New law makes Pa. a ‘leader’ on getting bang for your tax credit buck, study | Tuesday Morning Coffee

July 30, 2019 7:15 am

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

So, write down the day: We’re going to actually say something nice about Pennsylvania policymakers.

No, we’re not suffering from some rare tropical affliction, nor did we take a sharp blow to the the cranium. Nope, the occasion for this praise is based on hard data and the conclusions of the policy wonks at the Pew Charitable Trusts* (Which means, technically, it’s someone else saying something nice about Pennsylvania.  But we’re going to roll with it.).

Anyway, Pew is giving Pennsylvania some kudos for joining the ranks of states that have taken a comprehensive look at their tax credit programs, deciding which ones worked and which didn’t, and then (gasp) actually doing something about it.

Acting on recommendations by the state’s Independent Fiscal Officelawmakers passed, and Gov. Tom Wolf signed, a measure that makes a bunch of tax credit fixes across a variety of sectors.

“Among its provisions, H.B. 262 closes the New Jobs Tax Credit to new applicants after June 2020 in the first significant policy change aligned with specific program evaluations produced by the state’s Independent Fiscal Office (IFO). The new law also makes administrative changes to the state’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit that reflect suggestions in [the report] by the IFO,” Pew experts concluded.

The Pennsylvania House chamber. Image via Flickr Commons

By doing something that’s actually proactive, Pennsylvania “joined an increasing number of states producing evaluations that look at whether tax credits are producing the desired results—and that offer recommendations on how they might be strengthened,” the Pew experts wrote, noting that these evaluations “are the first produced by IFO as part of the General Assembly’s 2017 mandate to regularly review such incentive programs.”

“This year’s legislative action shows that policymakers can make effective use of these reports, more of which are planned,” they wrote. The analyses also provide the opportunity for “policymakers to think critically about the intent of each credit and include options for changes to improve performance,” they noted.

Image via Flickr Commons

For instance: 

If they wanted to, lawmakers could crack the hood on the Film Production Tax Credit and “… develop a long-term vision for the program and consider whether the goal is to maintain or expand the existing industry. If the latter, policymakers crafting future legislation would need to consider whether Pennsylvania is willing to significantly increase its investment,” the Pew scholars wrote.

“More precise targeting of the Film Production Tax Credit, for example, might prompt them to focus on long-term activities by establishing separate credits for television productions or for encouraging local hiring by increasing credit rates for resident labor,” they wrote.

As an added bonus, the IFO gave policymakers hard metrics so state agencies can track the credits individual performance.

“This would include data that could help answer the ‘but for’ question, such as information about film credit applicants that did not receive an award, to see if they still operated in the state without the incentive. Other metrics vary by credit and are designed to determine if program goals are being met,” the Pew experts wrote. “If the additional data are available for future evaluations, the IFO should be able to improve the depth of its analyses and more accurately assess how well these programs are achieving their goals.”

Bottom line, thanks to the IFO’s work, “Pennsylvania has become a leader in tax incentive evaluation,” and the effort “marks the start of a broad and comprehensive effort to ensure that the state’s credits are worth the cost.”

Who’da thunk?

WikiMedia Commons

Our Stuff.

For the first time ever, Pennsylvania is setting aside money for indigent defendants facing the death penalty. The only problem? There’s not enough money to go around. Elizabeth Hardison has the story.

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, is holding a constituent town hall in Hummelstown, Dauphin County tonight at 6 p.m. It’s only the second he’s held since 2017, and his first since getting redistricted into a much more purple seat. He’ll be met by protesters upset over a variety of things — not least of which is Perry’s refusal to move the meeting to a larger venue after demand outstripped capacity at the local fire hall where he’s holding the 90-minute session.

Mirroring a similar, successful effort in New York City, Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Philadelphia, is floating a bill that would create a minimum wage for drivers for such ride-hailing services as Uber and Lyft.

On our Commentary PageElizabethtown College poli-sci prof (and regular) Fletcher McClellan suggests that if Pennsylvania women are looking for pointers on expanding their ranks in the Legislature, they could probably take some pointers from Nevada, where women now comprise more than half the membership of the Silver State’s General Assembly.

When he was just eight years old, Capital-Star Opinion contributor Anwar Curtis’ mom took him to see the original ‘Lion King.’ A quarter-century later, he went to see Disney’s live-action remake. This time, unfortunately, he did it without his Mom, who died last November. But, with his fiancee at his side, Curtis was able see the joy written on the faces of the kids seeing the movie for the first time. If that’s not a visible manifestation of the Circle of Life, we don’t know what is.

And two University of Michigan scholars explain the community-level effects of the Trump administration’s plans to throw about 3 million people off food stamps.

(Image via

A bill now before the General Assembly aims to protect small construction companies from errors they didn’t commit, the Inquirer reports.
Is Heinz leaving Heinz Field? The Post-Gazette has the story.
PennLive explains that weird $10 fee that showed up on your EZ-Passstatement.
Easton officials have planted the city’s first ‘educational forest’ in a local park, the Morning Call reports.
So who was the last Democrat to represent Lancaster County in Congress? LancasterOnline has your answer.

Here’s your #NePa Instagram of the Day:

During an appearance at a DelCo refinery, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., called for repealing America’s ethanol mandateWHYY-FM reports.
The Republican Party in Northampton County shared — and then deleted days later — that ‘Jihad Squad‘ meme, the PA Post reports.
New state laws are deepening the dividing lines over abortionStateline.orgreports.
Politico pre-games the Democratic debates this week.
Mitch McConnell doesn’t like the heat he’s taking over blocking those election security bills. Pobrescito (via Roll Call).

Gov. Tom Wolf 
has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Belated best wishes go out this morning to state Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, who celebrated on Monday.

Hail & Farewell.
Godspeed and congratulations go out this morning to CBS21 anchor Sherry Christian, who’s doing her final morning show this morning, and moving on after 17 years at WHP-TV in Harrisburg. Best wishes.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a new favorite from The Allah-Las. It’s ‘Catamaran.’

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link.
lost 8-1 to San Diego on Monday. Sigh.

And now you’re up to date. 

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.