Editorials from around Pennsylvania
Editorials from around Pennsylvania:
HAS PA. TURNED FISCAL CORNER? LET’S STAY TUNED, Nov. 24
If Pennsylvania’s revenue total remains in the black for the final eight months of the 2018-19 fiscal year, mimicking the revenue picture of the year’s first four months, state taxpayers will have grounds to be cautiously optimistic that the Keystone State maybe has turned the proverbial corner on a money shortage that has dogged the commonwealth for more than a decade.
But the best advice for taxpayers is not to be duped by that fragment of good financial news.
There’s no way for taxpayers to know and understand at this point all of the financial maneuverings employed by the Legislature and Wolf administration to balance this year’s state budget — or at least make it seem like the budget was balanced by the June 30 budget — preparation deadline.
State residents aren’t destined to get solid insight into how genuine and accurate — perhaps “honest” is a better word — 2018-19 incoming and outgoing money projections were until serious progress on the state’s 2019-20 spending package begins to take shape sometime around late April.
Hopefully, budget negotiations between the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will repeat the more amicable budget negotiations that took place for this year, unlike what occurred during the first three years of Wolf’s tenure as the state’s chief executive.
Both sides need to embrace an attitude of compromise, understanding that any kind of negotiations require give-and-take.
According to a report by the news and information service Capitolwire, published in the Mirror on Nov. 3, Pennsylvania’s $2.5 billion of collected General Fund revenue in October was $28.3 million, or 1.2 percent, more than had been anticipated.
October’s collected amount, when combined with General Fund revenue collected during the fiscal year’s first three months — the state’s fiscal year begins on July 1 — brought the total amount collected for the fiscal year thus far to just over $10 billion.
That $10 billion figure is $238 million, or 2.4 percent, above what had been estimated for the four months in question.
While $238 million above projections might seem to spell excellent prospects for the state, there’s no guarantee that the trend will continue uninterrupted through fiscal year’s end.
What seems without question, though, is that the incoming-revenue numbers don’t suggest that there will be any room for a spending spree in 2019-20.
And the situation might be worse if some questionable budget moves implemented for 2018-19 end up consuming a significant chunk of the higher-than-projected money collections recorded for July 1 through Oct. 31.
One new barometer for how Pennsylvania might fare at the end of the current fiscal year — and even beyond 2018-19 — will be the amounts collected each month from the commonwealth’s expansion of gambling.
There’s no sure bet that an end-of-year windfall lies ahead.
While it’s too early to predict whether Pennsylvania really has turned the fiscal corner, based on October’s and year-to-date numbers, it’s not too early to pay close attention, going forward.
Being a good citizen of this commonwealth entails being familiar in an ongoing way with state government’s performance, fiscal and otherwise, not just as Election Day is near at hand.
__ The Altoona Mirror
__ Online: https://bit.ly/2Q2ejHi
COLD TRUTHS ON GLOBAL WARMING, Nov. 27
It’s a strategy that everyone on either side of the news business knows.
If you have to say something that you don’t want people to hear, save it for a Friday afternoon. Better yet, the Friday of a holiday weekend.
So it should be no surprise that the Trump administration chose to release a dire report on climate change late in the day on Nov. 23, Black Friday.
The fourth National Climate Assessment says everything the president doesn’t want to hear about climate change:
— Warming-charged extremes “have already become more frequent, intense, widespread or of long duration.”
— Losses from climate change events will cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars annually by the end of the century.
— More than 90 percent of the current warming is caused by humans.
— Much of the report covers ground that scientists have been tilling for years, but now those climate scientists are able to point at events and say, “We forecast this.”
“We are seeing the things we said would be happening, happen now in real life,” said report co-author Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University. “As a climate scientist it is almost surreal.”
Warmer and drier conditions mean massive wildfires through the West. Warmer oceans mean more powerful and more frequent hurricanes. Rising sea levels mean higher storm surges.
Just ask the people of California, where deadly fires have enveloped much of the state in smoke.
Or the people of Florida, where the death toll from last month’s Hurricane Michael continues to rise.
Or the people of North Carolina, where September’s Hurricane Florence caused around $45 billion in damage, according to Insurance Business.
Or the people of eastern York County, where downpours in late summer destroyed roads and bridges and left homes and businesses flooded.
Extreme weather in the U.S. has cost about $400 billion since 2015, according to the National Climate Assessment.
And it will only get worse, the report says. The 29 chapters and five appendices go into detail about the effect climate change has on everything from air quality to disease to agriculture to transportation.
“The potential for losses in some sectors could reach hundreds of billions of dollars per year by the end of this century,” the report said. It added that if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue at current levels, labor costs in outdoor industries during heat waves could cost $155 billion in lost wages per year by 2090.
The report then goes a step farther than the previous three NCAs by making it personal and pointing out what will happen in local areas.
“All climate change is local,” said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Richard Alley, who wasn’t part of the report but praised it. “We live in our drought, our floods and our heat waves. That means we have to focus on us.”
And yet, for one person, the dire warnings, forecasts and verified accounts in the scientific report mean nothing.
“I don’t believe it,” President Donald Trump said Monday about the economic impacts of climate change outlined in the NCA.
Sadly, it’s not surprising that Trump would reject the report. Just last week, when visiting the scene of devastating fires in California, the president said the fires didn’t change his opinion on climate change. He continues to throw support behind fossil fuel industries, which continue to throw greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The NCA is required by Congress every four years, and work was well underway when Trump took office in 2017.
The administration did everything it could to lessen the impact the report could have by releasing it, quietly, on Black Friday, with a short statement. It would seem Trump hasn’t read it and has no intention of doing so.
But it spells out cold truths that the administration is doing its best to cover up: Global climate change is happening, it’s affecting our country, and we are the reason it’s happening.
__ The York Dispatch
REGION HAS FAR MORE HOMELESS THAN PLACES TO HELP THEM, Nov. 25
While many in the Cambria-Somerset region are recovering from Thursday’s turkey feast, hustling from store to store in search of bargain or clicking across the web to get holiday deals, an invisible problem is growing.
Homelessness is on the rise, experts say, and we don’t have enough shelter space to provide short-term help.
″(People) don’t realize the severity of the problem,” Jesse Trentini, program director of the Martha & Mary House in Dale Borough, told reporter Jocelyn Brumbaugh for a story we published Nov. 18.
As the story showed, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness reports that more than 14,000 individuals in Pennsylvania were considered homeless in 2017.
That total includes more than 2,000 total families, while 10 percent were classified as experiencing chronic homelessness.
The homeless include military veterans, individuals with physical and mental health issues, people out of work both short term and long term.
And in Johnstown and the surrounding area, the homeless aren’t sleeping on park benches or under bridges.
They’re spending their nights on the couches and floors of friends and family members. Some find shelter in empty houses or other structures.
Trentini said local homelessness generally includes individuals paroled from correctional facilities, senior citizens with limited income or people facing significant mental health issues without insurance or access to treatment.
When the weather turns colder, the challenges increase.
“They have a lot less alternative options” during the winter, Trentini said.
And we don’t see the local homeless, so we don’t know they’re there — or don’t have to acknowledge their presence.
“We do the best we can with the resources we have,” said Bill McKinney, president and CEO of the United Way of the Laurel Highlands.
“We’re trying to tackle this in a collaborative fashion. We’re all trying to help them the best we can.”
The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness said that while 33 states had increased shelter capacity as of 2017, Pennsylvania had the largest decrease in services with 382 fewer beds.
The Johnstown area lost it primary shelter several years ago when the Salvation Army ended that service.
That prompted Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown to launch Martha & Mary House in 2015 and help begin to close the void.
At the new shelter, applicants must live in Cambria County for 90 days and must pass criminal background checks to be eligible for a 30-day stay. And Martha & Mary House has just 15 beds.
So, each year the shelter receives far more applications than it can accommodate.
This year from July through October, Martha & Mary House received 160 referrals and was on pace for 400 applications over 12 months.
The center works with those who stay there to help them get their lives on track through job training and connection to area services. That’s a fantastic approach.
But the region has far more than 15 people in need of that help at any one time.
The Johnstown region truly needs more answers to homelessness.
We urge the United Way and its partners to take the lead on the development of a response that would likely mean additional services.
Catholic Charities is doing its part. Perhaps other church organizations can get involved.
This effort should be motivated by both compassion and economics.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has said the cost to society for each homeless individual is $40,000 a year.
In the meantime, residents can call the 2-1-1 hotline to help connect people with health and human services resources.
“Anybody can be homeless,” Trentini said.
Yes, it could be a relative, a neighbor, a co-worker.
Some day, it could be you.
__ The Tribune-Democrat
__ Online: https://bit.ly/2Qrg3sX
HANG ON TO THE EXTRAS, Nov. 25
Despite increased funding to our area school districts, local academic officials say it is still not enough as they struggle to meet the demands of state and federal mandates mixed with a weakened economy while keeping taxes manageable for residents.
For years, we have been watching programs being slashed from the proverbial curriculum chopping block. Reading, writing and arithmetic are still the priority. These days, those extras are becoming harder and harder to keep.
We can’t say we envy our local school directors in the decisions they must often make to keep our schools afloat while maintaining a quality education for our youth. We recognize it is a thankless, stressful, yet essential job.
That is why when outside agencies step up to help keep some of those things that are not tied to Keystone exams or school performance reports in school, it makes a huge difference in bringing back a more well-rounded education.
So is the case for the American Heart Association and a Uniontown native, who recently teamed up with high schools in Fayette County to provide CPR kits. Through “Fayette County Healthy at Heart,” sponsored by the Gismondi Family Foundation, created by Pittsburgh attorney and Uniontown native John Gismondi, students in each of the high schools are afforded the opportunity to learn the life-saving skill when they otherwise may not have had the program available.
American Heart Association CPR in Schools Training Kits were distributed to all six Fayette County public school districts — Albert Gallatin, Brownsville Area, Connellsville Area, Frazier, Laurel Highlands and Uniontown Area — and Geibel Catholic High School in Connellsville.
According to Dr. Richard Pish, board president of the Fayette County division of the American Heart Association, the program will have an impact that goes well beyond the school.
“The beauty of this is that when children learn this, they will be able to go out and teach it to other people. When you master this, you absolutely will be able to save lives.”
Lessons like that, we say, are just as important as E = mc2.
The AHA is one of many businesses, community members and outside agencies who come to the rescue of our school-aged children every day. For that, we are thankful. We know it takes a village to raise a child, and we are fortunate to have in our area those who recognize the importance of providing what may be needed to our schools.
We applaud the efforts of the American Heart Association and Gismondi for this initiative. We implore others to look for ways they, too, can help alleviate the unfortunate hardships of doing away with the extras.
With each offer to help, be it big or small, we are certain students in every classroom across the county will welcome the breath of fresh air.
__ The Herald-Standard
__ Online: https://bit.ly/2Qn7i37
SICKNESS INDEED, Nov. 27
Remember Sarah Palin’s apocryphal “death panels,” the evil government bureaucrats who under Obamacare, supposedly, would deny lifesaving health care to patients based on their age and financial condition?
The private sector, the argument went, would better protect patients from the government’s effort to shore up the system by “picking winners and losers.”
Consider the letter, then, that 60-year-old Hedda Martin of Grand Rapids, Michigan, recently received from Spectrum Health’s Heart & Lung Specialized Care Clinics. A committee for the company denied Martin’s application for a heart transplant, not on medical grounds, but because it determined that she had inadequate insurance to cover the cost of post-operative anti-rejection drugs. The committee recommended that Martin, who says that she suffered heart damage more than a decade ago in the course of chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer, raise at least $10,000 to improve her chance of receiving a new heart.
Martin’s son, Alex Britt, set up a GoFundMe page that raised more than $17,000 by Monday, so it appears it might work out in her favor.
But her case means that in some cases, access to lifesaving health care in the world’s wealthiest and most technologically advanced country depends on the kindness of strangers. Congress, which has the power to correct that preposterous condition, should be ashamed.
__ The Times-Tribune
__ Online: https://bit.ly/2TT5SMD