoming environment at McKinsey.xviii

You can’t have it both ways.

I can go on but this is already, again, much longer than it should be.

It’s simply that I want to know who I’m voting for and with no voting record I need something more reliable than campaign trail rhetoric. I’ll continue to dig deeper and deeper but, so far, with each dig I find myself in new territory learning more and more that McKinsey’s involvement is not nearly so much about consulting but rather about setting and controlling government policy.

In short, I find it hard to believe that Paul Mango wants to drain the swamp because McKinsey is a part of it. Here in Pennsylvania, he was an integral part of McKinsey. Not just a part of it but a key player in making sure the swamp remains to allow for the usual predators that love to hide in the swamps and wait for the next unsuspecting passerby.

Perhaps Paul Mango can cite how he went in to McKinsey and worked from within to change their internal policies. Perhaps he can demonstrate how he opposed the push of McKinsey and Company into the intrusions of our personal liberty and if so, I’d like to hear about that. I’d like to see the evidence where Paul Mango, partner and consultant at Pennsylvania’s office of McKinsey and Company, was the exception to the rule.

 

Footnotes:

 

PS:  Attacking the messenger without providing proof that what is written here is incorrect is futile.  When a person decides to run for public office, matters like this should be explored and questions should be asked.  When that process is no longer a part of the election debate, we are no longer a republic! 

 

Setting The Record Straight

As anyone who read’s my blog knows, I’ve been very active in pushing for School Property Tax Elimination in Pennsylvania. Along with people like David Baldinger, Ron Boltz and Dean Klopp we have worked with legislators, attended countless internal meetings and participating in town halls held across the state of Pennsylvania. I met with Governor Wolf and have also met with Senators Argall and Folmer and House Rep Jim Cox on many occasions concerning this important legislation. I am also a chair of a local citizen’s advocacy group where one of our key issues has been the Property Tax problem in this state. I have testified before the Senate on this issue, once before the finance committee and another time before an economic development hearing. I was on WITF to defend the legislation facing opposition from representatives from NFIB and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce. I organized two rallies in Harrisburg in support of SB 76 to eliminate the school property tax.

Because of my activism for this issue, Ron Boltz and I met with the Governor at his request. During our meetings with the Governor and his staff, a local funding option was discussed. We knew this would not work for the majority of the school districts. We had already put countless hours into collecting that data in the early days in the formation of this legislation and we continued to work to update that data. After reviewing that data, they agreed, if property taxes were to be eliminated it had to be through a state source.

When this bill was coming up for a vote in 2015, I was one of a handful of people involved in internal meetings as we worked to try to ascertain the votes to get the bill passed. It turned out to be a tie vote with Lt. Governor Mike Stack casting a vote to break the tie. It was a defeat of the legislation that left a bitter taste in my mouth. There were a few who had used this issue during their campaigns the assure their election but when it actually came time to vote for it, they jumped ship and voted against it. They betrayed their promise to us and to the people in their district.

I’ve been closely involved with this issue for about 9 years. I believe it’s one of the most important issues facing Pennsylvania. I also have learned during that time that vocal support for the legislation is not proof of a vote in support when push comes to shove.

I really don’t like to write what I’m about to write but if I didn’t feel it was important.  I wouldn’t do it.  There are clarifications that must be made to set the record straight with some of things going on behind the scenes in the ongoing debate between Scott Wagner and Paul Mango.

As we came in to this year’s governor’s race and group of grassroots leaders came together to form a coalition and interview the candidate for the Governor’s race, naturally the issue of property tax was foremost on my mind during these interviews.

All of this is to demonstrate that when it comes to the issue of school property taxation, I am personally involved and that includes being involved on the inside.  Sometimes that means I have to silent about specifics that take place in these private meetings and I have tried to respect that.  The generalities of those meetings however does not have to maintained.

I’ve never had any reason to doubt Scott Wagner’s support of School Property Tax Elimination. He became a co-sponsor of the legislation almost immediately after he won his special election. Scott has been a part of many of the internal meetings that I’ve attended concerning the School Property Tax Elimination legislation. I have solid information from other legislators that Scott Wagner has pushed this issue behind the scenes in meetings where I was not a participant.  He was not just a name on a co-sponsor’s list. He was working behind the scenes to get it done. When the vote on SB 76 took place in 2015, he voted for it.

When Paul Mango announced his candidacy, I had reason to be concerned. He had already given interviews concerning the plan to eliminate the school property tax through HB/SB 76 and it was very clear that he was not a supporter of the legislation.

Paul Mango had been a guest on the Sue Henry radio talk show on WILK (http://www.wilknewsradio.com/media/audio-channel/wilks-sue-henry-republican-paul-mango-running-pa-governor: go to the 14 minute mark of the interview) in June of 2017. In the interview, he stated he was in favor of eliminating or reducing the school property tax but then went on the criticize 76. His talking points were straight out of the playbook of the PSEA, the Chamber and other opposing groups. This was for good reason. He states in the interview that he talked to school district administrators and he was literally repeating their opposition talking points which have been refuted time and again.

Paul Mango criticized the tax shift using their 60% increase in PIT taxes. This is always a tactic used by our opposition to create shock and rejection. The truth is that the PIT would increase by 1.88%; less than 2 cents of every dollar earned. This is necessary to provide the dollar for dollar replacement of the money collected statewide from property taxes. Paul Mango stated his concern that 76 would drive the high income earners out of the state because of this PIT increase even though the PIT in many other states is higher than ours or they use graduated steps when those same people, Paul Mango claimed to be so concerned about, would be paying more in PIT revenue. He ignored that we are already watching an exodus of population in Pennsylvania largely because the property tax is making home-ownership unaffordable for many young working families in the state. He also choose to ignore that people were actually losing their homes to this tax. Thankfully, Sue Henry was there to point this out.

When the central Pa Tri-County Coalition met with him to interview him we had the opportunity to address his criticism and lay out the details of the bill. During that interview Paul Mango told us that he read the bill and understood it which concerned me because his criticism of the bill in those interviews contradicted the facts concerning the legislation. He re-addressed those concerns, which again, are not part of the bill he claimed to have read. By the end of the conversation, however, he agreed to sign a pledge that “If elected Governor, he would sign the bill if it came to his desk”

It was a start. He also agreed to have further discussion on this matter. Those discussions followed with a series of phone conversations with his staff where the same old criticisms of the legislation kept resurfacing. We provided them with data sets that backed up our positions that his local funding methods would not work.

They told us that they agreed and they told us they would support 76. Then Paul Mango gave an interview to the Caucus where he again returned to his preferred support of a local option, which we proved to him would not work. He repeated his previous claims of opposition to the legislation.

In the interview he returned to the local funding mentality. He states “I would not want the money to flow through Harrisburg” and then keeps going back to a local income tax to replace the funding. That simply won’t work. There are so many factors at play including the factor that in 3rd class cities where many lower income families live, there is PIT tax forgiveness for a family of four earning under $34,000. Under 76, that stays the same so the tax shift of 76 has far less impact on lower income working families. This point is often ignored by our opponents as they fight against claiming that the tax shift will hurt the poor while ignoring that its the property tax that is crushing the lower income working families.  Paul Mango states his concern but he appears to be more concerned about protecting  the higher income earners by pushing that tax burden on those earning less which is exactly what the property tax is already doing. The property tax, in all our studies, demonstrates that it is the most regressive tax in this state and you can read more about that in other places on this blog.

The simple truth is that SB 76 will not work unless we use a state funding source. That was clearly explained to Paul Mango and his staff. They went so far as to agree with us when talking to us but then stated a very different position afterwards.

He also misrepresents the lock-box provision of the legislation in the Caucus interview where he says “We saw it with Act 89. They are not using the dollars as we talked about for what it was supposed to.” This is right after he says he “read the whole bill, all 138 pages of it.”

The lock box is a critical component of the legislation that does not allow it to be raided for other purposes, unlike Act 89.

In the interview with the Caucus, Paul Mango then criticizes the remaining debt portion of the bill. This was something he also did on the Sue Henry interview where he misrepresents the retained debt portion implying that schools districts can extend or add to retained debt. That’s simply not true.

I can go on but I think you can see where this is going. He doesn’t really support the bill.

Then, following the backlash of his opposition in the Caucus, Paul Mango contacts us and says that he didn’t realize that HB/SB 76 was a grassroots bill and that now he is, once again, a supporter.

I’m sorry but a bill doesn’t become a good bill simply because it’s a grassroots bill. HB/SB 76 is a very good bill that had a great deal of grassroots support coupled to legislators who helped us put this whole thing together. We were a critical part at every stage of the development of this legislation.  They took our concept and helped us to turn that concept into solid legislation and that wasn’t an easy task.  The many hours of detailed analysis and study to make sure that this was the fairest way to find the replacement revenue to eliminate the property tax can never be underestimated.

In both the Caucus interview and in our interview with Paul mango he made the claim that he had read the bill. I’m not going to question that. If he says he read the bill I’ll take him at his word but it does make me question his reading comprehension skills if the claim of reading the Bill is true.  If he did and he really understood it, he wouldn’t be saying the things he’s saying. I find that very frustrating.

More recently, Paul Mango is claiming that he fully supports SB 76. He’s on the campaign trail using the very same rhetoric that others used in their claims of support for SB 76 but I’ve been down this road before and I doubt that what Paul Mango is saying on the campaign trail is accurately reflecting how he really feels behind the scenes on that legislation. Claimed support on the campaign trail will help him secure much needed votes just like it secured votes for Kim Ward and Tom McGarrigle who then voted against the legislation when it mattered.  While I appreciate that he’s talking about it, which does help to spread the word, in the process supporters of Paul Mango are ignoring the shifting positions on this legislation.  Maybe the simple reminder that Scott Wagner has been supporting the School Property Tax Elimination position all along and has worked with us in tweaking this legislation to make it the best it can be is worth mentioning here.  The same, however, cannot be said about Paul Mango.

There is a pattern here with regards to SB 76, that those of us who have worked so hard on the inside in pushing this legislation, have seen time and again. We all know it happens. It should come as no shock to us but yet is still does!

We all know that we elect people to office who tell us one thing on the campaign trail only to get elected and then turn their backs on their promises. My dilemma remains: Which Paul Mango do I believe; the Paul Mango that has been openly critical, returning to the same negative talking points about the legislation, or the Paul Mango that goes out on the campaign trail and promises to support it. They are, after all, diametrically opposing views.

The evidence that people want School Property Tax elimination is overwhelming. In Poll after Poll elimination through 76 wins. The statewide ballot initiative reinforces that position. If you follow the polls, then a savvy candidate will go out to the constituents and sell a position that reflects the polls but, as they always say, the devil is the details and when Paul Mango gets into the details his stated positions on the details of the legislation demonstrates that he does not really support SB 76.

I was willing to stay out of this debate until I was brought into it by Paul Mango where, at a recent campaign event, he made the claim that he talked to us and we trust his support of this legislation. I will not speak for the others but I don’t.

I also know that this will draw the ire of the Paul Mango supporters because it already has. In spite of the public comments, in spite of the Sue Henry interview, my personal conversation with Paul Mango has been called unverifiable by them because I didn’t record the interview and because I don’t have a written transcript of that dialogue. I’m just supposed to ignore, as they are, the highly critical statements made by Paul Mango after we had our discussions with him and now just blindly accept that he supports the legislation. I’m sorry but I can’t go there.

Some of my friends who just haven’t drunk the Paul Mango Kool-aid are noticing a trend.  If anyone posts anything that questions Paul Mango, his supporters come out of the woodwork and go on a rabid attack of Scott Wagner.  In that process they don’t defend the inconsistencies of Paul Mango.  The simply try to turn the question into an excuse to bash Scott Wagner.  In doing so they repeat misrepresentations or they attack the messenger all while avoiding simply explaining the inconsistencies with Paul Mango on some important issues.  I expect that I’ll find much of the same.

When it comes to the property tax, here is the simple truth.  Among the Mango supporters, none of them is even remotely tied to this issue the way people like David Baldinger, Myself or Ron Boltz have.  None of them knows what we know.  As Walter Brennan used to say in “The Guns of Will Sonnett“:  “No brag, just facts!”

When it comes to this particular issue, we know what we are talking about because we’ve been there, in the inside and we’ve seen things that many simply don’t see.  And it goes further than that….

In the candidate interviews as part of my part of the Central Pa Tri-County Coalition, I didn’t stop with the interviews. Nor did Ron Boltz.  It’s just foolish to blindly take any candidate at their word believing that they wouldn’t misrepresent the truth to us.  Don’t get me wrong, their are good guys out there but there’s a lot of bad guys too.  There are more than enough politicians who will tell you anything just to get elected and that’s nothing new.  That’s been going on as long as there have been free and open elections.    You have to dig to get to the truth.

We’ve done extensive research that includes looking at previous voting records (not just as a legislator) but as a private citizen. This was especially important to my own research.  I’ve looked into campaign donations by these individuals to other candidates. I believe this to be far more reflective of the candidate I’m researching because individual financial support demonstrates a personal investment and commitment.

Personally, I don’t give to State Party or local party committee’s because I know that money might wind up supporting a candidate that I would otherwise oppose in an election.  Unlike people who can afford to donate thousands and more to political campaigns, my financial resources are limited.   I jealously guard the limited financial resources I have to only give directly to a candidate that I have taken the time to study.

As someone who passionately opposed Common Core indoctrination in our Public Schools, I find the financial support of Jeb Bush in the presidential election of 2015-16 greatly disturbing and yet the majority of Paul Mango’s financial support went to backing Jeb Bush and his Right To Rise PAC in that Presidential election. It is no surprise to anyone who has done the research that Jeb Bush was a huge proponent of Common Core.   I find it difficult to accept that one would give over $30,000 to a political candidate who openly advocated for Common Core and not know it.  If they didn’t, that demonstrates a lack of fiscal accountability to me.  Elections are important.  Elections have consequences.  I would hope that we have all learned that lesson by now.

Equally alarming to me is the fact that the only candidate from Pennsylvania that Paul Mango gave financial support to was Pat Toomey. I’ve found no records of financial support to any Pennsylvania General Assembly candidates from Paul Mango or financial support to any of the judges in an election that allowed Democrats to seize a majority leading to the debacle we now have with the Congressional maps. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe there are records out there but it’s not registered on followthemoney.org and other place where this information is accessible to the public.

Not only am I unable to find where Paul Mango offered financial support to these races, he didn’t even bother to vote in many of the Pennsylvania elections.  And now he wants to be our Governor.

In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (http://www.post-gazette.com/early-returns/erstate/2017/06/07/Paul-Mango-candidate-governor-pittsburgh-businessman-spotty-voting-record/stories/201706070149) Paul Mango is quoted as follows:

“I wish I would have been more active politically earlier in my life,” Mr. Mango said in a statement issued by his campaign. “I did vote in every general election and have supported Republicans here in our state and nationally. I want for my family what every Pennsylvanian wants for theirs, a chance at the American dream, and that dream is fading here in our Commonwealth.”

Those are nice words but as the article goes on to explain, Paul Mango is being less than honest with those words when it comes to his voting records:

“According to Allegheny County voter records dating back to 1988, the Pittsburgh business consultant has failed to vote in every primary contest through 2015. (He did vote in the 2016 and 2017 primaries.) He has also frequently failed to vote in the November general election in odd-numbered years: He has voted only in four such elections out of 15 that have been held since 1988.”

I find this to be even more troubling. Look, I know that I’m a political junkie and I know that I get in the mire of things where the general public usually doesn’t go but misrepresenting your own actions to the public where there is evidence, if you are willing to look, that proves otherwise bothers me. Far too many people seeking office, however, know that the average voter doesn’t look into the backgrounds. They simply don’t have the time or lack the knowledge of knowing where to start to do the digging that should be done before casting their vote of support for a candidate.

It goes beyond the Property Tax and Paul Mango’s voting record.   I’ve found conflicting information in other areas as well. The most troubling aspect in all of this is Paul’s Mango position as a partner in the Pittsburgh Office of McKinsey and Company.  Paul Mango tells us that his business, in reference to McKinsey, is responsible for the creation of hundreds of jobs in the state.  If this is true, then Paul Mango is a very influential part of McKinsey and Company.  The truth, however is questionable.

The following appeared in a 2017 article on Penn-Live (http://www.pennlive.com/capitol-notebook/2017/07/friends_call_gop_guv_hopeful_p_1.html):

That’s because despite making extravagant claims about Mango’s skills as a job-creator, Mango’s campaign couldn’t produce a single example – anywhere in Pennsylvania – where he had done that.

In fact, the record of Mango’s former employer, McKinsey & Co, suggests that they are wizards in the black arts of corporate downsizing.

Paul Mango’s position at McKinsey is often spun as being a healthcare consultant which creates a very different impression from the reality of what his position was. McKinsey is a consulting firm hired by government and businesses, they do not offer healthcare advice to the general public, just on the policy that will impact the General Public.  To make matters worse, that policy hasn’t made healthcare choices better for the general public.  Some of that policy generated financial rewards to the healthcare industry and insurance companies at the expense of the working families.

Consider the following:  McKinsey’s involvement in key policy issues that have given us things like the Affordable Healthcare Act is deeply troubling to me. In 2009, the magazine The Economist included this quote from Paul Mango (https://www.economist.com/node/14031432)

The government gives hospitals some money to compensate them for this, but the AHA says it does not cover the full cost, which it put at $34 billion in 2007 (around 5% of hospitals’ annual revenues), up from $3.9 billion in 1980. Paul Mango of McKinsey, a consultancy, estimates that the hospitals recover only 10-12% of this cost. But he says the problem would be greatly reduced under a system of universal health-insurance…

Paul Mango’s statement concerning universal healthcare is more concerned about ensuring maximum benefit to hospitals while not so much about the fact that the shift to a universal healthcare system impact on the affordability of healthcare for the average joe.  This is typical of McKinsey’s terminology where they talk about “investment opportunites” and by that they mean you and me.  It’s about exploiting us for their profit.  I’ll cover that more in part 2 of this article.

On the campaign trail Paul Mango represent another diametrically different opinion of this topic. Again, which Paul Mango should I believe?

At the center of this election the matter of Scott Wagner’s support of a non-discrimination bill has been twisted and maligned going so far as to accuse Scott Wagner of being pro-choice. Again, this simply isn’t true.

Scott Wagner supported a non-discrimination bill that would have protected the rights of the LGBT community when it came to matters of jobs and housing. Scott Wagner has never supported the belief that men should be using bathrooms that are designated for a woman’s use. A provision in the bill makes it appear that the legislation allowed for that but that interpretation of the language in the bill has been highly debated.

Taking that and then attacking Scott Wagner as someone who is then pro-choice is absolutely astounding. Scott Wagner’s voting record proves the exact opposite. In fact, the misrepresentations have gotten so out-of-hand that the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation put out a clarification of Scott Wagner’s position on Right To Life. They said:

“[s]ome individuals who call themselves a name similar to the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation have put out a false report, suggesting that state Senator Scott Wagner is not pro-life. Wagner, a candidate for Governor in the May 15, 2018 Pennsylvania Primary Election, has a 100 percent pro-life voting record, has co-sponsored pro-life bills, sponsored a bus to the March for Life, and distributed a clear statement condemning Roe v. Wade, the tragic U.S. Supreme Court ruling which legalized abortion nationwide.”

Don’t miss one part of that. Scott Wagner personally supported a bus for the March For Life Rally. What has Paul Mango personally done to combat the plague of abortion in our nation? Yet we are simply supposed to take the word of Paul Mango and his supporters on this important issue.

The issue and promotion of this misrepresentation by Paul Mango and his supporters has gone so far that the State Republican Committee chair, Val DiGiorgio felt it necessary to come out and set the record straight.  Paul Mango simply isn’t telling the truth.  Val Digiorgio says:

“Scott Wagner has been a leader in the fight to protect the unborn in Pennsylvania. As a cosponsor of legislation that would eliminate dismemberment abortions, ban abortions after 20 weeks and defund Planned Parenthood, Scott’s pro-life record has been justly praised by organizations like the Pennsylvania Pro-life Federation.”

This led me to question some of the other things coming out of the Mango camp regarding Scott Wagner.  Let’s look at McKinsey’s official position of LGBT issues. One division of McKinsey and Company is their organization called GLAM. It is LGBT centered allowing GLAM to drive policy for McKinsey and Company.

On their own website they tell us how they push GLAM:

McKinsey is a founding sponsor of groups such as Reaching Out MBA in the United States and Brazil, Out for Undergraduates in Business, IvyQ, and Open for Business, a business-led coalition focused on the business and economic case for global LGBTQ rights.

You will find our LGBTQ consultants at many schools meeting with students and providing insight into the working and welcoming environment at McKinsey.

You can’t have it both ways. It’s hypocritical, to my way of thinking, to be attacking Scott Wagner for holding the same positions as McKinsey, in fact positions that far exceed Scott Wagner, while working as a partner at McKinsey with the influence in the company that Paul Mango claims to have had.

How much policy has GLAM, through McKinsey, pushed through the legislative process? Getting to the root of that is very difficult because McKinsey seems to like the position of being one of the most influential political consulting firms that few in public know anything about. In fact the standard statement out of McKinsey when questioned about their consulting positions is that they don’t talk about their involvement with the clients they consult. The positions being given to the firms they consult is not public knowledge and they want to keep it that way.

Then there is this simple fact:  In 2017, the Governor contracted with an outside firm using $1.8 million dollars of taxpayer funds to offer a no-bid contract to the consulting firm of McKinsey and Company to help him draft his budget proposal for 2017-18. This was at a time when Pennsylvania was facing a $700 million budget shortfall. Most of this happened out of public scrutiny since Steffi Langner, a spokeswoman for McKinsey, said it is her firm’s policy not to discuss any of its work with clients.

Scott Wagner came out highly critical of this effort by the Governor.  Pennsylvania was already facing a $700 million budget gap and hiring an outside consulting firm when we have Departments, Agencies and Commissions within the government whose job it is to do what they paid McKinsey and Company $1.8 million dollars to do really troubles me.  To then be told that the public isn’t supposed to know what McKinsey consulted with the Governor because that’s not their policy even though that money came from taxes collected from us, not from the Governor, angers me.

Paul Mango announced his candidacy after Scott Wagner went after the Governor and McKinsey.  We’ll have to draw our own conclusions on that one.

This is already too long, which I guess my readers are now somewhat used to, but I will be doing a follow-up to this article where I explore McKinsey’s connections to the push for Common Core. The public needs to know more about McKinsey and Company and what they do. You may be shocked at how much of our taxpayer dollars are being used to fund McKinsey’s and Company’s bottom line.

Their role in the promotion of Common Core and their role is advancing Sustainable Development ideologies coupled to their use of something they call “Big Data” should be something of concern to anyone interested in protecting personal Liberty. More on that to come….

 

I stand with CAP!

(A response to the much misaligned mailer from Citizen’s Alliance of Pennsylvania)

CAP (Citizen’s Alliance of Pennsylvania), recently sent out a mailer exposing the Republicans who voted against ensuring that taxpayers would no longer be able to be forced to pay for the collection of Public Sector Union Dues.  That money is then often used to fund elections that work against the policies that the majority of the Republican’s in this Commonwealth want.

The press and party establishment then jumped on the bandwagon to go after CAP for doing so.  They then made attempts to tie this directly to Scott Wagner.

Let’s clear up some of these points.  James Kennedy holds the title of Chairman Emeritus of CAP.  He is also chairing Scott Wagner’s Governor’s bid.  The title of Chairman Emeritus is a special honorary title for an individual who played a critical role in the establishment and advancement of an organization.  That doesn’t mean he’s calling all the shots at CAP anymore.  It also doesn’t mean that he is not without influence with CAP.  However, to blame Kennedy directly for these mailers without proof is irresponsible.  To then attempt to directly tie that to Scott Wagner takes that irresponsibility to new levels.

The mailer sent out by CAP specifically addresses a vote by Republican legislators.  You can see that mailer in the first source link below.

That is the only relevant topic here, in my opinion.  Does the mailer accurately reflect a specific vote on a specific issue and the answer to that is a resounding YES!

That vote results in the rest of us still having to pay to collect the union dues of public sector employees.  That vote promotes the legal plunder of taxpayer dollars to provide special protections to public sector unions.

To be clear, I don’t blindly stand with CAP in all of their positions any more than I stand with any organization in blindly supporting their positions 100%.  On this issue; in this matter; I stand with CAP.

Senator Rafferty uses the excuse that he couldn’t vote for the bill because he couldn’t get an exemption for first responders.

So let me understand that…Not supporting the legal plunder that forces taxpayers to pay for the collection of union dues, which will then largely be spent on getting Democrats elected to office, means we don’t support the individual police and firefighters.  Pardon me if I disagree.

Let’s turn to Bastiat for a minute:

Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.

We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.

Taxpayer dollars should not be used to pay for the collection of dues to any organization formed by the public sector.  They voted to unionize. Let them then pay for the collection of their own dues.  How they spend those dues then becomes irrelevant.  It is not our responsibility to pay for the collection of any organizations dues.  End of story.

In other words, let’s not allow for the legal plunder of the taxpayers to provide for a choice of association.

Forcing me to pay for the collection of those dues through legal plunder is a violation of the principles of association.

By the way, Senator Rafferty has no problem stonewalling a bill that would allow a special group of veterans in this state who restore military vehicles from having their own custom license plates.  He’s perfectly fine with forcing us to pay for for the collection of public sector union dues, but not okay with allowing a group of veterans who are performing a role in preserving the history of this country.  Using his own logic: is he opposed to veterans?

Party establishment comes out of the woodwork to attack CAP for exposing this vote.  They say that CAP’s drawing attention to this is destroying the unity of the Party.  Val Digiorgio went so far as to claim that CAP, and groups like them, would  “ensure the liberals like (Gov.) Tom Wolf and (U.S. Sen.) Bob Casey call the shots in government.”

The question given to Val Digiorgio avoids questioning if the party agreed with the vote of these legislators.  The only thing journalists seem to care about was whether or not the party played a role in it.

The journalists are avoiding the real issue here and that is the vote itself.

We are just supposed to ignore the fact that these Republicans voted against something the majority of the Republican’s in this state want; that they voted against party unity and then blame the messenger who informed us all of the vote.

If you want to make it easier for the liberal agenda in Pennsylvania, continue to allow the special protections to the public sector unions; continue to allow them to use our hard earned dollars to increase our tax burden to pay for the legal plunder of the collection of the union dues which will then be diverted in supporting candidates and issues many of us have opposed.

Republicans have the majority but we still can’t get critical legislation passed because of Republican Legislators who vote against the things many Republicans.  We have a super majority in the Senate but what good is it when we have these Republicans who vote with the other side more than they do our own party.  It’s not CAP who is ensuring the victory of the Liberal majority, it is the actual votes by legislators that is making this happen.

That can’t be, ignored.

And let’s understand something right now.  Party affiliation is not the issue here.  The particular bill and the issue of that bill is what matters to me.  I believe it is wrong to force me, or anyone for that matter, to pay, through taxation, for the causes which I, or they, do not support.  Those calling out CAP based on party unity have made that the issue and I’m simply pointing out their hypocrisy in doing so.

While screaming about preserving Party Unity, the same Republicans then push the blame to Scott Wagner because James Kennedy is chairing his re-election bid because an organization where Kennedy is CHAIR EMERITUS, put out a mailer asking us not to support the Republicans who aren’t supporting the will of the Republican Voter.

Who’s really guilty of violating Party Unity?   The legislators who vote against the Party or the activist organizations who expose that vote.

The implication is made that Scott Wagner was personally responsible for that mailer by connecting dots that do not necessarily lead to Scott Wagner.  Forget that, just buy the party’s rhetoric for the sake of party unity.

That should come as no surprise to us.  Wagner has often challenged the party establishment.  He’s been a thorn of contention with those who vote against principled party platforms.  In this case, however, making that connection directly to Wagner takes a stretch of the imagination not proven by facts which are made irrelevant through deflection.

This is an election season, and connecting dots that do not necessarily connect and then demanding those dots connect is typical opposition talking points.  Lying about the opponent so you don’t have to defend your candidates positions: redirecting and deflecting criticism from the one you support by attacking and even outright lying about the one you oppose is standard campaign fair.  Just because it exists, however, doesn’t make it right.

Are we not supposed to question our own when they vote against the things we want to see happen in this state?  Are we supposed to be silent when they betray us?

Most important, is it moral to call out the other side on their votes when we are pressured not to call out our own?

True investigative journalism should be covering all aspects of this vote, not just concerned with attacking the messenger.  It is the vote itself that matters and this vote concerned perpetuating the legal plunder of our income to provide for the protections of the public sector union’s ability to fund elections and, in my opinion, buy candidates.

That’s what this should be about: not merely who exposed it, but the actual vote and what that vote means.

The Commonwealth Foundation told us in April of 2017:

Though union dues cannot be given directly to candidates, dues can fund radio and TV ads, lobbying expenditures, get out the vote efforts, candidate endorsements, and PAC fundraising. Dues can also be funneled to SuperPACs, which in turn spend unlimited amounts of money supporting or opposing candidates.

  • Since 2010, government unions have diverted more than $46.7 million of members’ dues to political purposes. PSEA alone spent $23.2 million.

  • Several unions are not required to disclose political dues-spending details, while others wait until months after elections conclude to disclose expenditures. These practices obscure where unions leaders send their members’ hard-earned money.

The Republicans named in CAP’s mailer voted to make sure that continues to happen and they are upset that they were exposed for doing so.  To then have party leadership trash the messenger seems hypocritical to me.

A defense is made of this vote because some of the legislators are retiring or some of them have no opponents in the upcoming primary.  So what..that doesn’t change how they voted!   That doesn’t change the issue behind the vote!

If we are expected to stand down when Republicans vote against Republican positions because the Party Leadership says so, how will we ever see the reforms we need.

Let me create an example.  A playground is divided into two groups.  33% of the playground wants to steal the lunch money one particular kid to make their own lunches less expensive.  67% say no as a group but when it comes time to vote, enough of that 67% vote with the 33% to allow that one kid’s lunch money to be plundered.  Calling out those voted to allow such plunder is, according to this party unity logic, not okay because it doesn’t promote party unity.  We’ll just then pretend the one kid who has been plundered didn’t happen for the sake of party unity.

We’ll then deflect from the result of the vote to attack that one other kid who stands up and says that what just happened wasn’t right.

The right of peaceably assembling for the purpose of redressing our grievances against government, regardless of party, is a treasured right beautifully expressed in our Declaration of Independence.  Apparently, when it comes to party unity, that truth is no longer relevant.

There has been criticism of the timing of this release.  We didn’t time the vote on this legislation.  We didn’t vote.  They did.  The vote was then made public so the timing is not the question here in my opinion.  Was CAP supposed to wait until some later time when the release of this information would have been more convenient and just when would that be?

The arguments being made against the mailer implies that the information should not have been released at all.  They seem to prefer that we remain uninformed about how those we elect to office vote, especially when they vote against a reform measure that the majority of us want to see.  I guess unity means submission even when the vote is to legally plunder us.

Informed voters create better government.  The truth is that many of the reforms we want to see happen in this state do not happen because of the votes of Southeast Republicans who spend more time voting against the Party than with it.  Sure, we can blame the Democrats, but the reality is that when an important reform bill fails in the General Assembly, we don’t have to look to hard to find out why.

I don’t believe that the issue of not allowing unions to take taxpayer money to collect the dues of public sector employees is a far right issue. Painting it as such is disengenuous.  It is a betrayal of founding principles of both our State and Federal Government.

I believe the issue is one of the violation of my 1st amendment rights and a principle in violation of the inherent rights of all people especially regarding the right of association.  Forcing me to fund an organization through taxation that I would otherwise not choose to fund violates that most basic right.  I do not want, nor do I expect, others to pay for the groups I choose to align myself with or to fund the advancement of the issues that matter the most to me.

That’s not a right wing position and its not a Republican position.  It is a principled position.  I simply believe that nobody should have to endure plunder when the government steps in and forces us to financially support the issues, cause or organizations we disagree with.

Frédéric Bastiat warned:

Sometimes the law defends plunder and participates in it. Thus the beneficiaries are spared the shame, danger, and scruple which their acts would otherwise involve. Sometimes the law places the whole apparatus of judges, police, prisons, and gendarmes at the service of the plunderers, and treats the victim — when he defends himself — as a criminal…

But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime…

When a portion of wealth is transferred from the person who owns it — without his consent and without compensation, and whether by force or by fraud — to anyone who does not own it, then I say that property is violated; that an act of plunder is committed…

I say that this act is exactly what the law is supposed to suppress, always and everywhere. When the law itself commits this act that it is supposed to suppress, I say that plunder is still committed, and I add that from the point of view of society and welfare, this aggression against rights is even worse. In this case of legal plunder, however, the person who receives the benefits is not responsible for the act of plundering. The responsibility for this legal plunder rests with the law, the legislator, and society itself. 

On this I am in full agreement with Frédéric Bastiat.  It is a violation of our right to property, a violation of our inherent rights of association by choice and an abuse of the power of government is legislating the legal plunder of our property (income) to provide a benefit to a protected class of citizens.

Bad timing on not:  I stand with Bastiat and with CAP in the release of this mailer.

Those highly critical of this mailer are basing their positions on two aspects: 1) Party Unity, which this vote betrayed and 2) Blind support of legislators based solely on party name.  The issue at hand is ignored to attack what they perceive as right-wingers while deflecting from the issue at hand…the legislation and the principles of that legislation.

That seems to be the general discourse of dialogue today.  It doesn’t seem to matter what that issue is.  Deflect, misrepresent, attack the messenger but God forbid we actually discuss the issue especially when the issue is the protection of our individual rights to Life, liberty and Property!

The following sources were used for this posting:

1. http://www.cityandstatepa.com/content/wagner-campaign-chair-tied-attack-ads-targeting-fellow-republicans

2. https://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/policyblog/detail/policy-memo-government-union-political-spending-trends

3. http://bastiat.org/en/the_law.html

Have we come this far?

The most recent property tax elimination bill, SB76, has been around for a very long time. However, the problem with Property Taxes has existed much longer.

For 40 years the people of this Commonwealth have been trying to have reforms made to the property tax problem especially with regards to the school property tax. The answer has been, continually, to kick the problem further down the road and to not make the substantive reform the working families of this state need. Is it any wonder than that many Pennsylvania working families, not in the public sector, feel as though the state really doesn’t care about us?

I’m one of those people. I really wish I felt differently but it’s very hard to argue with the facts.

The School Property is often compared to other Property Tax and the historic use of the property tax is often used to defend the school property tax.

The truth is that these are two very different things.  Using the property tax to fund local County or municipal government has existed for about as long as there have been taxes, whether that was paying tribute to the Lords of Feudal societies or providing for the needs of County and Municipal government.  The School Property Tax in Pennsylvania as it exists today is a relatively newly created beast that has only existed since the 1960’s.  It is a mistake to group these things together since they are, by their nature, very different.

I believe that the implementation of the School property tax is just another way that Pennsylvania passed initiatives, no matter how well-intended, that hurt working families in this Commonwealth

A very recent example of how Pennsylvania treats the working family can be seen in the vaping tax that was put into effect in Pennsylvania. A new industry had begun to arise where small family owned businesses began to spring up across the state. Rather than responsibly dealing with spending problems the state saw this as a taxing opportunity and effectively passed legislation that put these small family owned businesses out of business. The small shops that sold vaping devices only closed their doors where the only shops that remained were the shops that also sold name brand products to be benefit of the cigarette industry.

We can turn to the pension crisis in this state. We all know its a problem. When legislation was introduced to actually do something about this problem it began the amendment process to water down the bill to make it ineffective. It became a band-aid approach to a problem that needed a tourniquet. We’ve seen the same things happen to paycheck protection and to prevailing wage laws.

The message is clear, protecting working families in this state is not a very high priority except when it comes to campaign rhetoric. In spite of what we are told during campaign season, when it comes to actually doing something that protects Pennsylvania Working families there is always an excuse to, instead, protect the campaign-funding special interest lobby factions in this state.

One way Pennsylvania attempted to reign in the property tax problem was to introduce an act that would allow for voter referendums if school districts exceeded a specific percentage set by the government. Let’s be more precise: set by the Department of Education, the bureaucracy established to regulate and protect public schools in this state. The school lobby pushed for exemptions to this voter referendum that effectively allowed school districts to raise taxes above the limit without going to voter referendum. They neutered the legislation making it ineffective for working families to have a voice in local tax increases.  It failed to do what was intended.  Tax increases above the index never went to voter referendum.

We complained and so they decided to reduce the number of exemptions making it appear as though they were, once again, doing something to help protect the non-public sector working families of the state.  The three remaining protections to the schools district, at the working families expense, left the door open wide enough that voter referendums, when school districts wish to exceed the limit established by their own Department of Education, they can and they do…constantly.

Recognizing that the property tax was a problem the government established KOZs (Keystone Opportunity Zones). This gave a local establishing business the benefit of not paying a property tax to help us establish new businesses in the state while creating jobs and generating PIT and SUT revenue from those new jobs.

It sounds like a good policy on the surface until you realize that to pay for this, the tax burden was shifted to private homes which generate no income from their home to pay for the additional tax burden.

The government then established a new program called LERTA (Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance). This is just another government sponsored program that pushes a higher property tax burden on working families in the Commonwealth. When LERTAs were established they were defended because it allowed for tax deferment to businesses for blighted properties where tax incentives were used to transform those blighted properties into productive business in the revitalization of that property to add to community appeal.

We all want more jobs and an more attractive community but again, it sounds good on the surface but both KOZ and LERTA are not really tax exemptions, they are tax shifts that transfer that cost to the working families.  That cost is hidden from us.  We don’t really know how much of our property tax is being used to pay for the exemptions provided to others.  In short, part of our property taxes has nothing to do with taxing your property to help provide to services to you, it’s being used to give taxpayer money to a business that can actually harm other established businesses in your community because it creates a protected business at the expense of home-owners and other businesses in the area.

For every success story, there are a hundred stories of abysmal failure.  We don’t track the cost of the KOZ or LERTA programs. Yes, we’ll hear about the economic benefits and the jobs created through these programs but the real crux of the matter is cost effectiveness. Does the cost of the program cover the job creation benefits and in most independent studies that have tried to look into this, the answer is a resounding no!

I live in an area that made extensive use of the KOZ initiative. I’ve seen more than our share of local business established that took advantage of passing that cost on to the rest of us and once the KOZ expired, those business moved to different locations. The promise of local tax payers investing in our communities through carrying that property tax burden is simply never realized. So I challenge you, when was the last time you heard a politician talk about this on the campaign trail.

When was the last time you heard county officials talk about this publicly? It does happen.  Our County Commissioner, Bill Ames, has openly discussed this problem as our County Commissioner. Good for him!  I’m grateful for his willingness to discuss this but I also realize that it doesn’t make him popular with the political campaign-funding machines. While it does happen, it’s also rare. The reason its rare is because of those campaign funding machines.

Just one of those campaign funding machines is the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. They have a sister organization called the Keystone Research Center that is. essentially, just the same organization with a different name.  It is one of many that does the same thing:  Establish a lobbying/policy firm that has subdivisions of the same organizations to make it appear as though they are different when they are not.

During a government held hearing on the elimination of the school property tax it was pointed at that 10,000 people are losing their homes every year because of the property tax. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center’s response was to make the claim that 10,000 people losing their homes is not a significant enough reason to do something about this problem.

They made no attempt to refute the facts of that number. They made no attempt to discuss alternate solutions or, for that matter, to even admit to the problem. They simply dismissed those who have lost their homes due to the property tax problems as being insignificant. Translation: Insignificant=Those people don’t matter!

In 2016, 4,600 people died from Opioid related addiction, according to Governor Wolf.  We have declared this as being, not just a crisis, but an epidemic.  I don’t refute that, nor do I refute the number but using Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center’s rational, 4,600 people in this Commonwealth is not a significant enough reason to do anything about the problem.  I don’t agree with that rationale.  In fact I strongly disagree with that rationale.  If I made such a statement before the General Assembly in a public hearing I would be crucified and probably (and I believe rightfully) never asked to testify in front of them again.  So why didn’t that happen with  the Pennsylvania Policy and Budget Center?

The board of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and their sister affiliation, the Keystone Research Center is a who’s who of labor union affiliated members.  As of 2017, Pennsylvania’s top 13 government union PACs contributed $26 million to candidates since 2010. Of that total, $20 million came from the top three unions representing government workers: PSEA, AFSCME, and SEIU.

The School education industry is quick to complain about the Pension Problem and many people interpret that as them wanting to do something to actually fix the problem. You have to listen closely during this debate and when you do you discover that their solution in fixing the way the Pension itself is designed isn’t to reform the Pension system. Their solution is that taxpayers need to pay more to keep the existing system afloat even if that means people have to lose their own retirements and homes in the process.

We know that bad investments by PSERS (Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System) has resulted in years where the investments performed so poorly that the guaranteed return had to be met from other revenue sources. That other revenue source is the non-public sector working family. Yet when an accountable defined contribution plan is introduced as a solution, the campaign-funding special interest machines come out making use of taxpayer money collected through forcing taxpayers to pay for the collection of union dues, and the measure fails. We can’t even manage to stop using the taxpayers to pay for the collection of these dues. Why?

Can it be that we simply don’t matter enough to find real and substantive solutions to the problem that meets the retirement needs of those in the Public Sector without stripping the working family from their own retirements and homes?

We also know that there are questions of inappropriate actions by the marketing investors who are making huge profits in the defined benefit system. Why can’t we get legislators to actually do something about this? Why is it so hard for them to understand that many of us simply feel like we don’t matter?

Pennsylvania is losing population. We are seeing more people leaving this state to move to other states. We know that part of the reason for this is because of lack of jobs coupled to the tax burden on working families in this state. The campaign funding-corporate position is to create more government programs that benefit the job creating industry but to fight any and every initiative that comes along to protect the working family in this Commonwealth. It would appear as though they don’t really care how much it costs the consumer as long as it benefits the corporate interest.

I understand the desire to protect your own interests but crushing consumers in the business environment is non-productive. Consumers should be the heartbeat of the corporate entities but when the government is there to provide the taxpayer funded welfare to these organizations through taxpayer funded grants, subsides and bailouts you remove the business responsibility to the consumer and make them accountable to government. This should come as no surprise to us since this model of welfare for the business community is the same being used to promote the social welfare programs. Push the financial burden, not on government, but on the shrinking middle class taxpayer.

The government doesn’t make money. Every dollar they spend is money taken from you and me. The growth of the administrative state, or deep government as it is called, comes at a very heavy price. We spend more money on these administrative bodies than we do on those we elect to office. There are more administrators in these created bodies than people we elect to office.

CommonwealthOrganizationalChartLarger-page-001

The above chart was recently made public showing the state of deep government in Pennsylvania. We don’t get to vote on their regulations which will drastically impact the tax burden we all face. We don’t get to vote on their fees and fines. In many cases, our General Assembly has delegated this authority to them without our consent. We don’t even get to vote on who holds these positions. If that’s not the definition of TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION, I don’t know what is!

The question arises:  Have we come this far in the betrayal of the principles that established this nation?

We can dig deeper and discover that many of the people in these positions are there because of roles they played in the campaign funding machines that help candidates get elected and incumbents hold on to their seats. It’s all part of protecting the campaign-funding machines in government. Once in position they will advance these protections and their agendas which are often opposite of the constituent position on these issues.

Recently there is this push to reduce the size of the legislature. We hear arguments like “reducing the size of the legislature will save the taxpayers money and it will cut down on the pension costs”.

I wish those same people felt as passionate about the Administrative State which is costing us far more money than our General Assembly. I am just supposed to ignore the fact that less legislators gives the establishment politicians more power while also empowering the campaign-funding special interest machines.

It will also result in more powers being delegated to the Administrative bodies resulting in more financial burden to the working families of the state.

The very idea that is being sold to the public purely from a questionable economic position is disingenuous.   It is a plan that will increase the power of those who hold office and those who fund them while reducing the power and voice of their constituents.

It won’t make it easier to get laws passed that protect working families in this state.  It will have the reverse effect: It will become harder.

It won’t make it harder to buy elections, it will become easier.

Less elected officials means less money has to invested in individual campaigns for the campaign-funding interest because there are less races to fund. In the meantime, the cost of getting elected will rise making it much harder for someone to rise up to challenge an incumbent. It becomes incumbency protection that has little regard for protecting individual constituents. That couldn’t be because we really don’t matter to them…or could it?

We look at elections through terms like “electability” and what that really means is the ability to raise money prior to and during the campaign season. We fight for transparent government so we get websites that allow us to follow the money but that is never put into a perspective that we can truly understand. It offers a glimpse into a very ugly big picture but we don’t really get to see the big picture itself.

What percentage of that campaign funding comes from individual citizens and working families compared to the percentage of money being raised by campaign-funding special interests? What’s even harder is to find out who is behind all these PACS and where that money is coming from or how that money is moving from organization to organization.

The Public Sector Unions are filtering money through these PACS and it’s next to impossible to track all of that down unless it becomes your full-time job. Even then you aren’t going to find it all.  To be blunt but realistic: it’s not an option for the average working stiff in Pennsylvania because they already have full-time jobs while trying to put food on their families tables. Their kids have sporting events, music recitals and other activities. They have less time to be politically activated and the campaign-funding machines want it to stay that way.

That’s not entirely true, they actually want to make it harder for us while telling us all they are fighting for more transparency.

I spend a great deal of my personal time doing the digging. Research is about 90% of what I do. I don’t get behind any issue until I have had sufficient time to explore the issue, the actual bill and the money involved. Many people know who I am because of the time I’ve spent publicly on the property tax issue. What many of those people don’t know is how much of that time is spent on compiling data, doing county by county comparisons, and other analysis. If I had 50 cents for every unpaid hour I’ve put into the research into this one issue, I’d be a very wealthy man. It’s not the only issue where I’ve spent considerable time researching.

Don’t misinterpret that. I don’t expect to get paid to do what I’m doing. I’m not asking for compensation. I’m just saying that just because a person doesn’t get paid to have an opinion, doesn’t mean that opinion or the facts they are stating should be invalidated.

To then be asked to sit on a panel debate on this issue where those of us who have done the research are outnumber by 20 to one by those who are repeating talking points handed to them by campaign-funding opposition factions that have fed them intentional misrepresentations of the legislation while having my hands tied so I can’t refute each individual misrepresentation becomes an exercise in futility. It’s not that we should have our people there. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not my intention. We need to have our people engaged in this debate but we also have to stop and look at what we are up against.

I don’t want to see that type of debate strengthened to weaken our voices and that’s what I see happening more and more.

We’ve been sold on a lot of bills based on a bill title or a bill summary but when you actual dig into the legislation and you read what’s in the actual bill you begin to realize that a very large percentage of the bills sold on good intentions and clever-sounding names betray both.

On more than one occasion we have been challenged by our opposition through the question of what qualifies us to have the opinion we hold on the property tax issue. It’s important to note here that this question is not questioning the facts…it’s not questioning the arguments. It’s making a statement that I, and others like me, have no official connection to some campaign funding political machine and therefore am not entitled to publicly express those facts and opinions derived from those facts or to comment on policy in general.

That just reinforces my sentiment that the working class average Joe doesn’t matter. Unless I’ve been indoctrinated through some institution of higher learning and aligned to some well-funded political activist organization, I don’t matter to them. I will be dismissed and I will be defined as someone who is insignificant. Forget the facts; forget the data; forget everything else. Then they wonder why more regular citizens are not engaged.

Recently one representative in Pennsylvania was questioned as to why he voted against an important paycheck protection bill. He said he voted the way he did because he supports police and fire-fighters. So do I. That doesn’t mean I think they are a protected class where their unions can extract money from their members using my tax dollars to support issues that hurt working families in this state and are even positions that many of their own members do not support. Claiming that not supporting a union position means I don’t support police and fire-fighters at all is ridiculous. This same representative is blocking a veterans groups attempts in having a custom license plate developed. Using his own arguments, wouldn’t that imply that he is opposed to veterans.

This is the pretzel logic we face everyday. I’m not opposed to unions. I just don’t think that my tax dollars should be used to collect any union dues…period. While I care about how those dollars are spent, when it comes to using tax-payer dollars to collect those dues, that becomes irrelevant to me. I don’t expect the government to force other taxpayers to pay for the collection of the dues to the organization I chair or to provide for our organization in any way. I don’t expect any special government protections at all. Having the right of freedom or association is not the right to force government, which means other taxpayers, to provide for it…end of story.

I can go on but this is already too long. The fact of the matter is simply this: I can cite example after example, regardless of campaign and political rhetoric and the public intentions of programs established by government and the campaign funding machines who have their ears, that have hurt the working families of this state and this nation. I can cite example after example where social and corporate welfare, supposedly created to help us, is actually hurting us…not only hurting us but forcing more and more individuals and businesses to become dependent on the government welfare model.

Earlier I asked a question:  Have we come this far in the betrayal of the principles that established this nation?

Dependency is the opposite of Independent and last I checked they still haven’t changed the name of the document that inspired this nation or the meaning of the word in it’s title.

The Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (Not some men defined by their credentials or affiliations, but all men) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed (All governed, not just those who participate in election racketeering), — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People (All people, not just the government created protected classes) to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

In November of 2017 the legislators in the state of Pennsylvania put the question to the voters. The majority told them plainly and clearly that we’re tired of the Property Taxes in Pennsylvania. We demonstrated that the campaign funding special interest out there are on the wrong side of this issue. In spite of the money they spent to defeat this measure, in spite of their credentials and affiliations, they do not represent the position the people of this Commonwealth. It remains to be seen what this will mean in our General Assembly. Will they look at the voting results and say the people have spoken or will they sit in their offices fighting against what the people want in the pursuit of their own Safety and Happiness?

I’m going to close this with a video. Watch it until the end and see who gets the bill? That’s the most important part of this video and it really does reflect a very truthful political reality. I’m not saying that all politicians are guilty because I know that there are still some good guys out there. I will go so far as to say there aren’t enough of them to affect the difference that working families need to see in our government.

So I ask you again:  Have we come this far in the betrayal of the principles that established this nation?

IFO Report, Aging Demographics and the Pennsylvania Property Tax.

A new report, Aging and the Pennsylvania Economy, from the Independent Fiscal Office gives us some very telling information.  The report tells us that between 2010 and 2017 we had a 5.1% loss in population for Pennsylvania residents up to 20 years of age.  This amount to a loss of about 163,000 school-aged children.  The report projects that this trend will continue and that by 2025 we will see another drop in student population by another 29,000.  I, have to admit to questioning this projected number.  Trends show a great exodus of population among working aged families and I believe this will contribute to a greater loss of student-aged population than projected.

The report continues stating that we saw a loss in working-aged population (20-65) from 2010 to 2017 by 67,000.  The Independent Fiscal Office projects that this will translate into another loss between 2017 and 2025 of 103,000.   This is one of the major reasons I doubt the much lower projected student-population decline.  The majority are children born are to working-aged individuals.  If the Pennsylvania working aged-population declines at a much greater number from 2017-2025 than it did the previous seven years than student-aged population will also continue to decline at a greater rate.

The report also states that senior population is growing.   From 2010 to 2017 the senior population (65-75) had grown by 303,000.  There’s a slight drop in the retiree-aged population (75-84) of 7,000 but a growth in the over 85 bracket by 27,000 all between 2010 to 2017.

We know that there has been an exodus of out-migration in population away from Pennsylvania over the last several years leading to a decline in total state population.  In all those reports that I’ve seen, there is no demographic breakdown of the total loss in population but this report would indicate that the largest demographic leaving the state is the working-aged family.  That will contribute greatly to the loss of student-aged population.  It will also generate a much higher fiscal responsibility on the remaining working-aged families to provide for the growing program needs of a growing above 65 population.

The Independent Fiscal Office report also tells us that total workforce participation has decreased by 2.1% from 1997 to 2017.  In 1997, 64.5% percent of the population aged 20 and over was in the workforce.  Today that percentage is 62.4%  The decline is in Labor Force participation between the ages of 20 and 44.  Not only do we have less working families between the ages of 20-64 fewer of them are in the workforce which tells us that some of the in-migration numbers of people who are relocating to Pennsylvania are also people who are not in the workforce.

For the over 65 age demographics, more seniors are in the workplace than before.  In 1997, 10.2% of that age group was still in the workforce.  Today 19.3% of the 65 and over age group is in the workforce.  Even though many in this age group have already paid for their homes, which makes up the largest debt portion for Pennsylvanians, many of them are forced back in to the work force to provide for the demands of school property taxation.  This is also fueling a growing number of seniors turning to reverse mortgages in their attempts to keep their homes.

This information is important if we are to look at the growing problems related to the dependency of school education funding on a property tax.

First, we’ve seen a seven year decline in student-aged population of 163,000 and yet the cost of educating those children has increased during that same time period.   The Independent Fiscal Office estimates the future statewide property tax burden to increase $530 million annually, or more than 1 billion every two years, according to an earlier report (School District Property Tax Report, released January, 2018)

It other words, from 2010 to 2017 we saw a growth in the cost of property taxation burden by slightly more than $3 billion dollars.  By 2025, we will see an additional growth in property tax burden by almost $5 billion dollars for a total burden of growth that will exceed $8 billion dollars.

In 2010, the cost to completely replacing the school property tax was about $13 billion dollars.  In 2025, that cost will exceed $21 billion.

At the same time, we also know that wages in the private sector are not keeping up to the pace of the demands of the property tax burden.  We also know that the debt burden in the private sector is growing.  The Aging and the Pennsylvania Economy report from the Independent Fiscal Office tells us that housing debt is the largest portion of that debt.  The report also discloses that since 2013 there have been 8,549 reverse mortgages filed in Pennsylvania citing another report “The Graying of American Debt,” by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

We know that home-ownership is dwindling in Pennsylvania.  Fewer working families are purchasing homes with more people turning to rental properties to provide shelter from themselves and their families.  Today about 60% of homes are owner occupied with 30% renter occupied and another 10% of the homes vacant (not including designated vacation homes) according to a 2017 report from Penn State University.

Couple this to a declining population and you have a declining taxable base that must meet the demands of the growing education funding mechanisms leaving less disposable income and generating higher debt obligations.

In the 10 year cycle from 1987 to 1997, the Pennsylvania Economic Growth statistic was 2.5%. Over the next 10 years (1997-2007), Economic growth in Pennsylvania dropped to 2.1%; from 2007 to 2017 economic growth dropped to 1.3%.  At the same time, the burden of property tax grew dramatically and yet finding a report correlating the above-inflationary rate of growth in property taxation to the decline in Economic Growth is next to impossible.   Maybe that’s just one of those dirty little secrets we simply do not want to admit.

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You simply can’t keep increasing the tax burden on working families and not expect negative consequences, nor can you keep increasing the tax burden on the business communities and not expect to see the negative consequences of fewer jobs, less expansion and even less inwards migration of new industry in the state.  There is a reason Pennsylvania is at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to attracting new businesses to the state.  While Right To Work legislation would help attract jobs to the Commonwealth, 21 other states do not have Right To Work Laws and still manage to attract more businesses to their state than Pennsylvania.  It’s time we start asking why.

It’s true that Pennsylvania has the second highest corporate tax rate, second only to Iowa but even Iowa attracts more business to its state  than Pennsylvania.  It’s also true that while Pennsylvania has the second highest corporate tax rates, it also has the second highest amount of corporate welfare and yet Pennsylvania still can’t attract more business to the state.  Pennsylvania is resource rich and ideally located as a center on the East Coast, and yet we still can’t attract more businesses to the state.  So what’s the problem….it couldn’t be the corporate tax rate coupled to the rising costs of school property taxation…or could it?

Even though state income through PIT and Sales tax is not growing the way it was 20 years ago, it still grows naturally without the need of tax increases.  Even though the population in the state is declining, we have added to the revenue through the natural growth of PIT and SUT revenue in the state without increases taxes.

The property tax simply doesn’t work that way.  In order to generate more revenue, they must raise the taxes because property taxation does not grow naturally with the economy.  Those property tax increases produce economically damaging results.  When the Pennsylvania population declines, the PIT and SUT revenue still increases without tax increases but when student population declines, the revenue demands increases and those demands require tax increases.

Those property tax increases than generate less personal spending statewide because of less disposable income so spending drops resulting is less revenue generated through the SUT tax.  Higher business property taxes results in slower wage growth and less job creation result in slowing the PIT revenue generated to meet state funding needs.

The property taxes increases also contribute to the growing problem of blight in our communities.  With less disposable income, there is less money to re-invest in home maintenance or improvement.

As population declines the need for new home construction slows as well.  According to the Penn State study, Pennsylvania Facts 2017, Pennsylvania ranks 6th among states and the District of Columbia in the proportion of housing units built in 1939 or earlier (26.7%).  That means that 43 other states have higher numbers in new home construction to meet population demands than Pennsylvania.  Could that be because our population demands are declining  while other states aren’t faring as poorly.

The fact of the matter is that unless Pennsylvania changes it course of action, things are not going to get better in Pennsylvania.  While we may a have a state slogan that says “You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania”, for those of us still living here we can say “Yes, but we have many other friends in many other states who used to be our neighbors in Pennsylvania.”

There has been a recent amount of chatter about replacing the school property tax for homestead only with a PIT only increase.  Looking at the above data, I see this as a recipe for disaster.  While 19.3% of the senior population is still in the workforce, the remaining 80.7% are not and Pennsylvania does not collect PIT revenue from retirement income.

To me, this is an unsustainable option that puts the burden of state education funding on a shrinking number of working families in the state.  I see this as a plan that will accelerate the out-migration of working-families while growing the senior population as well as the in-migration of more younger families who do not participate in the labor force.  Neither results would be part of a plan that looks to the future prosperity of the state.  It is, in my opinion, irresponsible.

Forcing more working families to consider leaving the state may reduce student population but that demonstrates no historical record of reducing the overall cost of education.

We have to get off this course of action that keeps expecting the working families in this Commonwealth to give more and more towards failing policies in this state.  We should be working to attract more working families to the state, not less.  That’s done through making Pennsylvania a better place for family sustaining jobs.  While the reliance on property taxation to fund education remains a dark blot of Pennsylvania’s economic future, going to a PIT only replacement for Homestead only does nothing to attract new industry to the state and discourages in-migration of working families while encouraging out-migration of the same demographic.

Then again, this is Pennsylvania so what else would we expect from a General Assembly that has continually kept Pennsylvania on a path of negative economics results.  To those legislators who have fought to restore Pennsylvania working for common sense solutions to our financial problems, I say thank you. A PIT replacement for homestead only school property exclusion, however, is NOT one of those common sense solutions!

 

Another Tax Hike in Lebanon City

Well it is 2018 and we already heard from the Lebanon School District.  Lebanon residents will be looking at a possible 6% increase in their millage rates in connection to their school property taxes.  The school millage rates in the city are already the highest millage rates in the county.  City residents pay 20.04 mills which is 5.11 to 6.15 mills higher than anywhere else in the county. A 6% increase would set the millage rate at 21.2424.  That will translate into an additional $1 dollar for every $1,000 of assessed property worth.  A 6% increase in the property tax would be above the Act 1 limits  and that would require a voter referendum for approval but no fear for the school district; they can apply for an exception for the referendum which will be rubber stamped by the department of education.  It’s a sure thing for them.

According to city-data, the median price house in Lebanon County is $168,500.  If that home was located in the city of Lebanon the school property taxes on that home would be $3,579.34 using the new millage rate.  The same priced home in Myerstown would see a school property tax of $2,339.76: a difference of $1,245.58; In the Cedar Crest District the school property taxes on a home assessed at $168,500 would see a school property tax of $2,477.15: a difference of $1,102.19.  The fast is that a $168,500 home anywhere else in Lebanon County pays at least $1,000 a year less in property taxes than for the same price home in the city.  Ask yourself, should taxes on a home be $1,000 more in the center of the city than the same priced home just 3 short miles away in any direction?

Adding insult to injury, the median household income is about $20,000 a year less in the city than it is in the rest of the county.  The income level in the city is so low that the school district went to a free lunch program for all students regardless of income because the overwhelming majority of children qualified, and yet the millage rates their parents pay through the school property tax is the highest in the county….Go figure!

Blighted properties becomes a problem in 3rd class cities.  Lebanon is no exception but when you have less income and pay higher taxes to provide shelter for yourself and your family, where is the money supposed to come from to maintain that property?

Over the last 20 years, home ownership has declined in the city with more properties becoming rental properties.  That doesn’t mean the renter doesn’t feel the crunch of a property tax.  Even though many renters mistakenly think they don’t pay property taxes, when a landlord sees continual increases in their property taxes, they have to make adjustments to the rent to keep up with that tax  The rising cost of rent adds to the problem of transient school population which only adds to the cost of education.    It also adds to the burden or subsidizing housing for low income families.  A rising property tax will raise the cost of rent which will generate the need to provide more revenue to subsidized housing which comes from taxes at the state and federal level.

As a city resident, I’ve seen this for myself.  My neighborhood, in the last 15 years, has transformed from a largely home ownership neighborhood to a rented property neighborhood.  I’ve also seen blight increase, deal with continually changing neighbors, and other problems.   When we moved here we were just 2 block away from the downtown area where there were affordable family restaurants and store

At the same time, the downtown area has slowly transformed from corner drug stores, clothing stores, newsstands, movie theaters and other retail business to become the place to go in the county for pawn shops and bail bonds.   There is very little industry in the city limits, no malls and no major chain grocery stores within the city limits.  More than 30% of the property in the city limits is tax-exempt.  It is any wonder.  When you property tax bill is more than 30% higher than it would be anywhere else in the county, why stay or locate in the city. For the working family, since there are few family sustaining job options for them within the city limits, they travel to work and with higher gas prices, that leaves them with less disposable income to support local businesses.

The KOZ and LERTA properties provide tax abatements but that just shifts the tax burden onto working families and renters.

Then I read an article concerning Cambria County.  Of the 87,000 properties in the county, 12,000 are behind on their taxes: that’s 14% of the properties in the county.  2,100 of that 12,000, or almost 18% of that number, will go up for tax sales this year. The article I read puts all the blame on the delinquent taxpayer and accepts no responsibility for the burden they have put on the property owners that contributes to this problem.

Oddly enough, supporters of property taxation will tell us that property taxes are stable.  I’m sorry but if 18% of the population isn’t paying the tax for whatever reasons, that’s not stability.  The beauty of property tax is that they can just push the unpaid delinquent taxes on those who can and do pay…that is until there’s not enough of them to sustain this egregious practice.

The fact of the matter is that when it comes to homeowners, our homes simply don’t generate any income to provide for this tax.  We pay the tax through our income but since it’s not based on income, it doesn’t reflect an ability to pay.  That certainly evident in Lebanon County where those earning the least b\pay the highest tax per thousand dollars of property worth in the entire county.

That doesn’t seem to matter to the supporters of property taxation.  Since property taxation outpaces rates of inflation, our income also doesn’t keep up with the demands of property taxation.  That doesn’t seem to matter as well.

The article I read concerning Cambria County, the tax collector brags that homes can be bought much cheaper than usual stating that some of the homes sell for as little as $200 in these auctions.  They’ll still have to pay any unpaid taxes or mortgage balances on top of that $200 but let that sink in.

A senior finds themselves in a place where they can no longer keep up with the taxes.  Their home is paid for but with rising costs of heating their homes, medical expenses and other costs of living, the tax exceeds their ability to pay.  The government then steps in and takes that home, sells it for pennies of its worth to some property investment company and the senior homeowner loses all investment in that home including any equity that home had accrued.  Supporters of the property tax call this justice and stability.

A serious injury or illness can leave a family in a difficult position where they face losing their homes.  Even though they can pay the mortgage, they just can’t keep up with the increasing demands of the property tax collectors.  They’ll lose their home.  If it is seized for tax delinquency, they’ll also lose any investment in that home and any equity that home may have accrued.

It forces people into desperate conditions where they try and sell their homes before it’s seized for taxes.  In the event that they do, they’ll often sell it for much less than the home is worth because they’ve been forced into a situation that is out of their control.  The new home owner then takes that lower selling price and appeals the taxes that can result in lower taxes for the new owner than it was for the previous owners who were taxed out of their ability to pay.

The most recent report from the Independent Fiscal Office concerning Property Taxation tells us that the estimated total statewide property tax collections for FY 2016-17 and FY 2017-18 are $14.0 billion and $14.4 billion, respectively. Collections are then projected to increase by roughly 3.3 percent per annum during the forecast period, reaching $17.0 billion in FY 2022-23.  A $3 billion dollar increase from 2017 top 2022 is a little over a 21% increase in property taxes.  Take your current property tax and multiply it by 21% and then ask yourself, in just 5 years, if you will still be able to afford your property taxes.

At the rate that the city of Lebanon is going, the path of Cambria County seems to be the preferred path for the school district.  It is unsustainable there and it’s just getting more unsustainable for more people in the city of Lebanon.

Here in Lebanon City we always hear the same thing every time there is another school property tax increase.  We’re told that it’s just the cost of a cup of coffee day.  We hear this virtually every year.  Over the last 10 years that’s 10 additional cups of coffee even though my home really isn’t increasing in value nor are our family wages.  If it keeps on going up we’ll have to cut back on our coffee intake.  That’s okay though because I really doubt that 10 cups of coffee a day is a healthy option but then again, neither is the property tax.

Sources: 

 

Time To Separate The Wheat From The Chaff

In November of 2015, the Senate narrowly defeated a measure that would have eliminated the school property taxes.  The vote was a tie vote broken by the Lt. Governor.  Since the defeat of that legislation the taxpayer burden to Pennsylvania Homeowners has increased by more than one billion dollars.  That amount is $19,231 times the median HOUSEHOLD INCOME in Pennsylvania.  Had this legislation passed the additional PIT and SUT in the legislation would have generated an additional $700 million for education funding without the need for additional tax increases.  As far as I am concerned, our opposition owns that tax increase.  It’s their fault that we saw this increase.  They can point their fingers all they want, but it belongs to them.

Those who tell me that they are against tax shifts but are also opposed to tax increases-you’re opposition to SB 76 helped to add to the additional tax burden of one billion dollars on working families in this commonwealth.  You own this tax increase as well.  You’re future opposition will continue to add to that burden to the tune of more than a billion dollars every two years.

The legislation was an attempt to generate replacement revenue to provide for the complete elimination of property taxes for all property including farmstead, commercial, rental and private homes.

We fought against a wide variety of lobbyist efforts who used tools of misinformation and misdirection to create confusion and distractions.  This fight against us included groups that we fought hard to bring about the elimination of their property taxes.  The fight went so far as to use taxpayer money collected through the property tax to fund campaigns in opposition to the school property tax elimination proposal.

In 2017, a referendum went out to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania where they overwhelmingly told legislators how they felt about the school property tax.  That referendum passed by a large enough margin to demand that something be done about it.

Throughout this time, some of us have been working on pushing this measure forward through the legislative body again.  There is talk of shifting to a homestead only property tax elimination bill.  This would eliminate the school property tax on all primary residences in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.   This would not include any property that is not a primary residence owned by the homeowner so it would not include rental properties, business properties or farmland that is not used solely for primary residency.

We are restricted at this point in time of publicly commenting on what these alternative proposals will be because we have no definitive plan to work with.  There have been proposals but numbers must be verified before anything definite can move forward.  Publicly commenting on these proposals at this point in time is counter-productive.  As we have seen in the past, our opposition will move in full force at any suggestion of any plan to eliminate school property taxes in any measure.  We have seen that they will resort to misinformation and misdirection to accomplish that goal.

I know this is frustrating.  It is like watching a football game and trying to figure out the strategy of the game from the sidelines.    It is frustrating for us as well.  As much as we want to speak out about the future possibilities, doing so is like giving our opponents our playbook before the game is even started.

It appears on the surface that nothing is happening.  That’s simply not true.

There is much at stake here.  One proposal that moved forward already calls for a homestead exclusion based solely on PIT revenue.  While this might be attractive to seniors we have to also understand that just a few years ago there were 4 working individuals in the Commonwealth for every retired senior.  Recent study indicates that we are quickly moving to a point where this will be 2.4 working individuals for every senior.  Since seniors do not pay an income tax on their retirement, using PIT only to replace the  school property tax is putting that burden on a shrinking tax base.  Some will point to less working families mean less students in the classroom but historically there is no correlation between reducing student population and lowering education costs.  A classroom of 25 children costs as much with regards to wages and benefits as a classroom with 30 students.  The cost of maintaining that room (electricity, heat, etc.) does not decrease because the number of students in that room decreases.  If we reduced the number of students across the state by 10,000 students that only translates into 200 students per school district spread out over 12 grades and kindergarten or 15.4 students per grade.  Besides, is chasing people out of Pennsylvania really the solution to Pennsylvania’s problems.

Some recent studies are applauding the fact that Pennsylvania is a great retirement destination.  On the surface this may sound like good news but without a sustainable tax base you create an unsustainable future for Pennsylvania.   Seniors do not pay a PIT tax on their retirement income.  At the same time, working families are leaving the state.  The number in that exodus is increasing and, if it continues to do so, we’ll hit that 2.4 number sooner than expected.  When we reach a point of 2 working individuals for every retired senior, we cannot sustain the income necessary to provide for the senior programs.  We will be forced to do what many other states have done; start taxing retirement income.  None of that is good news for Pennsylvania but it’s the path we are on unless we change course.

At the same time, wages in the private sector are not seeing the same increases as the wages in the public sector.  20 years later and home values in most parts of the state have still not reached the pre-recession 2007/08 numbers and yet property taxes have continued to increase.  At a meeting with opposition in an attempt to reach a consensus, we heard from charity organizations who talked about the impact on the poor.  Keeping people in poverty is not a solution and that is exactly what the property tax is doing for many.

You cannot keep increasing the tax burden leaving working families with less disposable income and still expect to see economic prosperity.  This year seniors are going to see a very slight increase in their social security benefits.  In talking to seniors. I have found that once the additional cost of medical coverage is factored in to the increase many seniors will actually be getting less next year than they did before.  Others may see slightly more but hardly enough to compensate for the increase in the property taxes they will see.

The trending of school property taxation is a history of a tax that increases at a much higher rate than the rate of inflation.  This results in less disposable income for working families who have less money to spend for goods and services in their communities.   The government solution to this is the creation or expansion of more government programs to provide aid and assistance but that money has to come from somewhere especially since it is not directly coming out of our legislators salaries.  It comes by increasing the tax burden, which only takes more disposable income away from consumers to be used for the maintenance of government programs instead of allowing that money back in to consumer based spending that would grow jobs and allow for the expansion of business.

Some of these tax increases at the school district level are the result of an underfunded pension program.  Other tax increase are the result of poor tax investments that failed to return the investments to the projections expected.  Adding insult to injury taxpayer money is used to pay the investors who take more taxpayer money to invest in stock options that fail to perform.

In the end, there is this general lack of accountability for how the money is spent with all accountability being transferred to property owners who are expected to continue to pay for the failure of the legislative body to maintain their promise to public pensions and a pension system with little accountability with regards to their investments.  It is the property owner who bears all the accountability.

For the property owner who lives in a home that does not generate the income necessary to pay the tax, the buck stops with them.  They can’t pass on the cost of the failures of others on to anyone else.  While everybody else is out there pointing their fingers at each other, it’s the homeowner who gets stuck with the bill.  Unlike a business, the cost cannot be passed on to the consumer because the only consumers related to a home are the people who live there.  The responsibility and accountability for any failures in the part of education and its costs or in the state in properly funding their promises falls squarely on the shoulders of the working private sector families in this Commonwealth.

There are studies on assessment values of homes for taxation purposes that show that assessments are wildly incorrect.  There are studies that indicate that as many as 60% of the homes are assessed at values that cannot be reached in the private market.  Let that sink in for a moment.

Pennsylvania collects almost $13 billion a year in taxes through the property tax.  If 60% of the properties are over-assessed that means $7.8 billion of that property tax income is based on properties that have been over-assessed.   We have no way of knowing how much of that $7.8 billion is taxable revenue on property tax doesn’t exist since over-assessments vary from property to property.  We just know that the revenue collected is more than it should be.  This is something that could not happen with either a PIT or SUT tax.

Let’s look at my county, Lebanon, Pa:  During the last reassessment there were 54,000 properties assessed for taxation.  Using the 60% over-assessment data, that would mean that about 32,000 properties are over-assessed.  Let’s assume for just a minute that the over-assessment is just $2,000 on each of those properties.  The average for the school district millage rate would be about 15.14.  That would mean that each home over-assessed by $2,000 would pay an average $30.28 in annual taxes on property they don’t own.  That’s may not sound like an incredibly high amount but when we multiply that by the number of homes over-assessed that becomes $968,960 in property tax revenue generated from property that doesn’t exist.

We had purchased our home one year before the county-wide reassessment.  When we did we had it professionally appraised.  The following year the reassessment took place and the assessment valued our home at about $40,000 more than the professional appraisers.  We appealed and got it lowered but it’s still about $8,000 more than the professional appraisals value of the home in the fair market.

Adding insult to injury, in Lebanon County the difference between the highest school millage rate and the lowest millage rate is 6.92 mills.   Apparently some people paying more for property they don’t own than others is perfectly acceptable system of taxation to our opposition.  In short, any over-assessed home is paying property taxes on property that doesn’t exist and apparently many legislators and special interest opposition groups are also perfectly okay with this.

Using PIT and SUT tax to fund education removes any possibility of paying taxes on property you don’t own.

There is bitter irony in their opposition.  They’ll complain about sales tax on diapers while ignoring taxes on property that doesn’t exist.  They’ll talk about the necessity of diapers while ignoring the necessity of a shelter.  That type of argument is always the excuse.

You simply cannot talk about not taxing necessities and still support taxing our homes without being a hypocrite.  You can’t talk about not taxing food while you are perfectly fine with taxing the land where food is grown or livestock raised.  You can’t talk about the immorality of taxing food while taxing the properties that convert that food into marketable food products.  You can’t talk about the immorality of taxing food but be perfectly fine with taxing the property of a grocery store.  It’s all sheer hypocrisy.

At this point in time, I can’t really say that the future of SB76 is a sure thing but I do know that it should be.  I do know that we should be demanding another vote on SB76 and if it fails, we’ll know who to blame.   We are running out of time for 76.  Another two years with another billion plus added to the cost of school property taxation will drive the PIT up to unsustainable numbers.  With more schools scrambling to add to their debt in fear of something like 76 passing, we can’t continue to sustain the need for increased revenue.  Most importantly, another two years will mean more people losing their homes.

With the legislative session about to start in a matter of days the time to act is now.

Some of us are working hard with legislators to make it happen.  We need you to do the same.  Complaining about it on social media is not enough.  It’s time to pick up your phones and call your legislators in the Senate, especially to call leadership in the Senate and tell them that before anything else happens with regards to school property tax, SB 76 deserves another vote.  It’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Vicious Cycle of Growing Government Through the Property Tax

So let me get this straight: The government has recognized that rising rent is a problem. One of the reasons for the creation of this rising rent problem is the rising property tax. So the Government implements a program to subsidize rent. As property taxes increase on a rental property the landlord must raise the rent on the people the government is claiming to be helping because their rent is too high.

The revenue for subsidizing the rent is coming from raising taxation in other areas.  For the property owner, this means that they are paying for their own property taxes while helping, through other taxes and sometimes through the property tax itself, to subsidize the cost of the rent increase for lower income families that came as a result of raising the property tax.

As rent has increased, we also see the desire from government to subsidize the cost of home utilities (heating, electric, etc.) as well as subsidizing phone and internet service for low income families resulting in higher prices for everyone else.  This creates more people who fall through the cracks and grows the number of people who must turn to the government for help to make ends meet.

As property taxes increase the job market isn’t growing fast enough to meet the needs of the growing population so many have chosen to leave the state.  As property taxes increase, more smaller business can not provide wage increases for their employees resulting in stagnate wage growth for many in the private sector.  Many of these small businesses can also not afford to provide for healthcare for their employees.  Enter the government once again to provide costly programs to supposedly ease the pain that the property taxes are creating.

As property taxes increase more farmers struggle to meet the tax obligation.  No problem, the government steps in to create a new program to ease the property tax burden for the farmer.  As a result, the property taxes increase again.  As more farmland is sold off to pay for the taxes, less food is actually being produced in Pennsylvania forcing us to go elsewhere, out of the state, for that food making the food more expensive for the Pennsylvania consumer.  That’s okay though because the government has program to help you ease the burden of higher food costs…to pay for it they just need more revenue from you from other taxes.

Every evidence demonstrates that the property tax is creating more problems and making government more expensive to maintain while contributing to the growing problems of blighted properties.  After all, if you can barely afford to pay your taxes, you can’t afford to keep up with the necessary maintenance of your property.  That’s okay though because the government is there with more programs to help with blighted properties, all they need is more of your income through taxation.

When I hear that the property tax isn’t the problem; that the real problem is government spending, I can’t help but wonder why these people can’t see that the property tax is actually creating the need for so much of this government spending.  The property tax becomes the enabler.

The property tax results in less disposable income for families while making it harder for them to provide for their own families needs.  It doesn’t matter if you are a home owner or you rent the property tax makes EVERYTHING more expensive.  Every business must shift their tax burdens on to the consumer if they want to stay in business.  That means that every property tax increase makes everything we do, everything we purchase more costly, from the loaf of bread we buy to the legals services we use.

Rather than solving the problem that creates these greater expenses for the consumer the government attempts to fix the problem by creating more spending programs which inflates our taxes  all the more.  In doing so they aren’t actually helping the people who need the help the most.  The government is artificially making everything more expensive through increased taxation rather than eliminate the property tax and removing the very thing that is artificially driving up inflation.

It is one thing when the government steps up to provide relief because of a recognized need, it’s another thing when government is actually creating that need and solves the problem by making that need all the greater.  The old expression of the cure being worse than the disease applies except that these cures never actually cure.  If anything they just temporarily ease the pain for some while spreading the disease to others.

It seems to me that the only real winner here is the government!  They raise our property taxes creating a need for government programs that appear, on the surface, to be helping but are actually hurting Pennsylvanians and the economy.

It’s all in creating more revenue wants from the government by taking that revenue from us resulting in less disposable income for us to support our communities through local business which then translates into government grants and subsidies to help local business establish by giving them tax incentives through KOZs, LERTAs and other government programs that have all become necessary because we have a property tax.

No matter how well intended, these programs exist because we have a property tax and as long as we still have a property tax, the need for these programs will continue to grow.

Many of these programs are paid for by increasing the property tax on property owners, which drives up the cost of rent and creates more need for more government programs while forcing more people to become more reliant on government subsidies.

To maintain this property tax we are told we need the implementation of more frequent expensive reassessments that only really result in higher property taxes creating more need for more government programs (more taxes) to supposedly ease the unilateral inequality and cost of the increasing property tax.

While PIT and SUT taxes grow naturally without the need for constant tax increase, the only way to generate more money from the property tax is to increase the property tax.  Every assessment appeal, every abatement, every property tax relief program has the same impact, an overall need to increase the property tax to maintain the revenue turning the majority into losers in these tax relief schemes.

The end result is a creation of a tax system that is rapidly becoming more and more unsustainable for more and more people.  You don’t have to be an economic genius to see that.  You just have to open your eyes and look around you.

It’s a vicious cycle so please tell me again how the property tax is stable revenue from taxpayers to fund public education!

A rebuttal of a letter to school district residents.

Another letter has come out from a school district administrator that is filed with misinformation.  I have serious concerns about a school administrator who sends out a mailing like this to parents in a school district that contains this much misinformation

I’m going to use this post to refute what is in the actual letter.  My Responses will be in red:

Dear Parents and Community Members,
As a supporter of our public schools and the belief that every American child deserves the right to a quality public education, I’m writing to ask for your action at the polls regarding a legislative proposal that could seriously impact the quality of our schools.
Many educators are very concerned about a November 7 ballot question that asks whether the Pennsylvania Constitution should be amended to allow local taxing authorities to exempt homeowners from paying property taxes. We strongly feel the answer to this question should be “NO.”

This ballot question doesn’t include the critical piece of information that according to state law, another source of revenue must be created to replace local property taxes. Legislators are considering that the new revenue source could come from increases in other taxes, in the form of Senate Bill 76. Under SB 76, Income Tax will go up from 3.07% currently to 4.95%, sales tax will go from 6% to 7% and the list of items to be taxed would increase. Those new revenue sources would go directly to the state, and it would be up to the state to determine how much each school district would receive.

Senate Bill 76 and the figures being used here are for complete elimination of the school property tax for all property, not just for homestead property.  The ballot referendum is HB 1285 and is not connected to HB or SB 76.  Here we have an attempt, once again, to deliberately confuse the issue by connecting the referendum to school property tax elimination through SB 76. 

School districts already have the option of reducing their property taxes by 50% through a variety of approved alternate means at the local level.  The referendum simply expands that from 50% to 100%.  Rather than explore other options of school education funding, school districts have chosen to continue to place the lion’s share of this burden on property owners even though the property tax is, in no way, based on ability to pay.  As a result 10,000 people face losing their homes each year….that this doesn’t alarm our school districts is equally alarming to me.

The last sentence is a gross misrepresentation of the legislation which is explained in greater detail following the next paragraph.

This means that under this new funding formula, the state could decide to give more money to urban districts and less to suburban ones, like West Chester. Or, they could determine another complicated funding formula that would once again leave funding up to the state and take away our local control.

The connection to 76 is made and then it leaps to this gross misrepresentation of the legislation.  Under SB76 all money collected through the increase/expansion of the sales tax and increase in the PIT goes into a separate account that is not part of the budget process.  From the revenue collected each school districts get 100% of the revenue they are currently receiving adjusted annually tied to rates of inflation.  The Independent Fiscal Office estimates the annual increase will exceed 3% based on natural revenue growth of the PIT and SUT tax.  This annual increase will not require additional increases in taxation.

In order for education revenue to increase through the property tax it requires increasing the tax burdens on property owners.  The revenue from property taxes doesn’t increase without a tax increase, unlike the PIT and SUT tax.

The superintendent seem to be deliberately trying to confuse the parents who received this letter by tying the Basic Education Funding Formula to SB 76.  They are two separate issues and two separate funding mechanism. 

This paragraph is a contradiction of the the first sentence of his letter to the parents.  To me, the superintendent is making it perfectly clear that he appreciates the inequities of funding and the power of the local school district to create those inequities.

I’ve repeatedly address the myth of local control at this blog and won’t do so here.

Harrisburg struggles to balance its own budget. The General Assembly currently doesn’t have a revenue budget for the current year. How can we leave our own school funding up to them?

Again, the Harrisburg annual budget has nothing to do with the funding through SB 76.  Once passed the General Assembly doesn’t have access to these funds to do with as they please.    It is already appropriated to go to the school districts as the replacement revenue for the property tax

School districts are currently facing so many unfunded mandates. Special education costs are skyrocketing due to no fault of public schools. Pension costs are increasing dramatically, again, because of a state mandate. Many districts are also facing aging buildings and population growth. Without the ability to collect local property taxes, who’s to say that adequate funding will come from Harrisburg to support these essential needs? Legislators have already placed a three year moratorium on construction reimbursement for public schools, because the state is essentially broke. What is next?

School districts have done nothing to stop the unfunded mandates of prevailing wage costs that drive up the cost of school construction and renovations by as much as 30%.  Many of the mandates actually don’t originate in the general assembly so placing all the burden of unfunded mandates on the legislators is misdirection.    Why?

Because the educational complex doesn’t want you to realize that many of these unfunded mandates are coming out of the Department of Education whose board is made up largely of PSEA, PASBO and other school administrators.   Their problem isn’t so much that the mandates are unfunded, they simply seem to want the state to pay for it all.   But since the state actually doesn’t pay for anything, that means they want you, through your taxes, to pay for what they want.

Recently the Secretary of the Department of Education filed an educational plan for Pennsylvania with the Federal Government without submitting the plan for approval to the General Assembly.  This is exactly what they did to push Common Core on our schools.  Even though of Commonwealth Constitution says that it is the General Assembly who is to supply for a thorough and efficient system of education, The Department of Education continually works around the general assembly.

Even though all lawmaking authority is supposed to reside in the legislation branch, the Department of Education, like all of the executive bureaucracies, resides in the executive branch.  Yet these created bodies of government pass regulations and mandates that are paramount to laws which much be followed.  This school administrator doesn’t seem to want to see this change and to restore the Constitutional Rule of law which is supposed to preside over the Commonwealth….Why?

This ballot question does not apply to businesses, which means they will still pay property taxes. Surely, businesses will not be pleased with this inequity, and will want some relief also. They may fight legislators to limit property tax appeals by school districts, as previously proposed. Under this previous proposal, school districts would not be allowed to reassess businesses. This means a business built or purchased for $1 million, and sold for $10 million would only be assessed at the $1 million rate.
While I firmly believe that our school funding formula and system of taxation needs significant reform, I am strongly convinced this kind of back door legislative change is not the kind of positive, sustainable solution that we need. It deserves a much longer, more thorough review, with more equitable and sustainable solutions.

SB76 is the equitable solution but the school districts are fighting us.  So are the lobbyists of the business community.  Neither seems to care what is happening to thousands of families…children, parents and seniors…as they struggle to keep up with the demands of the educational complex in Pennsylvania. 

How many more people have to lose their homes to pay for pensions and benefits given to the public sector that these families in the private sector can’t provide for themselves or for their families?

How much more farmland must we lose in this Commonwealth to the egregious property tax before they admit to the seriously flawed system in place for education funding?

How much more rent subsidy must the government provide because the property tax keeps driving up the cost of rent forcing many families to double and triple up leading to overcrowded housing which is NOT conducive to quality education?

Pennsylvania already ranks 45th in the nation in percentage of state funding for public education. We are already nearly last in the nation for funding! This will only make it worse.

If Pennsylvania increased their funding to school district to meet their constant demand for 50% funding do we honestly think that our school district property taxes would decrease?  No, the next year school property taxes would again increase and then the school districts would be complaining because the state isn’t meeting the 50% mark again.   Besides, SB 76 would mean that 100% of the funding is coming from the state so what’s their real complaint?

Pennsylvania is among the top in education funding per populace.  Thats’s a contributing factor in why we rank 45th in the nation in percentage….The percentage however does not reflect actual dollars being spent.  We give more to education at the state level than most states but it’s never enough for public education in Pennsylvania.  That hasn’t stopped them from continually increasing our property taxes.  In the past 20 years we’ve seen a 140% increase in property taxes.  No amount of money from the state will stop this as long as the property tax exists.

Pennsylvania is also at the bottom of the index for keeping existing business in the state.  We are at the bottom of the index for attracting new business to the state.  Between 2015 and 2016, 45,000 people, one every 11.5 minutes, left the state to live in more tax friendly climates. 

The West Chester Area School District School Board is planning to pass a resolution on October 23 asking residents to vote NO on this ballot proposal.

First of all, how does this superintendent already know this resolution will pass?  Shouldn’t the passage of the resolution require an open vote with public input rather than coming to a school board meeting with a predetermined plan to do as they please?

Since the board has not yet met, nor have they voted on this amendment, the superintendent’s letter is premature demonstrating a lack of priority.  The superintendent’s letter should have waited for the approval and consent of the elected school board which is supposed to be the governing body of the school.   Instead we get a letter that is a gross misrepresentation of a piece of legislation carrying official weight in an attempt to sway public opinion before an important vote on the issue from a paid employee of the school district.

Over the last several months other school districts have carried the rhetoric of the school associations and organizations (PSEA, PSBA, PASBO, etc), none of who are elected by the public, demonstrating a total lack of credibility to me in their continual attempts to misrepresent the legislation. The administrators, business officials, superintendents and school board members who just blindly accept the talking points from these agencies and then repeat them are not without blame. Real Education involves a willingness to check the claims to ascertain that the statements are, in fact, true. That is obviously not happening. So they either repeat this information out of blind allegiance or they do so deliberately. Either way, it’s a sad statement to me about the condition of education in our public schools. After all, these are the same people who are entrusted with overseeing the education of our children.

This problem is then compounded by the opposing legislators who have refused to meet with the public to hear their concerns about the property tax issue; who will not come out to the town halls to learn the facts and then repeat the mantra of the school association lobbyists. The disconnect with the people in favor of the campaign funding school lobbyists is also a betrayal of the trust of the people who elect them.

It’s not all of them (Legislators and school associations alike) but it certainly does appear to be a large percentage of them.

I am angry but, perhaps even more so, disappointed that so many people entrusted with the education of the children of this Commonwealth are so unwilling to check the actual facts and will then stoop to such gross misrepresentation.

Those of us out their fighting for real and necessary tax reform for education funding do so without getting paid to do so and without resorting to misinformation and misdirection to make our points.  Unfortunately we do not have the financial resources nor can we use tax payer collected money to pay union dues or to pay for the promotion of the misdirection we’ve seen come out of the school districts with regards to HB/SB 76. 

If we can’t trust the governing bodies of our school districts to report the facts about a critical piece of legislation, maybe we need to start questioning our trust of their ability to educate our children.  The Auditor General has conducted several audits of school districts and the accountability of those school districts to the tax payers doesn’t paint a pretty picture.  One school district found itself in the courts because of grossly misrepresenting their budget to the public.  The school district lost that case.  This is more commonplace than most taxpayers realize.

Here’s another ranking.  In 2015, Pennsylvania was given an F rating from the center for Public Integrity placing it tied for 45th of the 50 states.  It took a legislative process to make our school districts more accountable to the public in terms of transparency because they didn’t do so on their own.  Even after this, we still have school districts misrepresenting budgets and creating confusion about debt service.  At a recent town hall two different parents in the same school district were given conflicting information about budgets and the retained debt service.

How can the public make informed decisions if they are provided with conflicting information?

Public schools deserve adequate funding. Without it, the quality of our schools will rapidly decline. There is a direct correlation between property values and the quality of our public schools. As the quality of our schools fall, property owners will see their own homes drop in value. This is simply not good for the residents of Pennsylvania.
If you care about the quality of our schools, please vote NO on the Nov. 7 ballot question. The future of our children literally depends upon it.

The Independent Fiscal Office says that the elimination of the school property tax would actually increase property values by 10%. Why doesn’t this superintendent tell the whole truth.  Property taxes do drive down property values.

The current system of education funding is unsustainable.  The growing pension debt is going to increase the cost of property taxation.  The 140% increase we’ve seen over the last 20 years will continue to grow while wages for many in the private sector have stagnated. 

  • We struggle to attract new business
  • We struggle to keep our working families in the state
  • Many struggle just to stay in their homes. 
  • The Property taxes are forcing many to choose between staying in their homes or providing necessary food, meds and clothing for themselves and their family. 
  • The Property taxes are leading to overcrowding in homes as families combine to meet the demands of the tax. 
  • Because of the cascade effect of property taxes, we pay more for the goods and services we use in Pennsylvania.
  • The Property tax is a prime contributor to blight in our neighborhoods.  If you can barely afford to keep up with the taxes, you can’t afford to do the necessary maintenance on those properties.

The property tax has created gross inequities in education funding and as the battle between wealthy school district and poorer school districts grow, those inequities will only become worse.  Many 3rd class cities are landlocked with populations that are far below the state average median income.  Many of those residents can’t afford to move or to live in the higher income communities.  Should those children in those schools be punished because the property tax can’t provide for the same quality of education as their neighboring districts?

If it’s all about the children, shouldn’t it be about the education of all the children, not just the children whose parents can afford to pay more.  As I read it, that is exacty what this superintendent is implying!

The solution to that is not to continue to rely on a funding system for education that requires constant tax increase but to shift to a system of taxation that grows naturally without the need for increases.

One final word on local control.  It’s supposed to mean our control over our school boards which is virtually non-existent.  It’s not supposed to mean their ability to tax us as much as they want, when they want.  SB 76 restores local control to the citizens where all future tax increase at the local level through a local income tax would require the consent of the governed.  Maybe, that’s what they fear the most!