Posts Tagged minimum wage

R.I.P. PA Constitution 1968-2016


Governor Tom Wolf has been in office for just over a year, but already we know historians will put the words “budget crisis” in their lead paragraph.  But a far more ominous phrase may get top billing: “constitutional crisis.”

Like his authoritarian counterpart in Washington, D.C., Governor Wolf is willing, in fact may prefer, to shred the constitutional separation of powers and enact by executive fiat that which the legislative branch is unwilling to do.  The commonwealth has entered its ninth month without a completed state budget and that has spawned a growing debate over the limits of gubernatorial power.

Days before Christmas the legislature again passed a state budget.  This time Governor Wolf signed off on most of the spending plan but “blue lined” or line item vetoed about a third of the items thus extending the budget crisis.  Three months later, there is no resolution, but the administration is spending money anyway.  This, many lawmakers argue, is a clear violation of the state constitution.

The Governor, and his appointed State Treasurer Timothy Reese argue there is a competing requirement for the state to keep certain agencies operating – especially those involved with ensuring public safety.  But Treasurer Reese has gone far beyond that even authorizing a “loan” from the state treasury to House Democrats to pay their staff during the ongoing budget crisis.

The public safety argument is nothing more than a distraction from the main issue which is can a governor spend taxpayer dollars without explicit authorization from the General Assembly?   It is a clear violation of the state constitution and one which will explode into a full blown crisis, especially if the governor’s illicit spending extends outside the realm of public safety.

The budget, however, is not the only area in which Governor Wolf is willing to trample on legislative powers.  He is trying to shutter the Public Employees Retirement Commission (PERC), an obscure state agency that earned his ire when it disagreed with his view of the pension crisis.  The agency was created by an act of the General Assembly and signed into law by a previous governor.  Lawmakers have sued in court to block executive dissolution of PERC pointing out it would take legislative action to do so.

This week Governor Wolf again by-passed the General Assembly on the issue of the state’s minimum wage. The governor has called for an increase in the state minimum wage, but the legislature has refused to go along.  So, he signed an executive order unilaterally raising the minimum wage paid to state employees to $10.15 per hour.  The action applies only to state workers, but will be extended to those companies doing business with the state.  The minimum wage hike does not extend to private business.

However, the impact on small businesses will be significant.  Neal Lesher, legislative director for the National Federation of Independent Business-Pennsylvania, points out that the governor’s executive order effectively prevents many small businesses from entering the bidding process for state contracts.  “Some small businesses simply cannot afford to pay inexperienced, entry level workers that much more per hour,” Lesher explained.  “This creates an unfair playing field that favors larger companies.”

Having fully bought into the Obama “pen and phone” style of governing there is no indication Governor Wolf plans to return to a constitutional model any time soon.  His “budget address” to the legislature last month was hostile and confrontational and had the effect of solidifying Republican opposition which at times had shown signs of wavering.

It is clear crisis government is now the new normal in Harrisburg.  With no resolution to the current budget impasse in sight, and the deadline for adopting a budget for the next fiscal year less than four months away, the governor is content to act as if the legislative branch of government does not exist.  But legislators will not sit idly by and be consigned to irrelevance.  If the governor continues on his current course the constitutional crisis will explode into the courts, and possibly even lead to impeachment proceedings.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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No Turn-around Yet for PA: Businesses Business Climate Survey finds conditions continue to worsen


Weighed down by concerns over a possible increase in the minimum wage, uncertainty over health care; and excessive regulations, Pennsylvania’s business climate continued to get worse over the past six months. That is the key finding of the Spring 2014 Keystone Business Climate Survey, conducted by the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research semi-annually for the past 20 years.  The survey asks the owners and chief executive officers of business in the state – the people who actually make our economy run – their opinion on the condition of the state’s business climate and key issues confronting the commonwealth.

On the issue of raising the state’s minimum wage, 78% stood in opposition with 17% favoring a minimum wage increase; 5% offered no opinion.  Sixty-three percent said the minimum wage has no impact on their business, largely because their employees already earn above that standard.  Of those who would be affected, 21% said they would cut employee hours if a minimum wage increase were enacted; 18% indicated they would reduce the number of people they employ, 3% said an increase in the minimum wage would cause them to go out of business.  Less than one percent said they would expand their business if the minimum wage is raised while one percent said they would hire more employees.

Business Climate

Twenty-six percent of the business leaders responding to the Lincoln Institute survey said business conditions in Pennsylvania have gotten worse over the past six months, while 14% said business conditions have improved; 59% said they remain about the same.  To the degree there is any good news, the number of respondents indicating business conditions have gotten worse has decreased over a year ago when 35% said business conditions had worsened.

Looking ahead, 24% expect the state’s economy to continue to decline, while 19% predict an improvement and 55% say they expect the state’s business climate to remain about the same.  That is a slightly more optimistic outlook than six months ago when the Fall 2013 Keystone Business Climate Survey found 30% predicting worsening business conditions.

Employment levels are down at 18% of those businesses polled, and up at 15%.  That is a substantial improvement from one year ago when 27% reported lower employee rosters and only 8% had increased their number of employees.  Looking ahead, 18% project increasing their workforce, while 10% plan to cut the number of people employed.

Sales are up at 24% of the companies responding and down at 36%.  A year ago only 17% reported increasing sales while 46% posted a drop in sales.  Over the coming six months, 36% say they expect sales to increase; 12% expect sales to decline.

Job Performance

President Barack Obama continues to post the worst job approval ratings in the 20-year history of the Keystone Business Climate Survey.  Eighty-nine percent of the CEOs and business owners responding have a negative view of the president’s job performance, 8% offered a positive view.  U.S. Senator Patrick J. Toomey scored the highest job approval rating from the business leaders with 51% offering a positive assessment of his performance in office and 25% with a negative view.  Conversely, sixty percent disapprove of the job performance of U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr., while 15% approve.  Federal Reserve Chairperson Janet Yellen is relatively new to the post, so about half the respondents have yet to form an opinion on her job performance. Of those who have, 15% offered a positive assessment, 37% negative.  U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew has a 7% job approval rating against a 43% negative view.

Governor Tom Corbett’s job approval rating improved six percent from last fall as 49% now give him a positive rating and 35% disapprove of his performance in office.  Attorney General Kathleen Kane is viewed negatively by 47% of the business leaders surveyed with 12% offering a positive view.  Sixty-six percent offered no opinion on the job performance of State Treasurer Rob McCord, 14% held a positive view and 20% view him negatively.  Likewise a majority, 72% have no opinion on state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.  Ten percent have a positive view of his performance in office; 18% a negative view.

Legislative bodies fared poorly in the view of the business executives participating in the Spring 2014 Keystone Business Climate Survey.  Ninety-two percent hold a negative view of the U.S. Senate with just 2% approving of the senate’s job performance.  The U.S. House of Representatives garnered a 19% positive rating against a 74% negative rating.   Closer to home, 56% disapprove of the job being done by the Senate of Pennsylvania, 23% approve.  The Pennsylvania House of Representatives posted the relatively best number of 27% approving and 54% disapproving of the job they are doing.

Issues

Current state law allows governmental entities such as the state, counties, school districts and municipalities to deduct labor union dues and PAC (Political Action Committee) donations from employee paychecks and turn the proceeds over to labor unions.  A “paycheck protection” bill currently before the General Assembly would end that practice. Eighty-nine percent of the CEOs and business owners participating in the survey said they support such a bill and that unions should collect their own dues.  Five percent think the practice should continue.

There is a carve out in current state law that permits labor unions and business to stalk, harass, or threaten to use a weapon of mass destruction during a labor dispute.  Eighty-nine percent disapprove of those carve outs, 85% strongly disapprove.  Two percent voiced their approval.

Seventy percent of the businesses participating in the spring survey say they currently provide health insurance to their employees. Four percent said they provided health insurance in the past, but have discontinued the benefit.  Forty-six percent say the cost of employee health insurance is split between the employer and the employee with the employer paying the major portion; another 2% split the cost with the employee paying the larger share.  At 27% of the businesses the employer pays the full premium.  Fifteen percent said they did not and will not offer employee health insurance.

Looking ahead, 46% of the business owners and CEOs taking part in the survey said they will continue providing health care coverage to their employees, six percent said they plan to discontinue the benefit, another 32% were uncertain.

Legalization of marijuana for medical purposes has become a major issue in the 2014 Democratic primary for governor.  Fifty-seven percent of the business leaders say the drug should be legalized for medical purposes.  An additional 24% support legalization also for recreational use.  Thirty-seven percent want marijuana to continue remaining totally illegal.

In that Democratic primary, 42% of the CEOs and owners polled by the Lincoln Institute say they expect Tom Wolf to emerge as the party’s nominee for governor.  Eight percent predict a win for Rob McCord; while three percent say Allyson Schwartz will prevail and 3% expect a Katy McGinty victory.   A majority, 51% say they believe Governor Tom Corbett should be re-elected in November, while 34% suggest it is time for a new person to hold that office.

Methodology

The Lincoln Institute’s Spring 2014 Keystone Business Climate Survey was conducted electronically from March 21, 2014 through April 7, 2014.  A total of 378 business leaders responded.  Of those 80% are the owner of their business; 13% are the CEO/COO or CFO; 3% are a local manager and 1% a state manager.  Complete numeric results are posted at www.lincolninstitute.org.

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Bags of Cash


Radio Program Schedule for the week of April 12, 2014 – April 18, 2014

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation about a recent Supreme Court of the United States Ruling affirming campaign contributions as protected free speech
  • Andy Roth has the Real Story behind House passage of the 2014-15 budget
  • Benjamin Yount and Eric Boehm have a Watchdog Radio look at two recent rulings by the National Labor Relations Board
  • Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, USA has an American Radio Journal commentary on a North Korean threat to the United States

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm has news headlines from www.paindependent.com
  • David Taylor from the PA Manufacturers Association joins Kevin Shivers from the PA Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business and Matthew Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation for a Capitol Watch look at the latest outbreak of corruption and ethical problems in Harrisburg
  • Lowman Henry has a Town Hall Commentary on whether or not Marcellus Shale drillers are paying their fair share of taxes

bagsofcash

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Minimum Wage Job Losses


Radio Program Schedule for the week of March 29, 2014 – April 4, 2014

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Erik Telford of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity about FDA foot-dragging in approving a new vaccine against Meningitis type B
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on voters ousting career politicians
  • Eric Boehm and Andrew Staub have a Watchdog Radio Report on an outburst of corruption in Pennsylvania
  • Dr. Paul Kengor from the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College has an American Radio Journal commentary on how Ronald Reagan would handle the Russian annexation of Crimea

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm has news headlines from www.paindependent.com
  • David Taylor of the PA Manufacturers Association, Kevin Shivers from the PA Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, and Matthew Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation have a Capitol Watch roundtable discussion on job losses which would result from an increase in the state minimum wage
  • Lowman Henry has a Town Hall Commentary on official repression

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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Commissioner Christian Leinbach on Flood Insurance Issues


Radio Program Schedule for the week of January 25, 2014 – January 31, 2014

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry gets an update on the IRS scandals from Charles C. Johnson author of The Truth About the IRS Scandals
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on the legacy of retiring U.S. Senator Tom Coburn
  • Eric Boehm and Katie Watson have a Watchdog Radio Report on the indictment of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell
  • Dr. Paul Kengor from the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College has an American Radio Journal commentary on President Obama skipping church services over the Christmas holiday

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm and Benjamin Yount have news headlines from www.paindependent.com
  • Lowman Henry has a Newsmaker interview with Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach about new FEMA flood plain maps and the rising cost of flood insurance
  • Charles C. Johnson talks about his book The Truth About the IRS Scandals
  • Jennifer Stefano has a Stefano Speaks! commentary on labor unions waging a war against women

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Congressman Joe Pitts


Radio Program Schedule for the week of January 18, 2014 – January 24, 2014

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry has Part II of his interview with John Gizzi of Newsmax profiling 2014 governor races
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story behind the blackballing of consultants who work for conservative challenger candidates
  • Benjamin Yount has a Watchdog Radio Report on a union forcing an Illinois woman to pay union dues to care for her own son in her own home
  • Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, USA has an American Radio Journal commentary on second term presidents and their foreign policy legacies

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm and Maura Pennington have news headlines from www.paindependent.com
  • David Taylor has a Capitol Watch interview with Congressman Joe Pitts on how national issues affect the Keystone State
  • Lowman Henry has a Town Hall Commentary on the future development of Pennsylvania’s energy resources

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Gene Barr of PA Chamber Talks Minimum Wage


Radio Program Schedule for the week of January 11, 2014 – January 17, 2014

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with John Gizzi of Newsmax about 2014 gubernatorial races
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on maneuvering behind extending unemployment benefits
  • Eric Boehm and Malia Zimmerman of the Hawaii Reporter take a Watchdog Radio look at what the First Family’s trip to Hawaii cost taxpayers
  • Col. Frank Ryan, USMC (Ret.) has an American Radio Journal commentary on Pope Francis and capitalism

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm and Andrew Staub have news headlines from www.paindependent.com
  • Lowman Henry has a Newsmaker interview with Gene Barr, President of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry on raising the minimum wage
  • Eric Montarti and Frank Gamrat have an Allegheny Institute Report on the City of Pittsburgh’s distressed municipality status
  • Jennifer Stefano has a Stefano Speaks! commentary on the need for conservatives to continue fighting for constitutional government

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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