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If the House wins, who loses?

Whatever your motivations, gambling is a problem when it hurts those that depend on you, like kids.

Pennsylvania, is it time for an intervention?

Pension reform is finally here, rejigging the state’s pension system for state employees and school teachers who enter the workforce in 2019. The new system will feature options like 401(k) plans that revolve around stock market investments.

Currently, the state is responsible for public sector pensions, regardless of incoming revenues or recession. The new system means win, lose, or draw, the employee is on the hot seat.

Legislators hailed pension reform as “a win for Pennsylvania taxpayers” and “a big deal.”

Not one said “School districts will get screwed.”

But, according to the House Democratic Appropriations Committe, they will be.

Districts will be stuck with a roughly $69 million bill for up-front implementation costs for a decade. Pensions are a problem, to be sure, but $69 million to districts that don’t even have the funding they need to cover the basics in education today doesn’t bode well for the next ten years, neither for students nor your local taxes. 

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to save districts from ballooning pension costs without poking them in the eye? As luck would have it, there is. Will legislators do the right thing and use it? Don’t bet on it.

Facing a major deficit with few other new sources of revenues identified, legislators have turned to gaming to score big in the hopes of balancing this year’s budget.

The expansion could allow casinos to enter the fantasy sports arena, add slot machines to off-track betting parlors, permit online casinos, introducing gambling at airports. Most controversially, the gambling omnibus bill would license video gambling terminals for restaurants, bowling alleys, bars, etc.

The legislature is determined to bet on gaming. Perhaps to sweeten the pot for on-the-fence pols, how the local cut of gambling proceeds are currently allocated will be altered as well. For instance, $2 million in new revenues from Philly casinos would be carved out for unspecified projects through grants controlled by the Department of Community and Economic Development, a state agency widely acknowledged as politicized, guided by the “whims of state lawmakers.”

That $2 million should be allocated directly to the city for basic services, says Mayor Kenney, who visited Harrisburg to make his position clear on the matter. It’s hard to fault the Mayor’s objection here as the DCED grants are referred to by politicians themselves as WAMs, or “Walking Around Money” (money that can be doled out during visits).

When there are basic needs the City struggles to meet, or new needs like those millions of dollars for up-front pension costs school districts don’t have, “Walking Around Money” might as well be called “Walking Away Money.”   

At a time when we should be doubling down on our students instead of heaping new costs on their school districts, it’s unconscionable for pols to be squealing “JACKPOT!”

 

#SaveMedicaid! You can tell Senator Bob Casey and Senator Pat Toomey to protect our kids! Click on their names to send them a message today!

 

Seriously powerful: “I feel we should have more money so we can be equal with the other kids, and I want all of the schools to be [equal].” Samadje Lloyd, 10, a young advocate who visited Harriburg with peers to speak with legislators.

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City Council votes unanimously to move forward with ambitious agenda for major repairs and upgrades to Philly parks, rec centers and libraries. 

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“In sum, the trial court did not err in determining that the city was empowered to enact [the beverage tax].” Commonwealth Court Judge Michael Wojcik, in the court decision affirming Philadelphia’s landmark bev tax as legal.

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