Monthly Archives: November 2016

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Will money play a crucial role in state row office elections?

By Carley Mossbrook, Capitolwire

Democratic candidates for state row offices swept their Republican contenders in contributions and spending during the first four-and-a-half months of this year’s election season.

 

Between Jan. 1 and May 16, the Democrats running for attorney general, auditor general and treasurer raked in $3,532,796, while their Republican counterparts brought in $457,103, according to the candidates’ finance reports.

 

The GOP challengers also spent much less over the spring season, which included the primary election, $700,491 to the Democrats’ $3,296,071, with most of the money going to and flowing from Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro and Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery, the two candidates running for Attorney General.

 

Though this may come as a concern for the state Republican Party, it is unclear how important a financial edge will be for the row office candidates.

 

“Overall, these are not the highest profile elections,” said Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College. “They’re running in a year in which we have a presidential election going on and the U.S. Senate election that makes it even more difficult for them to gain traction and to get a lot of press attention.”

 

Therefore, money may not be the most important factor to win them a seat, he said.

 

Instead, the winners will likely come down to which party turns out more voters and who wins the presidency and U.S. Senate race, he said.

 

“Because these voters aren’t going to know these candidates for row office, for the most part, that coat-tail is important,” he said.

 

However, the coat-tail advantage may only help if the presidential race turns out to be a big win for Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump, said Chris Borick, professor of political science and director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.

 

If the race appears to be close leading up to Nov. 8, money is going to be all the more important to give them a boost, he said, calling the candidates “hostage to what happens at the top of the ticket.”

 

If recent polls are any indication of the presidential election’s competitiveness, the row office candidates may want to have their wallets ready.

 

A Sept. 11 Quinnipiac poll shows Clinton’s lead over Trump dropped by 4 percentage points, from 52 percent to 48 percent, in Pennsylvania since Aug. 9. Trump’s likelihood of winning grew by 1 percent, from 42 to 43 percent. Undecided voters made up 5 percent of the polling sample.

 

Row office candidates typically receive minimal attention during the general election – thanks to the noisy and crowded atmosphere of presidential and Senate races, Borick said – but have received even less this year.

 

The lack of attention will force candidates to pull out all the stops to sway voters to their corner by November, he said.

 

“There’s going to be a real diverse effort to get the attention of voters,” Borick said, including fighting for limited television ad time and utilizing social media, which offers a free platform for those strapped for cash.

 

Candidates may also choose to selectively pick the markets where they run their ads rather than run them statewide, Madonna said.

 

“You can target markets because of what you’re trying to accomplish there, because of the message you have and how it plays with the subset of voters,” Madonna said. “My hunch is that we’re likely to see in the row office races more targeted messaging in particular TV markets in the state.”

 

Without much provocation, the Attorney General’s race will likely garner the most attention, he added.

 

“You have two much more high-profile people – a former House member and Montgomery County Chairman, and a current state senator – while these other offices don’t have the same profile,” Madonna said.

 

OAG has also frequently been in the news following former Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s August conviction on nine criminal charges, including perjury and criminal conspiracy.

 

Rafferty may use this as an opportunity to leverage the attention thrown at Kane to tie her to Shapiro and other Democrats, while Shapiro will look to distance himself from her scandal, Borick said.

 

Whichever avenue the candidates take won’t excuse them from the greatest challenge to both of their candidacies, getting voters to actually cast a ballot.

 

“The level of attention given to these candidates and the level that should be given is very much in contrast,” Borick said.

 

In light of Kane’s conviction and recent corruption scandals involving two former state treasurers, voters should make an effort to pay attention to who is running for these offices, he said.

 

“These offices matter to the state, the quality of life in the commonwealth, how money is spent and how the legal system is administered,” Borick said. “They aren’t trivial matters.”

 

Before the pre-General Election spike in campaign fundraising and spending takes off, Capitolwire broke down how much the candidates for state row offices spent during the last three reporting cycles and how much cash each had on hand leading up to the summer season. The analysis is below.

 

Candidates are required to report their financing for the summer months by Sept. 27. Capitolwire will have a breakdown of those numbers once the reports become available.

 

Attorney General: Josh Shapiro (D) v. John Rafferty (R)

Shapiro’s fundraising and spending surpassed Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery, in their race to replace sitting Attorney General Bruce Beemer and to, as both say in the campaign paraphernalia, bring integrity back to the Office of Attorney General.

 

Beemer was appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf in September following Kane’s conviction and resignation.

 

Shapiro, the Democratic contender who has sat on Montgomery County Board of Commissioners since 2011 and served in state House from 2005 to 2011, outraised and outspent his opponent by large margins for the first half of the year.

 

Shapiro’s reports show he started the year with zero dollars and Rafferty $33,178 from last year’s fundraising efforts.

 

Over the first three reporting cycles Shapiro received $3,038,666 in contributions, which includes three contributions moved from his campaign committee for commissioner and his legislative seat totaling more than $1.2 million.

 

He received an assortment of large contributions from attorneys, developers and real estate owners over the course of the spring, including $50,000 from David Magerman, president of the Kohelet Foundation in New York; $50,000 from Michael Rubin, founder and CEO of Kynetic in Conshohocken; $36,000 from Joseph Neubauer, former chairman and CEO of Aramark in Philadelphia and $25,000 from Jamie Maguire, executive chairman of the Philadelphia Insurance Company.

 

A number of political action committees donated large contributions to his campaign, as well: Students First PAC gave him $100,000, SEIU PA COPE donated $30,000 (their healthcare PAC donated another $20,000) and Friends of Matt Bradford, the committee for Rep. Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery, donated $35,000.

 

Gov. Tom Wolf also pitched in $11,000 to Shapiro’s campaign.

 

Though Shapiro’s opponent may have more experience within the OAG, he seems to be lacking the financial edge.

 

Rafferty served as the Deputy Attorney General from 1988 to 1991 before serving on the Montgomery County Board of Assessment Appeals from 1996 to 2002. He’s been a member of the state Senate since being first elected to it in 2002.

 

He received just $399,170 in contributions during the first three cycles of the season, which include his landslide primary win over federal prosecutor Joe Peters.

 

Rafferty received far fewer and smaller contributions than Shapiro. Some of his larger, notable contributions include $10,000 from Andrew Muller Jr., president of the Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad in Port Clinton; five contributions from employees at Audubon Land Development totaling $35,000 and $5,000 from his fellow legislator Sen. Scott Wagner, R-York.

 

His largest contributions came from political action committees, including $50,000 from Build PA PAC; $12,500 from PA Future Fund; $10,000 from Troopers Association PAC; $50,000 from Friends of Joe Scarnati, the campaign committee for the President Pro Temp of the state Senate and $5,000 from Citizens for Prosperity in America Today, the political action committee affiliated with Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, who is running his own campaign in a critical race against Democrat Katie McGinty.

 

Alongside his individual contributions, Rafferty received $93,794 in-kind contributions to Shapiro’s $51,436. In-kind contributions are services or materials donated to the campaign, like office space and travel accommodations.

 

But with more money came more spending for Shapiro. His reported expenditures totaled $3,031,290, almost all of what he brought in during the five-month period.

 

Most of Shapiro’s funds were spent just before his competitive primary contest against Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. and Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli on April 26.

 

Shapiro beat Zappala by 10 percentage points and Morganelli by more than 30 percentage points in the tight race focused on prosecutorial experience. Endorsements from President Barack Obama, Wolf and former Gov. Ed Rendell likely aided his efforts.

 

Rafferty, on the other hand, was more modest in his spending, dishing out $283,943 in expenses.

 

At the close of the spring season, Shapiro was sitting on $114,241 in unpaid debts and obligations and had $7,376 cash-on-hand, while Rafferty reported no unpaid debts or obligations and began the summer with $148,405 in cash-on-hand.

 

Money doesn’t appear to be a concern for the Rafferty campaign at this time. His team seems to be relying on the senator’s qualifications and experience to propel them to a win in November.

 

“Sen. Rafferty has been committed to raising the amount of money he needs to win this race. We are in it to have a victory in November,” Mike Barley, Rafferty’s campaign manager said.

 

He said the campaign opts to remain coy about how they plan to raise and spend money leading up to the election season, but said he believes Rafferty’s qualifications and experience will aid him in fundraising going forward.

 

“It’s certainly been helpful. I think a lot of people were concerned that the previous Attorney General Kathleen Kane didn’t have the experience necessary…,” he said. “I think that’s a big issue. Commissioner Shapiro has no experience for this position.”

 

Shapiro’s camp sees it differently.

 

Shapiro’s “record of integrity and pragmatic, bipartisan achievement” on the Montgomery County Commissioner’s board led to a large response in donations, wrote Joe Radosevich, Shapiro’s campaign manager, in an email.

 

“Thousands of Pennsylvanians responded to Josh’s broad experience and plan to be the people’s Attorney General with donations, which we’re grateful for,” he wrote.

 

Radosevich didn’t appear concerned about Shapiro’s large debt and little cash-on-hand reported at the end of the last cycle either. More than four more months of fundraising and campaigning have passed since the last reporting period.

 

“We’re extremely confident our message, of how Josh will be the people’s Attorney General and stand up to the powerful to protect Pennsylvanians, will be heard,” he wrote. “We have the resources because thousands of everyday Pennsylvanians trust Josh and believe he’s the best person for the job.”

 

Auditor General: Eugene DePasquale (D) v. John Brown (R)

 

In the only race that includes an incumbent, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale found much more success bringing in funds before and after the primary election compared to his Republican opponent John Brown.

 

He also started the year off on a better foot, with $149,386, compared to Brown, the Northampton County Executive, who brought forth just $810.

 

The disparity in their fundraising was evident from the start and continued into the third cycle of reporting. In total, DePasquale brought in $258,726 in contributions and Brown only received $32,477.

 

The two ran unopposed in the primary. Less competitive races typically mean less fundraising and spending, Madonna said.

 

DePasquale brought in a few large donations from notable individuals, including $5,000 from William and Michele Shipley, chief executive officer of the Shipley Group in York; $2,500 from Dan Hilferty, president and CEO of Independence Blue Cross and $2,500 from Ross Nese, executive of Grane Healthcare.

 

State Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding, also donated $500 to DePasquale’s campaign.

 

DePasquale’s larger donations came from political action committees, including $20,250 from IBEW Local 5 in Pittsburgh; $17,500 from PSEA PACE in Harrisburg; $10,000 from McNees PAC in Harrisburg; $10,000 from Laborers District Council in Philadelphia; and $5,000 from Comcast Corp. & NBC Universal PAC in Philadelphia, among others.

 

His opponent, Brown, received only three contributions over the five-month period, including $25,000 from Charles Chrin, executive of Charles Chrin Companies in Easton; $2,427 from David Ceraul, an attorney at Ceraul Law Offices in Bangor and $5,000 from Citizens for Prosperity in America Today.

 

DePasquale also received $2,234 in in-kind contributions, while Brown received $13,990.

 

The incumbent outspent his Republican opponent by more than double too. DePasquale’s expenses reached over $54,000 and Brown’s broke $26,000.

 

At the end of the last reporting period, DePasquale reported no outstanding dues, while his opponent reported more than $35,000 in unpaid debts and obligations.

 

Brown’s remaining cash balance of $6,777 didn’t come close to DePasquale balance of $353,519 going into the summer months.

 

Along with more contributions, DePasquale also has an incumbent’s advantage aiding him in his efforts, Madonna said.

 

“That’s one of the natural advantages of incumbents, he can talk about what he’s doing and it’s hard to criticize him for that because that’s his job,” Madonna said.

 

It’s worth mentioning a Democrat has claimed the Auditor General’s Office in all but one election over the last six decades.

 

Treasurer: Joseph Torsella (D) v. Otto Voit (R)

 

The Democratic challenger in the race for state Treasurer, the least acknowledged of the three row offices, also outraised his opponent by a landslide.

 

Joseph Torsella, a retired U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and former chairman of the Board of Education, outraised his opponent Otto Voit by nearly nine times during the five-month period.

 

Torsella was ahead by more than $1 million right out of the gate, when he brought $1,504,860 from last year’s fundraising into the 2016 cycle. He began campaigning for the office in December 2014.

 

Voit, a businessman and president of Keystone Dental Group, brought forth $504,566 from the previous year.

 

Torsella’s contributions surpassed Voit’s during the first three cycles too. The former ambassador brought in $235,404 in contributions compared to Voit’s $25,456.

 

Voit did receive more in-kind contributions over the period – $13,990 to $5,463.

 

Most of Torsella’s larger contributions were given by political action committees, including $10,000 from Students First PAC in Wynnewood; $25,000 from Local Union #98 I.B.E.W. Committee on Political Education in Philadelphia; $5,000 from FNB Corporation PAC in Pittsburgh and $2,500 from PNC PAC in Pittsburgh, among others.

 

He received many individual contributions from lawyers and company executives. The most notable of them was a $500 donation from David Montgomery, chairman and former president of the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

Voit’s contributions were slim throughout the spring. He received a single contribution during the first cycle, which ran Jan. 1 through March 7. In the second cycle, he picked up 10 individual contributions and two contributions from political action committees, including $5,000 from PA Banker’s PUB Affairs in Harrisburg and $2,500 from PSEA- PACE For State Elections in Harrisburg.

 

In the last reporting cycle, Voit received nine individual contributions and two more from political action committees, including $5,000 from Citizens for Prosperity in America Today.

 

Though he received fewer contributions, Voit spent much of his savings. He dished out $390,038 to Torsella’s $210,198, and at the end of the third cycle, reported $280,000 in unpaid debt and obligations to Torsella’s $55,000.

 

Torsella had more than $1.5 million to propel him through the summer season, while Voit closed out the spring with $139,984.

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DePasquale warns of potential ‘transportation disaster’ following PA Turnpike Commission audit

Travelers and truck drivers could see toll prices along the Pennsylvania Turnpike rise well above 200 percent over the next 20 years if financial plans for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission ring true, the state’s top fiscal watchdog has cautioned.

The commission, in the interest of unburdening itself from current and future debt, has based its plan on projections from an outside consultant. The changes would raise the cash rate of travel from Pittsburgh to Valley Forge from $32.90 to $72.28, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said at a press conference in Pittsburgh.

The commission’s plan was released as part of an audit by DePasquale into the Turnpike Commission’s finances and operations for the fiscal years 2014 to 2016. He warned of a potential “transportation disaster” caused by a combination of increasing uncollected toll violations, accumulating debt and “unrealistic” projections crafted to solve the commission’s troubles.

The report shows the Turnpike Commission is on “potentially unstable financial ground that could have serious repercussions on the state’s entire transportation system if the General Assembly doesn’t act soon,” DePasquale wrote in a press release.

Of his findings, DePasquale noted unpaid toll violations have increased dramatically, leading the commission to write off $12 million to $20 million per year in uncollected violations.

Violations typically occur when drivers grab a ticket at the beginning of their route and later exit through an EZ Pass lane. Cameras capture license plates numbers and tickets are issued to owner of the cars, but their tickets often go unpaid, DePasquale said.

More than 726,000 violations were sent in 2015, he said, totaling $61.3 million in violations and fees, of which $43.2 million remained uncollected at the end of 2015.

Like past audits, he also concluded that the commission’s debt and required payments to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation are bogging it down.

He blamed Act 44 for the debt load. In 2007, the General Assembly and Gov. Ed Rendell passed Act 44, which called for the implementation of tolls on Interstate 80. Funds from those tolls would be handed over to PennDot annually.

However, the tolls were never added after the Federal Highway Administration denied the commonwealth permission to toll the road.

Despite the request’s denial, the Turnpike Commission was still obligated to funnel money to PennDot at a rate of $450 million per year through 2022, DePasquale said.

The General Assembly passed legislation in 2013 decreasing the payments to $50 million, but the change will not kick in until 2023.

Until then, DePasquale warns, there will be a $400 million gap in the amount of money PennDOT receives. The funds support public transit agencies in cities and communities, according to his press release.

“If the General Assembly doesn’t begin to act now to come up with a plan to make up for the shortfall, the residents who rely on public transit agencies will be faced with severe service cuts — which could result in unaffordable fare hikes,” he wrote in the release.

In order for the commission to make payments, it came up with a financial plan, which DePasquale deemed “alarming.”

Their projections include raising toll revenue by 215 percent between 2015 and 2035 and increasing traffic volume by 44 percent through 2044, according to DePasquale’s report.

“In short, this means the turnpike must continue to raise rates every year and it must increase the number of vehicles that use the roadway by historic levels,” DePasquale wrote in his release. “As Vice President Joe Biden might say, that’s a bunch of malarkey. There’s no way more people are going to use the turnpike and pay more and more money to do it.”

The cash price of a passenger vehicle to travel the entirety of the turnpike is already edging over $40, according to the commission’s website.

Higher costs could cause drivers to turn to back roads to avoid tolls altogether, DePasquale said at his conference.

The commission also looks to decrease spending costs on capital improvement projects, which have already been reduced by $1 billion over the next 10 years, he wrote in the release.

“This is where it gets even more unrealistic. You can’t cut back on construction and increase traffic 44 percent, especially while jacking up the toll rates,” he wrote in the release. “It’s nonsensical. People aren’t going to pay to sit on the turnpike parking lot. The entire projection is simply unsustainable.”

He gave a few ideas for solutions, like suspending vehicle registration if the owner has outstanding toll violations and putting an end to toll-free travel for some contractors and consultants who use the roads for business and personal travel, but said it is up to the General Assembly to move with haste to prevent a future disaster.

Sean Logan, chairman of the commission, responded to DePasquale’s audit in a statement shortly after its release:

“I deeply appreciate the Auditor General’s thorough review along with the recommendations he made. We remain committed to improving our operations to become more efficient while providing safe, efficient travel for our 500,000 daily customers.”

He wrote the commission plans to work with DePasquale and the Legislature to craft “meaningful tolling enforcement legislation” to tackle the growing number of violations, and with commission staff to reassess construction projects to ensure they are necessary and affordable.

“I am confident we are on the right track, but we can always do more to improve operations. For that reason, we are grateful for the exhaustive review and report from the Auditor General and his team,” Logan wrote.

 

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PA’s PLCB ‘asset’ has far more liabilities than it appears able to cover

By Chris Comisac

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board last week once again touted record sales, but despite recent efforts to make the state-run monopoly look more like a competitive private sector-driven system, the agency continues to be mired in significant debt.

Fiscal Year 2015-16 did see record retail sales of $2.43 billion, from both liquor – for which the agency has the power to set the price without competition – and sales taxes on the liquor; that was a 4.1-percent increase over the prior year’s sales, which were, at the time, also a record.

But looking at the PLCB’s unaudited financial statement shows things are not getting much better, fiscally-speaking, at the PLCB. That’s due in no small part to increasing costs associated with the operations and duties of the agency, as well as the transfers it made to the state’s General Fund and other items.

Gross revenue – once the price of the goods sold by the PLCB is subtracted from the stores’ sales net of taxes – was likewise up by about 4.2 percent. That $605.6 million total was good for an increase of $24.5 million over FY2014-15’s gross revenue from sales, and 2015-16 gross revenues were $115.3 million more than they were five years ago.

However the agency’s operating and other costs also continued to increase.

The costs for things, like pension and medical benefits for both active and retired employees, continued to rise during the past year, with overall operating expenses increasing by $4.2 million, to a total of $473.8 million. Five years ago, those costs were nearly $90 million less, at $386.1 million in FY2010-11.

So while gross revenue has been increasing – it’s up 23.5 percent from where it was five years ago – so have the agency’s operating costs, by 22.7 percent.

License fees, enforcement fines and interest income increased a bit last year, but that was still more than offset by the costs associated with the licensing and investigation work done by the agency, as well as the administrative law judges and other legal work required by the PLCB. Once all accounted for, that took another $1.8 million off the gross sales revenue.

Those non-operating costs were slightly less than the prior year, but that difference was offset by the slightly higher amount of money transferred to the Pennsylvania State Police for their PLCB-related enforcement efforts (a total cost of about $26.1 million) compared to last year.

On top of all of that, the Legislature decided to transfer from the PLCB a little more than $103 million, with most of that ($100 million) going to the General Fund along with some funding for drug and alcohol programs – something they do every year. Last year, and dating back to FY2011-12, the annual transfer to the General Fund has been $80 million. Prior to FY2011-12, in FY2009-10 and FY2010-11, the General Fund transfers were $105 million, with additional funding for drug and alcohols programs of between $1 million and $2 million.

So when it’s all said and done, only $528,890 of the $605.6 million in gross revenues they reported is left.

That’s about $1.4 million less than was left over after everything in FY2014-15, although, as noted, that was helped significantly by the transfer of only $80 million, not $100 million, to the General Fund.

Which means the system, that had a net financial position showing a $238.7 million debt at the end of FY2014-15, was only able to reduce that debt to $238.2 million during FY2015-16. Yes, there’s also close to half-a-billion dollars in taxes remitted to the state because of liquor sales, but those would occur with or without the PLCB liquor sales monopoly.

So when you hear people talking about how the system is an asset for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, remember that asset’s net value (assets minus liabilities) is well in the negative, and it’s only just covering its costs of operations while also trying to justify its existence by supplying the General Fund with revenue.

In FY2009-10 and FY2010-11, the PLCB couldn’t even say that, when it spent and transferred more money than it took in those years. So the Legislature started transferring less money to the General Fund – meaning taxpayers were, for a few years, subsidizing what the PLCB had been transferring to the General Fund.

With new pension accounting standards in place, the PLCB’s overall long-term debt of $598.1 million (its noncurrent liabilities listed on the agency’s financial statement) is properly reflected on its balance sheet, with most of it ($449.2 million) due to its portion of the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) unfunded liability. As anyone who has followed Capitolwire’s coverage of the state’s pension crisis knows, the ones most on the hook for that debt are the taxpayers, even those who don’t drink alcohol.

If the Legislature were to trim the PLCB’s General Fund transfers – as they did for a few years – that would still mean the taxpayers are subsidizing the agency, given it would be an admission of the PLCB’s inability to transfer to the General Fund what it once did, forcing taxpayers and/or other government operations to come up with those savings.

And all that assumes the agency can continue to set sales records every year, making enough money to cover its various duties, operating costs and transfer responsibilities – which it barely did this past year.

For 83 years and counting, Pennsylvania has eschewed a market-driven alcohol sales solution and clung to the state-run PLCB monopoly – but does the system sound like an invaluable asset of which we now can’t afford to rid ourselves?

Of course, given the state’s proclivity to want to control alcohol sales, if you had the money to buy it, would you?

Chris Comisac is Bureau Chief of Capitolwire.

 

 

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Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom has produced tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, lowered energy costs, spurred a manufacturing renaissance, and made us less dependent on foreign energy.

 

The boom may not currently be as robust as it once was, but the outlook is bright.

 

While the shale revolution is here to stay, there are still public policy considerations that can either dramatically increase the benefits to all Pennsylvanians or seriously hamper them.

 

First, there must be sensible taxation.  Contrary to the myth propagated by some, the natural gas industry pays more than its fair share of taxes.  However, in the heyday of the natural gas boom some saw it as a cash cow that could be milked by special taxes levied on it.  That would have been disastrous economic policy then, and even worse now.

 

Second, there must be reasonable regulation.  Pennsylvania has some of the highest environmental standards overseeing the development of natural gas.  Yet there are always those who clamor for punitive measures that would stifle the development of any indigenous Pennsylvania energy.  That would kill jobs, cripple our economy and result in a decrease in our standard of living.

 

Third, there needs to be a push for increased demand.  That can be effectuated in many ways: from the conversion of large buildings and fleets to natural gas, to more accessible means of transport and export of our natural gas.

 

That, of course, means increased pipeline development to carry the gas from our gas fields to markets close to home and far away.  The radical environmentalist fringe has seized on pipeline development in recent years as a way of thwarting the safe and responsible development and use of Pennsylvania’s natural gas.  Despite their constant harangue of scare tactics, the fact remains that gas pipelines are safe, secure and reliable – delivering less expensive energy to us, our neighbors, and allies.

 

Affordable and reliable clean energy is the lifeblood of 21st century Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth that ignited the Industrial Revolution can now supply ourselves and the world with the fuel of the new era.  We’re blessed with an abundance of natural gas.  Last year we produced more than 4.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  We only used a little more than 1.2 trillion.  We stand on the threshold of being a major force in geopolitical energy.

 

There are many exciting things happening. Combined heat and power projects, innovative programs like UGI Utilities’ GET Gas pilot program, Pennsylvania’s Private Public Partnership Board’s decision to move forward with compressed natural gas fueling stations for public transit, and several new natural gas-fueled power plants are but a few. And none is bigger than Shell Chemical’s decision to build a major Marcellus “cracker” plant in Beaver County.

 

The ethane “cracker” facility will support the production of the plastics, solvents, coatings, rubbers and waxes we use every day.  Other products, from food packaging to auto parts, will also be supported from the more than 1.5 million tons of polyethylene the plant will produce each year.

 

The plant brings with it thousands of new jobs, both in construction and permanent positions.  Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald says the building of the plant is equivalent to the construction of 25 new baseball or football stadiums. Allegheny Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky calls it “the largest single ‘from the ground up’ industrial investment in the Pittsburgh region in a generation.”

 

The future of the safe and responsible development and use of Pennsylvania’s abundant natural gas is bright.  Sensible tax policy, reasonable regulation, increased demand and pipeline development are four vital keys to our future prosperity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pennsylvania looks elsewhere for PlanCon reform

PlanCon Advisory Commission Chairman Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, summed up the state’s struggles with education funding quite simply.

“We are never the example,” he said in between testimony during the commission’s first hearing, which featured panelists from Colorado and Ohio. “We are never the model of where to go and I think that’s been our experience with special education, basic education and now school construction. What we are is people who are very interested in hearing the facts from those who know what they are talking about and being willing to take constructive criticism about our current approach and what is wrong with it.”

Pennsylvania provides partial reimbursement to school districts for new construction and renovation projects. Districts that undertake school construction projects and seek reimbursement must receive approval from the PA Department of Education through a process referred to as PlanCon (an acronym for Planning and Construction Workbook).

Pennsylvania is one of 23 states offering capital funding to school districts through a grant program, but Michael Griffith, school finance strategist for the Education Commission of the States, says this model relies on unpredictable economic forces and imperfect measures of relative wealth.

“The funding is never sufficient to meet everyone’s needs,” he said. “Which means you as a state will have to pick winners and losers.”

Pennsylvania lawmakers and the state’s 500 school districts know this all too well. During the 2015-16 budget impasse, the state’s annual $300 million school construction program payout was moved offline to balance the budget while the state secured a multi-billion loan to clear the backlog of project reimbursements.

Protracted negotiations, however, stalled the bond process, leaving districts holding the bill for debt service payments they never agreed to pay. In a year where school funding, too, had been withheld, the costs piled up for hundreds of districts.

Pennsylvania’s “first-come, first-serve” style of reimbursing money has its shortfalls, too, Griffith said.

“If you want to have a high quality school funding system, you need a way to assess what your current structures are,” he said. “What are building conditions around the state? What needs the highest priority? Most states do it through a survey system. Most don’t do it at all, but if they do, they do it through a survey.

“The idea is if you don’t know the current status of your school buildings, you’re not going to be able to come with up with a system to adequately fund that.”

Take Ohio, for example, said Dr. Howard Fleeter, a consultant for the Ohio Education Policy Institute.

“Ohio is very similar, in terms of size, in terms of demographics, in terms of geography … I think the challenges we face are similar to the ones Pennsylvania faces,” he said.

In 1997, the Ohio Supreme Court mandated the state appropriate capital funding, of some kind, to its 610 school districts.

The Ohio School Facilities Commission, formed that same year, set out to rank every district based on need, creating a master list the state has spent the last two decades working its way through.

“We’ve spent $11 billion since 1998 and we are about two-thirds the way down our list of school districts,” he said. “The magnitude of the problem Ohio was dealing with was very, very large.”

Fleeter said the state didn’t rely on property taxes alone, either, to determine a school district’s relative wealth and its ability to raise taxes to help fund construction and renovation projects.

“The power plant doesn’t vote, the people in the district vote, so their income level is very important,” he said. “So we have a wealth measurement that takes this into account.”

The poorest districts, ranked in the lower positions on the list, are eligible to receive state funding for construction projects first. He clarified, however, districts will not receive state money if voters do not approve a millage increase to cover their share of the project — which in poorer districts, may be 10 percent or less of the total cost.

Between 1994 and 2013, Ohio spent 12.5 billion on school construction and renovation projects, compared to Pennsylvania’s $7.3 billion. On a per-student level, Ohio spent $5,854 versus Pennsylvania’s $3,912 — a figure that lags behind Delaware, New York, New Jersey and Maryland, too.

“In fact, you tend to be one of the lower contributing states, one of the lowest five,” Griffith said. “But there is no magic number out there.”

Fleeter added that part of Ohio’s success in building a program was due to the realization that funding should be targeted specifically.

He said states that try to spread money out evenly across its districts often fail to address crumbling school infrastructure adequately.

 

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Report says unfair school funding shortchanges students across nation

Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card (NRC), released by the Education Law Center (ELC), finds that in most states public school funding remains unfair and inequitable, depriving millions of U.S. students of the opportunity for school success.

The report shows little improvement over the past five years in those states that consistently fail to direct additional funding to districts with high levels of need, as measured by student poverty. The report also finds striking differences in levels of funding for K-12 education across the states, even when adjusted for regional variations in cost. Alaska and New York, the states with the highest funding levels, spend more than two and half times what is spent by Utah and Idaho, the states with the lowest funding levels.

The report found  that fourteen states, including Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Illinois, are regressive, providing less funding to school districts with higher concentrations of low-income students.

ELC’s companion report: Is School Funding Fair? America’s Most Fiscally Disadvantaged School Districts report identifies the nation’s public school districts with higher than average student need and lower than average funding when compared to other districts in their regional labor market. These relative funding levels are crucial because districts in the same labor market must compete for teachers and support staff, the largest share of any district’s budget. Districts are fiscally disadvantaged if they lack funding to offer competitive wages and comparable working conditions relative to other nearby districts and other professions.

The major district-level findings found that:

  • The fiscal disadvantages in Reading and Allentown, Pennsylvania, are the nation’s most extreme, with nearly 2.5 times area poverty rates and less than 80 percent of the average state and local revenue per pupil.
  • Chicago and Philadelphia continue to top the list of the nation’s most fiscally disadvantaged large urban districts.
  • Many of the districts on the most disadvantaged list are in states with regressive funding, Pennsylvania.

“School finance reform is clearly long overdue,” said Bruce Baker, the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education Professor who developed the report’s methodology. “States must develop, and fund, school finance formulas that identify the costs of providing essential education resources to students, accounting for diverse student needs and taking into account local fiscal capacity.”

The two reports underscore the continuing lack of fair, cost-driven methods for financing public education in the states. Most states use outmoded school funding formulas that fail to provide additional funding to address student poverty and other needs. These inadequate formulas also create funding disparities between low wealth, high poverty and high wealth, low poverty districts, even in states with high funding levels, such as Connecticut and New York.

According to David G. Sciarra, ELC’s Executive Director: “States with deeply regressive funding, like Illinois, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, urgently need to overhaul their finance systems to give students a meaningful opportunity to succeed in school. Even states with higher funding levels, such as Connecticut and Wyoming, need to do more to ensure fair funding for each and every student. It’s time to put fair school funding at the top of the nation’s education reform agenda.”

 

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Quinnipiac’s new national presidential poll shows tightening of race

Nearly three weeks ago, Democrat Hillary Clinton was characterized by many readers of national presidential polls as pulling away from Republican Donald Trump, with the Quinnipiac University Poll, like many other polls, showing Clinton with a sizable lead among likely voters.

On Wednesday, a new Quinnipiac poll shows Clinton’s 10 percentage-point lead in late August is now down to 5 percentage points.

Independent voters appear to be the biggest reason for the Trump turnaround: he was down 41 – 46 percent with that voting bloc in August, and he’s now up 45 – 40 percent.

And when third party candidates (Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein) were included, the Aug. 25 poll showed a 7 percentage-point lead for Clinton. With Johnson and Stein included, the new Sept. 14 poll gives Clinton a 41 – 39 percent lead over Trump, which is within the poll’s plus or minus 3.2 percentage-point margin of error.

Both the August and September polls have the same distribution of respondents by party identification, although August’s results were based on responses from 538 more likely voters (1,498 total) and had a smaller margin of error (+/- 2.5 percentage points).

As with past polls, the results are punctuated by how much both candidates are disliked.

The ongoing unpopularity contest sees Trump with a negative favorability rating of 35 – 59 percent, and Clinton having a slightly better, if one can call being a little less unpopular “better,” rating of 40 – 57 percent.

And that feeds the poll’s illustration of respondents’ sentiment that they are more often voting against a candidate than for one: 54 percent of Clinton voters say they mainly are voting against Trump (32 percent said they are mainly voting for Clinton), while 66 percent of Trump voters are mainly are voting against Clinton (23 percent said they are voting mainly for Trump).

“It’s the definition of ‘damned by faint praise,’ a presidential contest where a vote for a candidate is less an endorsement of that candidate than a stinging rejection of his or her opponent, said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Other results provide even more clarity to voter dissatisfaction with the two candidates.

Significant majorities of respondents said they believe it’s important for the candidate to be someone to whom Americans can relate and who will unite the country. However, significant majorities said neither candidate checks off those boxes.

“Priority one for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as the election looms: lure the cynical, disaffected, downright disgusted electorate into their camp,” said Malloy. “That’s no mean feat as clouds of distrust loom over both campaigns.”

The poll was conducted from Sept. 8 through Sept. 13, surveying 960 likely voters nationwide with live interviewers calling both landlines and cell phones.

 

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Meet the Legislator

PA Representative Mike Regan (R), 92nd District

By Angelique H. Caffrey

 

“It was a transcendent moment.” That’s how Mike Regan describes the instant he realized how much impact he could have as an elected official.

He received a letter from a desperate mother at her wit’s end. Her son had diabetes, and his glucose levels would sink so low overnight that his parents had to stay up every evening to make sure he was out of danger. Although there was a glucose monitor that could do the work instead, their insurance company was giving them a tough time, saying it couldn’t be covered. Regan was moved by her letter, and sent a note of his own to the insurance company asking them to reconsider. In fewer than two weeks, he received a picture from the mom holding the monitor for him to see.

Regan will never forget this experience. “It was so simple,” he explains. “But it so greatly impacted the family. This is a job where you can really have an impact.”

It isn’t the first time he’s worked in a job serving the community. As a U.S. Marshal, he felt a deep sense of gratification when he took offenders off the street. Although he was first drawn to the excitement of the U.S. Marshal position, it didn’t take long for him to see it as a fantastic way to serve. When he retired in 2011, he was named deputy inspector general of PA, a role that he enjoyed, but that didn’t allow for as much direct connection between his actions and the people around him.

Soon, he had the opportunity to take a leap of faith and try something different. At the suggestion of Scott Perry, he decided to run for Perry’s seat in the House. It was a risky proposition: “I was going to have to leave a full time job to pursue a job I might or might not get. If I didn’t win, I was leaving my family in a bit of a lurch.”

His wife, whom he describes as his barometer, was initially leaning against his House run. While at a local coffee shop, she saw one of the other people who was running, and her mindset changed. “She thought, ‘This should be my husband,’” Regan recalls. “So away we went!”

Without any experience in the realm of politics beyond having a “boisterous Republican” father while growing up in Wormleysburg, and an interest in government that started with the Nixon/Humphrey race and continued to grow throughout the Reagan years, he dove into the stress-filled world of campaigning. No doubt his years playing sports in high school and college, as well as a continued interest in fitness, helped him keep up the stamina necessary to push ahead. In 2013, he was sworn in as a legislator.

His commitment is to his constituents, but he controls his days so he can spend time with his family, which includes four children. “I have strict parameters with my scheduling,” says Regan. “I have told my staff not to schedule anything before 10 a.m. I want to spend mornings with my kids.” When possible, he also goes to his children’s sporting events, joking that when you’re a parent, “your kids’ athletic lives turns into your social life!”

Regan is running for a PA Senate seat in 2016. If he wins, he feels he will have a stronger voice as one of 50 than he can as a PA House member. Though he’s concentrating on November 2016 currently, in addition to his continuing responsibilities as a public servant, Regan has a few long-term goals. “I have kind of a dream of being the Director of the U.S. Marshal Service one day,” he admits. “I loved the agency.” In the meantime, he’s vowed to remain invested in the political realm. “I look forward to the whole thing, and I’ll stay in politics as long as I can be effective.”

 

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Meet the Legislator

PA Representative Mary Jo Daley (D), 148th District

 

Mary Jo Daley didn’t realize it until much later in life, but growing up the oldest of seven kids, four of whom were boys, helped solidify her abilities to consistently push at glass ceilings, take on leadership positions and advocate for women’s issues.

She grew up in Narberth, a borough of Montgomery County, and has remained in her hometown area as an adult. “It’s a small town with a small town feel,” she explains. However, its proximity to urban opportunities belied its laid-back atmosphere. “For most of my life, I worked in the city and enjoyed everything that Philadephia has to offer in terms of culture and recreation.”

Daley’s parents encouraged talk about politics; her mother was a supporter of social justice, and father a union electrician. “We were a strong union family,” she remembers. “When the farmers went on strike, we boycotted lettuce, grapes… You got a real sense of what unions meant.” She became personally fascinated with politics when John F. Kennedy ran for president. “I guess I was in sixth grade. We paid attention and talked about it at Catholic school.”

Reading through her resume, it might seem like Daley was destined to be a leader, but she didn’t set out to change the world. She envisioned a future that focused primarily on family, like her parents had. While she did have a beautiful daughter in her early 20s, she eventually found herself entrenched in the world of academia. Over time, she earned degree after degree, although never taking a straight path. “I juggled a lot,” she admits. “It took me eight years to finish my bachelor’s degree. It wasn’t easy. But I learned I could do what I set my mind to do… I was tough enough to take bumps because I had goals.”

Daley began meeting goal after goal, following-through until she reached her objectives. Now, when she visits campuses like Montgomery County College, she mentors students who are toughing it out. “I tell them to hang in. Everybody doesn’t have a straight path. It’s important to know that what you’re doing is something you will appreciate.”

Her positive attitude has helped her weather personal storms, never taking away her sense of humor or perspective. It’s also allowed her to open her eyes to unique opportunities, including running for elected office in 1991. Having been a Democratic committee leader for years, she wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with local politics. Yet she was surprised – and excited – when she ran for borough council and won. “I served eight years as the only Democrat.”

During her time on the council, she ran for a PA House seat and lost. Turning lemons into lemonade, she decided to go back to school for her master’s degree. “I was relieved I didn’t win because I really enjoyed working. However, I thought I might run again. Time went by and the incumbent stepped down. Someone called and asked if she would be interested.”

It took a weekend of thinking and speaking with her husband, who said he would back her. On Monday morning, she sought out additional advice from a trusted professor. She told him she wasn’t sure because she was comfortable in her university position. Thinking back, she was happy that she took time to get his opinion: “He said, ‘Mary Jo, boredom is a dangerous thing.’” Pausing, she adds, “ I called the county chairman and said, ‘I’m in.”

Now a part of the House for several years, Daley is fully enmeshed in her role. To de-stress, she practices meditation exercises, which she feels help her stay focused. Like everything in her life, she sees it as a fun challenge. “It’s not like you’re perfect at it, so you practice. I really work at it. When you have a busy life, you figure it out.”

 

 

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Will money play a crucial role in state row office elections?

By Carley Mossbrook, Capitolwire

Democratic candidates for state row offices swept their Republican contenders in contributions and spending during the first four-and-a-half months of this year’s election season.

 

Between Jan. 1 and May 16, the Democrats running for attorney general, auditor general and treasurer raked in $3,532,796, while their Republican counterparts brought in $457,103, according to the candidates’ finance reports.

 

The GOP challengers also spent much less over the spring season, which included the primary election, $700,491 to the Democrats’ $3,296,071, with most of the money going to and flowing from Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro and Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery, the two candidates running for Attorney General.

 

Though this may come as a concern for the state Republican Party, it is unclear how important a financial edge will be for the row office candidates.

 

“Overall, these are not the highest profile elections,” said Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College. “They’re running in a year in which we have a presidential election going on and the U.S. Senate election that makes it even more difficult for them to gain traction and to get a lot of press attention.”

 

Therefore, money may not be the most important factor to win them a seat, he said.

 

Instead, the winners will likely come down to which party turns out more voters and who wins the presidency and U.S. Senate race, he said.

 

“Because these voters aren’t going to know these candidates for row office, for the most part, that coat-tail is important,” he said.

 

However, the coat-tail advantage may only help if the presidential race turns out to be a big win for Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump, said Chris Borick, professor of political science and director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.

 

If the race appears to be close leading up to Nov. 8, money is going to be all the more important to give them a boost, he said, calling the candidates “hostage to what happens at the top of the ticket.”

 

If recent polls are any indication of the presidential election’s competitiveness, the row office candidates may want to have their wallets ready.

 

A Sept. 11 Quinnipiac poll shows Clinton’s lead over Trump dropped by 4 percentage points, from 52 percent to 48 percent, in Pennsylvania since Aug. 9. Trump’s likelihood of winning grew by 1 percent, from 42 to 43 percent. Undecided voters made up 5 percent of the polling sample.

 

Row office candidates typically receive minimal attention during the general election – thanks to the noisy and crowded atmosphere of presidential and Senate races, Borick said – but have received even less this year.

 

The lack of attention will force candidates to pull out all the stops to sway voters to their corner by November, he said.

 

“There’s going to be a real diverse effort to get the attention of voters,” Borick said, including fighting for limited television ad time and utilizing social media, which offers a free platform for those strapped for cash.

 

Candidates may also choose to selectively pick the markets where they run their ads rather than run them statewide, Madonna said.

 

“You can target markets because of what you’re trying to accomplish there, because of the message you have and how it plays with the subset of voters,” Madonna said. “My hunch is that we’re likely to see in the row office races more targeted messaging in particular TV markets in the state.”

 

Without much provocation, the Attorney General’s race will likely garner the most attention, he added.

 

“You have two much more high-profile people – a former House member and Montgomery County Chairman, and a current state senator – while these other offices don’t have the same profile,” Madonna said.

 

OAG has also frequently been in the news following former Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s August conviction on nine criminal charges, including perjury and criminal conspiracy.

 

Rafferty may use this as an opportunity to leverage the attention thrown at Kane to tie her to Shapiro and other Democrats, while Shapiro will look to distance himself from her scandal, Borick said.

 

Whichever avenue the candidates take won’t excuse them from the greatest challenge to both of their candidacies, getting voters to actually cast a ballot.

 

“The level of attention given to these candidates and the level that should be given is very much in contrast,” Borick said.

 

In light of Kane’s conviction and recent corruption scandals involving two former state treasurers, voters should make an effort to pay attention to who is running for these offices, he said.

 

“These offices matter to the state, the quality of life in the commonwealth, how money is spent and how the legal system is administered,” Borick said. “They aren’t trivial matters.”

 

Before the pre-General Election spike in campaign fundraising and spending takes off, Capitolwire broke down how much the candidates for state row offices spent during the last three reporting cycles and how much cash each had on hand leading up to the summer season. The analysis is below.

 

Candidates are required to report their financing for the summer months by Sept. 27. Capitolwire will have a breakdown of those numbers once the reports become available.

 

Attorney General: Josh Shapiro (D) v. John Rafferty (R)

Shapiro’s fundraising and spending surpassed Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery, in their race to replace sitting Attorney General Bruce Beemer and to, as both say in the campaign paraphernalia, bring integrity back to the Office of Attorney General.

 

Beemer was appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf in September following Kane’s conviction and resignation.

 

Shapiro, the Democratic contender who has sat on Montgomery County Board of Commissioners since 2011 and served in state House from 2005 to 2011, outraised and outspent his opponent by large margins for the first half of the year.

 

Shapiro’s reports show he started the year with zero dollars and Rafferty $33,178 from last year’s fundraising efforts.

 

Over the first three reporting cycles Shapiro received $3,038,666 in contributions, which includes three contributions moved from his campaign committee for commissioner and his legislative seat totaling more than $1.2 million.

 

He received an assortment of large contributions from attorneys, developers and real estate owners over the course of the spring, including $50,000 from David Magerman, president of the Kohelet Foundation in New York; $50,000 from Michael Rubin, founder and CEO of Kynetic in Conshohocken; $36,000 from Joseph Neubauer, former chairman and CEO of Aramark in Philadelphia and $25,000 from Jamie Maguire, executive chairman of the Philadelphia Insurance Company.

 

A number of political action committees donated large contributions to his campaign, as well: Students First PAC gave him $100,000, SEIU PA COPE donated $30,000 (their healthcare PAC donated another $20,000) and Friends of Matt Bradford, the committee for Rep. Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery, donated $35,000.

 

Gov. Tom Wolf also pitched in $11,000 to Shapiro’s campaign.

 

Though Shapiro’s opponent may have more experience within the OAG, he seems to be lacking the financial edge.

 

Rafferty served as the Deputy Attorney General from 1988 to 1991 before serving on the Montgomery County Board of Assessment Appeals from 1996 to 2002. He’s been a member of the state Senate since being first elected to it in 2002.

 

He received just $399,170 in contributions during the first three cycles of the season, which include his landslide primary win over federal prosecutor Joe Peters.

 

Rafferty received far fewer and smaller contributions than Shapiro. Some of his larger, notable contributions include $10,000 from Andrew Muller Jr., president of the Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad in Port Clinton; five contributions from employees at Audubon Land Development totaling $35,000 and $5,000 from his fellow legislator Sen. Scott Wagner, R-York.

 

His largest contributions came from political action committees, including $50,000 from Build PA PAC; $12,500 from PA Future Fund; $10,000 from Troopers Association PAC; $50,000 from Friends of Joe Scarnati, the campaign committee for the President Pro Temp of the state Senate and $5,000 from Citizens for Prosperity in America Today, the political action committee affiliated with Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, who is running his own campaign in a critical race against Democrat Katie McGinty.

 

Alongside his individual contributions, Rafferty received $93,794 in-kind contributions to Shapiro’s $51,436. In-kind contributions are services or materials donated to the campaign, like office space and travel accommodations.

 

But with more money came more spending for Shapiro. His reported expenditures totaled $3,031,290, almost all of what he brought in during the five-month period.

 

Most of Shapiro’s funds were spent just before his competitive primary contest against Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. and Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli on April 26.

 

Shapiro beat Zappala by 10 percentage points and Morganelli by more than 30 percentage points in the tight race focused on prosecutorial experience. Endorsements from President Barack Obama, Wolf and former Gov. Ed Rendell likely aided his efforts.

 

Rafferty, on the other hand, was more modest in his spending, dishing out $283,943 in expenses.

 

At the close of the spring season, Shapiro was sitting on $114,241 in unpaid debts and obligations and had $7,376 cash-on-hand, while Rafferty reported no unpaid debts or obligations and began the summer with $148,405 in cash-on-hand.

 

Money doesn’t appear to be a concern for the Rafferty campaign at this time. His team seems to be relying on the senator’s qualifications and experience to propel them to a win in November.

 

“Sen. Rafferty has been committed to raising the amount of money he needs to win this race. We are in it to have a victory in November,” Mike Barley, Rafferty’s campaign manager said.

 

He said the campaign opts to remain coy about how they plan to raise and spend money leading up to the election season, but said he believes Rafferty’s qualifications and experience will aid him in fundraising going forward.

 

“It’s certainly been helpful. I think a lot of people were concerned that the previous Attorney General Kathleen Kane didn’t have the experience necessary…,” he said. “I think that’s a big issue. Commissioner Shapiro has no experience for this position.”

 

Shapiro’s camp sees it differently.

 

Shapiro’s “record of integrity and pragmatic, bipartisan achievement” on the Montgomery County Commissioner’s board led to a large response in donations, wrote Joe Radosevich, Shapiro’s campaign manager, in an email.

 

“Thousands of Pennsylvanians responded to Josh’s broad experience and plan to be the people’s Attorney General with donations, which we’re grateful for,” he wrote.

 

Radosevich didn’t appear concerned about Shapiro’s large debt and little cash-on-hand reported at the end of the last cycle either. More than four more months of fundraising and campaigning have passed since the last reporting period.

 

“We’re extremely confident our message, of how Josh will be the people’s Attorney General and stand up to the powerful to protect Pennsylvanians, will be heard,” he wrote. “We have the resources because thousands of everyday Pennsylvanians trust Josh and believe he’s the best person for the job.”

 

Auditor General: Eugene DePasquale (D) v. John Brown (R)

 

In the only race that includes an incumbent, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale found much more success bringing in funds before and after the primary election compared to his Republican opponent John Brown.

 

He also started the year off on a better foot, with $149,386, compared to Brown, the Northampton County Executive, who brought forth just $810.

 

The disparity in their fundraising was evident from the start and continued into the third cycle of reporting. In total, DePasquale brought in $258,726 in contributions and Brown only received $32,477.

 

The two ran unopposed in the primary. Less competitive races typically mean less fundraising and spending, Madonna said.

 

DePasquale brought in a few large donations from notable individuals, including $5,000 from William and Michele Shipley, chief executive officer of the Shipley Group in York; $2,500 from Dan Hilferty, president and CEO of Independence Blue Cross and $2,500 from Ross Nese, executive of Grane Healthcare.

 

State Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding, also donated $500 to DePasquale’s campaign.

 

DePasquale’s larger donations came from political action committees, including $20,250 from IBEW Local 5 in Pittsburgh; $17,500 from PSEA PACE in Harrisburg; $10,000 from McNees PAC in Harrisburg; $10,000 from Laborers District Council in Philadelphia; and $5,000 from Comcast Corp. & NBC Universal PAC in Philadelphia, among others.

 

His opponent, Brown, received only three contributions over the five-month period, including $25,000 from Charles Chrin, executive of Charles Chrin Companies in Easton; $2,427 from David Ceraul, an attorney at Ceraul Law Offices in Bangor and $5,000 from Citizens for Prosperity in America Today.

 

DePasquale also received $2,234 in in-kind contributions, while Brown received $13,990.

 

The incumbent outspent his Republican opponent by more than double too. DePasquale’s expenses reached over $54,000 and Brown’s broke $26,000.

 

At the end of the last reporting period, DePasquale reported no outstanding dues, while his opponent reported more than $35,000 in unpaid debts and obligations.

 

Brown’s remaining cash balance of $6,777 didn’t come close to DePasquale balance of $353,519 going into the summer months.

 

Along with more contributions, DePasquale also has an incumbent’s advantage aiding him in his efforts, Madonna said.

 

“That’s one of the natural advantages of incumbents, he can talk about what he’s doing and it’s hard to criticize him for that because that’s his job,” Madonna said.

 

It’s worth mentioning a Democrat has claimed the Auditor General’s Office in all but one election over the last six decades.

 

Treasurer: Joseph Torsella (D) v. Otto Voit (R)

 

The Democratic challenger in the race for state Treasurer, the least acknowledged of the three row offices, also outraised his opponent by a landslide.

 

Joseph Torsella, a retired U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and former chairman of the Board of Education, outraised his opponent Otto Voit by nearly nine times during the five-month period.

 

Torsella was ahead by more than $1 million right out of the gate, when he brought $1,504,860 from last year’s fundraising into the 2016 cycle. He began campaigning for the office in December 2014.

 

Voit, a businessman and president of Keystone Dental Group, brought forth $504,566 from the previous year.

 

Torsella’s contributions surpassed Voit’s during the first three cycles too. The former ambassador brought in $235,404 in contributions compared to Voit’s $25,456.

 

Voit did receive more in-kind contributions over the period – $13,990 to $5,463.

 

Most of Torsella’s larger contributions were given by political action committees, including $10,000 from Students First PAC in Wynnewood; $25,000 from Local Union #98 I.B.E.W. Committee on Political Education in Philadelphia; $5,000 from FNB Corporation PAC in Pittsburgh and $2,500 from PNC PAC in Pittsburgh, among others.

 

He received many individual contributions from lawyers and company executives. The most notable of them was a $500 donation from David Montgomery, chairman and former president of the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

Voit’s contributions were slim throughout the spring. He received a single contribution during the first cycle, which ran Jan. 1 through March 7. In the second cycle, he picked up 10 individual contributions and two contributions from political action committees, including $5,000 from PA Banker’s PUB Affairs in Harrisburg and $2,500 from PSEA- PACE For State Elections in Harrisburg.

 

In the last reporting cycle, Voit received nine individual contributions and two more from political action committees, including $5,000 from Citizens for Prosperity in America Today.

 

Though he received fewer contributions, Voit spent much of his savings. He dished out $390,038 to Torsella’s $210,198, and at the end of the third cycle, reported $280,000 in unpaid debt and obligations to Torsella’s $55,000.

 

Torsella had more than $1.5 million to propel him through the summer season, while Voit closed out the spring with $139,984.