I met a muniland superstar, Pennsylvania State Senator John Eichelberger, in Philadelphia while taping a final segment on distressed municipalities for Pennsylvania Cable News (PCN). The series, hosted by PCN’s Corinna Vecsey Wilson, brought together municipal officials, state legislators and policy experts to examine the condition of the state’s distressed communities and look at what solutions might be available.
It was a mixed picture as Pennsylvania Senate Local Government Committee took testimony today about how local PA governments issue debt and enter into interest rate swaps. Has every local government in Pennsylvania made as big a mess issuing debt as Harrisburg? Was every school district bamboozled into multiple layers of expensive and unnecessary interest rate swaps like the Bethlehem School District?
A debt recovery plan for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was filed on Monday after a year of negotiations with creditors, unions and other stakeholders. The plan’s most important attribute is that it saves Pennsylvania’s capital city from declaring bankruptcy and it may fiscally stabilize the municipality for years to come.
Mark Funkhouser, the director of the Governing Institute and a former mayor and auditor of Kansas City, took a few swings at the SEC for its securities fraud prosecution of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Funkhouser has three concerns with the SEC’s case.
In the media appearance above, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announces that the contract drawn up by Governor Tom Corbett to privatize the state’s lottery management “contravenes the Pennsylvania Constitution and is not statutory authorized.” Translation: Pop- Bam- Take that, governor – You don’t have the power that you think you have.
Nothing makes me happier than to see law as the weapon of choice in a fight between public officials. There is a big battle underway in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania over the efforts of the governor to privatize the lottery, currently a big source of revenue for the state’s senior citizen programs. I wrote last week about Pennsylvania’s sweetheart lottery privatization deal:
There is a lot of darkness and a web of connections around the efforts to privatize the Pennsylvania state lottery. Tom Corbett, the governor of Pennsylvania, is attempting to force through the privatization before the legislature comes back into session in January and has a chance to review the terms of the 20-30 year deal. Democrats are howling.
Bloomberg View’s Josh Barro wrote an interesting piece Thursday urging Scranton, Pennsylvania to declare Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Scranton has achieved national attention after the mayor reduced all city workers’ pay to minimum wage last week because the city could no longer afford paying their full salaries, a powerful image of how little cash Scranton has left.
Of the $763 billion in tax revenues that states collected in 2011, only $14.6 billion – less than 2 percent – came from severance taxes on coal, gas and oil. Energy production is very concentrated in the United States: Just nine states receive over 5 percent of their tax revenues from energy producers. Currently, the bulk of severance revenues comes from oil production. Alaska, a state floating on an ocean of oil, gets 76 percent of its revenues from a handful of big oil companies that have drilling rights on the North Slope of the state.