Finance - March 1, 2013

Voter ID making headlines

The controversial Voter ID law that passed last year and subsequently ended up in court via a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law is making headlines again.  The law has been the subject of discussion at several budget hearings and now, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Democrats are accusing the Governor of “not doing enough” should the law be enforced in the general election in November 2013.  Governor Corbett has not included any funding in the 2013-14 budget for outreach and education about the law.

Department of State Secretary, Carol Aichele was questioned about the law at the Department of State budget hearings.  Secretary Aichele relayed that she felt there was a “high level of awareness” about the law across the Commonwealth and that her department had used federal money last year to stage a media campaign to inform voters about the law.  She also indicated that there is no federal money available this year in addition to no funding from the state budget.  She noted that her department would comply if it were ordered to conduct further outreach by a judge or the legislature.  The law itself will not be enforced for the May primary and is scheduled for a trial in Commonwealth Court in July 2013.


Federal budget cuts take effect today

As of today, March 1, the federal budget cuts known as “sequestration” go into effect. Congress attempted to avoid the cuts yesterday but the US Senate failed to pass either of the two measures proposed.  The cuts affect every state and Pennsylvania will likely see cuts in services that help seniors and low-income families as well as job furloughs for some military employees and other federal employees. 

Programs such as Meals on Wheels, that provides meals to seniors, and Head Start, which provides child-care assistance for low-income families will lose funding.  The WIC program is also at risk for having participants cut with a loss in funding.  In Philadelphia the Meals on Wheels program has said they will continue to provide meals but transportation for seniors, such as shared ride programs, will be cut.  In Central Pennsylvania civilian workers at the Mechanicsburg Navy Depot, Letterkenny Army Depot, and Fort Indiantown Gap are likely to be furloughed at least one day a week.  The furloughs will most likely go into effect in April since employees must be given a certain amount of notice before being furloughed.  Pennsylvania will see the loss in other ways as well.  With the employees being furloughed with out pay, they’re losing income and paying less income tax; meaning an overall revenue loss in taxes for the state. 

Other jobs at risk are air traffic controllers, transportation security officers, meat inspectors and park rangers.  Americans may eventually see longer airport lines and higher food costs as an overall result.