GREAT NEWS, KIDS, your Legislature's back this week after a nice long break for Easter and the primary, and, boy, it sounds as if lawmakers are really ready to work.
High on the list: fiscal responsibility, private-sector job creation and cuts in business taxes.
Did you just stand and cheer?
Why not? Don't you think if businesses pay lower taxes, they all go out and hire the jobless and underemployed?
And just in time, too, because starting Tuesday, the state — in ongoing efforts to cut waste, fraud and abuse — is going after people on food stamps.
Clearly, these are folks most responsible for a still-stalled economy; 474,192 in Philly, nearly one in three city residents, and more than a quarter of the state total.
The Corbett administration's new policy disqualifies those 59 and younger from an average food benefit of $32.12 a week if they have assets of $5,500.
The official assets list includes cash, savings, stocks, bonds and (I am not making this up) boats and aircraft.
I feel certain this'll work out just fine.
Welfare official: "Got any money?"
Food-stamp recipient: "Nope."
Welfare official: "Any boats?"
Food-stamp recipient: "No."
Welfare official: "Planes?"
Food-stamp recipient: "Seriously?"
I assume the thinking is that food stamps won't be needed anymore because business-tax cuts will bring jobs, money and eventually boats and aircraft to everyone.
Did I mention that asset limits are higher for older and disabled folks ($9,000), so that's who the state expects to de-food-stamp most?
Makes sense. What are they going to do about it? They're too busy trying to comply with the new voter-ID law.
This "means-testing," or for some, "mean testing," is designed for fairness: spend tax dollars only on those truly in need.
So how about we "means-test" lawmakers before their annual pay increases?
Or "means-test" the Legislature's budget, which has an asset of $184 million (more than half its annual cost) stashed away for use as its leaders see fit.
But I digress.
House GOP Leader Mike Turzai wants to spur the economy by reducing and reforming business taxes. What a novel idea.
He notes that the Tax Foundation, a 75-year-old, Washington-based, nonpartisan research group, says that Pennsylvania is the "worst performing state" for business.
He stretches the claim a tad by adding "in the world!"
The state does have the nation's highest corporate-net-income (CNI) tax at 9.99 percent. Iowa has higher rates in some brackets. We have the highest flat rate.
And it's true the Tax Foundation in February released a survey on business-tax "burden" that rated Pennsylvania the worst, although the analysis isn't global.
But it also released a survey on business-tax "climate" that ranked Pennsylvania 19th.
Foundation economist Mark Robyn tells me the "climate" survey measured tax-policy efficiency and the "burden" survey measured tax levels.
In other words, we're efficient at being burdensome.
So look for some tax-chopping (and not just the CNI) to, you know, go with the chopping of food stamps.
The GOP also wants to close the so-called Delaware loophole that allows corporations to move assets to such lower-tax states as Delaware to avoid paying higher rates here.
For years, this was a Democratic initiative, further proof that the Legislature's bipolar.
And, of course, there are no specific numbers on what the state gains by closing the loophole, or loses by cutting biz taxes or whether we're just looking at a wash.
Still, these are exciting times: fixing taxes; ending waste, fraud and abuse.
With our state leaders in charge, what could possibly go wrong? n
For recent columns, go to philly.com/JohnBaer. Read his blog at philly.com/BaerGrowls.