Taxpayers in Philadelphia should have a City government that is efficient, effective and delivers the most value to citizens. That’s the goal of two bills introduced by Councilman Bill Green and unanimously passed by City Council mandating program-based budgeting for how the City spends its operating funds and a cost-benefit analysis for every project proposed for the City’s capital budget.
The Councilman’s bills modify Chapter 21 of the Philadelphia Code and are enacted with the authority given to Council by voters in a November, 2012 ballot measure.
“I am extremely excited to see these new budget reforms enacted,” Green said. “These new approaches are being implemented in the private and public sectors across the country – across the world, really – and Philadelphia is now the largest city in the country to adopt it.”
The first measure – co-sponsored by Council members David Oh, Maria Quiñones-Sanchez, Kenyatta Johnson and Denny O’Brien – establishes a system of program-based budgeting that identifies the cost and effectiveness of City services. For each function of a City Department, the Finance Director would be required to identify: the goals of the function, the resources necessary to complete the function (salaries & benefits, materials, etc.) the funding source for the required resources (general fund, grants, etc.) and a means of determining the effectiveness of the function in meeting goals.
“This is essential information for Council to exercise its fiduciary responsibility when spending taxpayer dollars,” Green said. “What are we spending our money on and is that money having the desired impact? It’s the way a budget should be planned, whether in City Hall or around your kitchen table.”
The second measure, with the same co-sponsors, requires a cost-benefit analysis for capital budget expenditures. The analysis will be required to accompany the Fiscal Year 2016 capital budget and the FY 2016-21 capital.
“Our six-year capital program is close to $9 billion,” Green said. “And the current budget details do not identify important aspects of capital programs like return on investment and the annual costs associated with the new projects. Requiring this analysis will help Council make strategic capital decisions based upon cost and priority to make sure a project is actually worth funding.”
STACK CALLS MEDICAID REJECTION BAD PRESCRIPTION
As more states opt into the Medicaid expansion plan under the federal Affordable Care Act, State Sen. Mike Stack (D-Northeast) said the Governor’s decision to reject the federal Medicaid expansion plan is a bad prescription for Pennsylvania.
“We are the sixth-largest state and we have the fourth-largest population of citizens ages 65 and older, and yet we’re not part of the increasing number of states that are accepting a Medicaid expansion. It’s sickening too many Pennsylvanians either can’t afford health insurance or have very limited access to coverage,” said Stack, who is the Democratic chairman of the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee.
“There is no reasonable benefit to rejecting the Medicaid expansion plan; in fact, we should embrace the plan. It’s an unprecedented opportunity to help many folks who are in desperate need of health care and at the same time create jobs and receive federal funding. This should be a no-brainer.”
Aside from West Virginia, which is still weighing a decision, Pennsylvania is the only state in the Mid-Atlantic region that has rejected the plan, which could help up to 700,000 Pennsylvanians.
EVANS BILL WOULD ‘PAY FOR SUCCESS’
State Rep. Dwight Evans (D-N. Phila.) unveiled “Pay for Success” legislation that would break the chains of traditional government funding by investing in innovative programs that produce better outcomes and save tax dollars.
“Government is rooted in an archaic and ineffective system of wasting scarce taxpayer dollars to perpetuate programs that have been highly successful in securing their survival but dismal in achieving results,” Evans said. “I propose a 21st-century way of thinking to make headway against some of our most persistent problems.”
Evans’ proposal would convert government into a catalyst, instead of conduit for cash, for programs that produce clearly defined benchmarks. “I propose a pilot program that would fund programs that have shown remarkable results in reducing homelessness and recidivism among a small sample, but have been unable to win funding from cash-strapped governments,” Evans said. “Such a program would spur innovation and engage nonprofits and foundations by funding success.”
Evans stressed that the pilot program only would pay for proven results that produce savings for taxpayers. “Only clearly defined outcomes would be rewarded,” Evans said. “Why not accentuate the best and the brightest ideas instead of the shopworn and expensive ones?”
Besides prison recidivism and homelessness, Evans said his “Pay for Success” model could reward interventions that reduce costly special education placements. The program also could invigorate programs that accelerate learning, keep older citizens out of costly nursing homes and mainstream people with disabilities into the workforce.
ROEBUCK STRIVES TO SAVE ED PROGRAM
State Rep. James Roebuck, Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, is introducing legislation to provide $4.2 million to avoid the looming cancellation of a program that helps Pennsylvania’s most at-risk students to access post-high-school education.
“This is a small amount in a $28 billion state budget and would ensure the continuation of a vital program until new federal funds can arrive later this year. More than 12,000 underrepresented high school students in 11 of our most challenged school districts, including Philadelphia, Chester, York, Lancaster and Pittsburgh, have benefited from this work since the inception of the grant program four years ago. For example, through the state Department of Education, one of these organizations, Project Grad, works with PHEAA, Penn State and Franklin & Marshall College to serve students under the grant program,” Roebuck said.
Roebuck said Project Grad alone serves 12,000 Pennsylvania students each year providing college access, and career and academic supports. Project Grad served 1,779 seniors who earned $19 million in student aid for college this year and provided support for students in grades 9 through 12 to learn how to go to college.
Project Grad has found unique ways to reach students and parents in these communities and has created a college-going culture within these host school districts, he said.
COUNCIL OKAYS GOODE’S OPPORTUNITY LEGISLATION
Philadelphia City Council has approved Councilman W. Wilson Goode, Jr.’s New CDC Tax Credit Expansion Bill.
The bill expands Goode’s CDC Tax Credit Program, which gives tax credits to businesses that contribute to community-development corporations engaged in neighborhood economic development. The New CDC Tax Credit Expansion Bill will expand the program from 35 to 40 partnerships. The expanded program will bring over $4 million more in private investment to Philadelphia’s neighborhoods over the next decade for a grand total of over $30 million invested during that time period.
Council also approved Goode’s Living Wage & Benefits Expansion Bill which will expand the type of employers that are subject to paying their employees at least 150% of the federal minimum wage, offering comparable health benefits to full-time employees and up to 56 hours of earned sick leave. Covered employers will now include more recipients of City leases, concessions, or franchises, as well as their subcontractors, by removing the requirement for a minimum number of 25 total employees.
SEN. WASHINGTON OFFERS HELP WITH UNCLAIMED PROPERTY
State Sen. LeAnna Washington’s (D-Northwest) district office will help constituents who don’t have computer access to search the Pennsylvania Treasury’s Unclaimed Property Database.
Staff members in both her Wadsworth Avenue and Roslyn district offices will be available to help constituents search the online system to see if they are eligible to make a claim.
“So many Pennsylvanians are entitled to unclaimed property, but are not aware that the Treasury’s database exists, or they are unable to access it,” Washington said. “If you or someone you know lives in the 4th senate district and does not have access to a computer with internet, feel free to call our offices and we will search the database for you.”
The Dept. of Treasury is seeking the owners of more than $1.5 billion in unclaimed property in Pennsylvania. The Treasury estimates that approximately one in ten Pennsylvanians is entitled to claim items including, but not limited to, old bank accounts, un-cashed checks, stocks, and life insurance policies.
“I urge all Pennsylvanians to visit www.patreasury.gov to find out if they have unclaimed property – you never know what may be waiting for you,” Washington concluded. Constituents who need assistance with claims may contact either Washington’s Wadsworth Avenue office (215-242-0472) or her Roslyn office (215-517-1434).
TAYLOR SEEKS FUNDS FOR SCHOOL SECURITY
State Rep. John Taylor (R-Kensington) is co-sponsoring legislation to establish funding for school security resource officers at Pennsylvania elementary schools. This legislation is the first step in allowing schools to hire officers who would guard a school’s points of entry.
Taylor said, “By providing state funding for the officers, we’re making sure poor schools have the same resources for protecting their children as wealthier school districts. HB 196 does not state whether the resource officer should be armed, but would allow the school to decide its own safety protocols. The bill would cover public and nonpublic schools”.
Taylor added the concept of school security resource officers has been endorsed by many government officials, including Gov. Tom Corbett, following the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. He concluded, “Our elementary school students are the most vulnerable of us, incapable of defending themselves. This is a solid first step in protecting them from harm.”
SABATINA PROMOTES NEW JOB-TRAINING PROGRAM
State Rep. John Sabatina (D-Northeast) is alerting his constituents to a new program designed to help businesses provide job training to unemployment claimants.
The Keystone Works program, established in Act 107 of 2012, aims to make a connection between job seekers and businesses with the goal of creating a long-lasting employment relationship. A claimant remains eligible for full unemployment benefits while participating in training, and businesses are eligible to receive incentive payments when certain milestones are met.
“The Keystone Works program is of great benefit to both job seekers and businesses,” Sabatina said. “Employers are able to provide practical training for their most high priority occupations and potential employees are able to work towards finding a quality job with family-sustaining wages.”
The training is in high-priority occupations leading to career-focused employment. Training plans are developed by businesses and approved by the Department of Labor and Industry. “Not only does this benefit job seekers and businesses, this is an excellent program for the entire state,” Sabatina said. “Putting Pennsylvanians back to work in quality jobs needs to continue to be one of our top priorities.” For more information, constituents can visit www.dli.state.pa.us/keystoneworks.