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Silence Speaks Volumes at Liquor Hearing

Public support of liquor privatization is waning as members of the UFCW have spread the word about the real costs of selling off the profitable and secure state system.

Will expanding access to alcohol make Pennsylvanians healthier?

Will beer in grocery stores cut down on crime?

Is liquor consumption a cure for our ailing public schools?

I would confidently answer ‘no’ to all those questions but the Corbett administration seems to be saying ‘yes.’

Or maybe not.

It was hard to tell this week when Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley brought State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan, Health Secretary Michael Wolfe and Deputy Secretary for Public Education Carolyn Dumaresq to a hearing on the governor’s plan to expand alcohol sales.

The three top-tier cabinet officials sat next to Cawley as he defended a plan that is now steadily losing support in the legislature and among the state’s citizens.

Only Cawley spoke at the hearing.  The cabinet officials stayed silent even when challenged by Senate Democrats over their seemingly paradoxical support for more access to alcohol.

It is indeed curious to see the state’s top health official sitting in silent acceptance of a plan to swap 5,000 family-sustaining jobs, many with health-care benefits, for more booze in more places.

Not quite a year ago, the Department of Health created an entirely new $40 million department to combat drug and alcohol abuse in Pennsylvania.  Combined with $69 million in federal funds, the Secretary of Health oversees more than $100 million in prevention programs as he marches in support of making liquor buying more convenient.

There will be plenty more to say about the controversial privatization plan. While Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, a Berks County Republican who is spearheading the issue in the Senate, is cool to House Bill 790, he seems to be leaning toward a bill that resembles Senate Bill 100, which could still sacrifice good jobs in the name of convenience.


Transportation Plan Will Create 60,000 Jobs

The Senate this week passed a transportation funding plan that is expected to create 60,000 jobs while beginning to fix a nation-leading number of structurally deficient bridges.

Nearly six years after a fatal bridge collapse in Minnesota generated concern about the condition of bridges here in Pennsylvania, the majority Republicans finally saw the sense in taking an aggressive step toward infrastructure safety at a time when interest rates are low and unemployment is high.

The Senate bill would generate an estimated $1.7 billion in the first year and $2.5 billion by the fifth year and will include money for  repairing roads, bridges, transit systems, airports and rail lines.

It should boost employment in construction trades and help kick-start Pennsylvania’s lagging economic recovery.
But there is a winding road ahead as the Republican-controlled House recently passed a plan that provides only $1.7 billion, far short of what two panels of experts appointed by two governors recommended.

Unemployment Bills Will See Action This Week

The Senate is poised to pass legislation reforming the administration of Unemployment Compensation some time this week.

House Bill 26 was voted out of the House last week, and will be considered by the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, then the full Senate.

Senate Bill 928 will likely be amended to look identical to House Bill 26 and voted over to the House. But before the House takes action on it, the Senate will pass the House version.

The bills would provide additional funding for the administration of Unemployment Compensation for the next four years, beginning in 2013, by directing a portion of employee UC tax contributions into a Service and Infrastructure Improvement Fund. Read analysis.

For more information, click here.

New York Will Raise Minimum Wage

According to published reports, New York will join 19 other states in raising its minimum wage. An agreement has been reached that will drop the an inflation index but keep protections for younger workers.

Click here to read more.

U.S. Unemployment Ticks Up Slightly

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor announced the nation’s unemployment rate rose .1% from 7.5 percent in April 2013 to 7.6 percent in May 2013. 

This rise, which is the first increase in U.S. unemployment since January 2013, is the result of more people looking for employment opportunities in the country—a positive sign for the nation’s economy. 

Despite this slight increase, the current unemployment rate remains .3 percent lower than the nation’s unemployment rate in January 2013 and .6 percent lower than it was in May 2012. 

With regard to job growth, the U.S. added 175,000 jobs in May 2013 and has added 2.1 million jobs since May 2012. 

The U.S. unemployment rate for May 2013 now matches Pennsylvania’s April 2013 unemployment rate of 7.6 percent, which marked a substantial drop in unemployment for the Commonwealth.  At this time, the state’s May 2013 unemployment numbers have not yet been released.  Overall, while the U.S. unemployment rate has followed a general downward trend since 2010, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate has not dropped with the same level of consistency during the past several years.    






Watch Live PA & U.S. UNEMPLOYMENT RATE (6/12 - 2/13)