Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
As we head into the final furlong of the working week, we’re going to stipulate something up front.
There’s nothing new under the sun about Democrats rolling out anti-poverty programs. It was in 1964, after all, that President Lyndon B. Johnson announced his ‘War on Poverty.‘ Decades later, we’re still waging it.
So it would be easy to shrug at the news that yet another state legislator has rolled out another anti-poverty effort. But in this more enlightened age of Cory, Kamala, AOC, and the DSA, knocking the legs out from under income inequality feels more urgent – and, just maybe – more achievable than it has for a while.
Enter state Sen. Vince Hughes, of Philadelphia.
Hughes, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, is sponsoring a pair of proposals that he says will “take a data-driven approach to public policy to ensure that lawmakers are fully informed of the potential impacts of legislation on people living in poverty before they vote.”
So what does that mean — for practical purposes? In short, he wants his colleagues to consider the consequences of their actions on the poor – as much as they would any other special interest.
The first proposal would fight “generational poverty,” by taking data collected by the state Dept. of Human Services and turning it over to a special commission that would “recommend policies to address generational poverty in areas such as public assistance, education, [and] criminal justice.” Hughes’ office said in a statement.
It’s modeled after a program from that noted hotbed of liberalism — Utah. But, punchlines aside, Utah has seen a decline in childhood poverty rates since the program was established in 2012, Hughes’ office said.
The second proposal would require the state’s Independent Fiscal Office to crunch the governor’s annual general fund budget proposal — and the final enacted product — to determine its “poverty impact,” Hughes‘ office said.
The bill would also allow any lawmaker to request a “poverty impact analysis” on any piece of legislation that comes before the General Assembly, Hughes’ office said. The General Assembly would also be barred from taking a final vote on any bill until such an analysis is completed, under the proposal.
Taken together, the bills are hardly radical. In their own way, they’re closing the fiscal barn door long before there’s a chance for the budgetary horses to flee (If we can torture a metaphor in the most DeWeesean way possible.).
According to Hughes’ office, about 12.5 percent of the state’s more than 12 million people are below the federal poverty line. Additionally, about 700,000 state residents, including 206,000 children, live in what’s known as “deep poverty,” — which means they have household incomes of less than 50 percent of the federal poverty level, Hughes’ office said.
It’s rare in Harrisburg that lawmakers contemplate the long-term impacts of policy-making on Pennsylvania’s poorest residents. And even if the bills don’t go anywhere, forcing lawmakers to at least have a policy discussion about the broader impacts of their actions is a start.
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