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GREENE: PA Lawmakers Should Follow Up Court Decision by Stopping RGGI for Good

Pennsylvania ratepayers, energy abundance, and the rule of law all won in Commonwealth Court this week when judges ruled the Keystone State cannot join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

We at Americans for Prosperity-Pennsylvania are elated by the ruling, which rejects a regressive carbon tax that would fall heavily on our energy industries, burdening ratepayers and killing family-sustaining jobs.

Gov. Josh Shapiro’s (D) predecessor Tom Wolf (D) tried to commit Pennsylvania to this multi-state carbon-tax scheme by executive action, circumventing the legislators elected to represent us. In the opinion written by Judge Michael Wojcik, the court affirmed that the state Constitution requires legislative approval for the state to levy any tax.

“Stated simply,” Judge Wojcik wrote, “to pass constitutional muster, the Commonwealth’s participation in RGGI may only be achieved through legislation duly enacted by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and not merely through the Rulemaking promulgated by [the Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Quality Board].”

We call upon our governor to heed the soundness of this ruling. He should, moreover, harken to the vast and diverse coalition of Pennsylvania workers, consumers and industry leaders who have warned about the harm RGGI would do to our state’s leadership in energy production.

Despite immense political pressure coming from his left, Gov. Shapiro has so far resisted committing Pennsylvania to participating in the pact; his own working group studying the matter has not embraced the initiative. This resistance is well-founded.

Our legislators can meanwhile swiftly act to protect ratepayers from improper carbon-tax measures for years to come.

State Representatives Jim Struzzi (R-Indiana) and Dallas Kephart (R-Clearfield) are spearheading a bill to eliminate the Wolf rule implementing RGGI. Enacting this legislation would prevent the executive branch from unilaterally foisting this initiative or any similar carbon-tax policy on Pennsylvanians ever again.

As the bill’s sponsors noted when they announced their measure in February, the RGGI tax would worsen our commonwealth’s economic vulnerabilities insofar as neighboring Ohio and West Virginia have not adopted the program. Pennsylvania is already seeing a dismaying population decline, with the Independent Fiscal Office projecting a loss of 250,000 working age adults from 2020 to 2025. Politicians should not permit an ill-conceived and unconstitutional carbon tax to push even more workers and jobs out of the Keystone State.

Energy production is one of our state’s most abundant natural assets. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, we rank above every other state except Texas when it comes to producing natural gas, yielding over one-fifth of all U.S. dry gas production. Allowing our state to remain a leader in fossil-fuel extraction will facilitate a needed all-of-the-above approach to energy production that will put downward pressure on the rapidly increasing cost of living that we face in Pennsylvania and beyond.

Bipartisan majorities of both state legislative chambers have rejected RGGI before, noting that legislators must vote on taxing hard-working Pennsylvanians. So far, the Struzzi-Kephart policy has 32 cosponsors from regions all over the commonwealth. The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee has nevertheless failed to advance the bill. It should finally do so, giving all state lawmakers the chance to send it to Shapiro’s desk.

Closure of the coal-powered Homer City Generating Station earlier this year showed the destruction that RGGI has already wrought by creating uncertainty in the energy industry. Policymakers have it in their power to end this unhappy chapter in Pennsylvania’s overall heartening rise to energy-industry dominance. They should act now.

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AFP Touts ‘Prosperity is Possible’ Campaign at Phillies Game

While Phillies’ new pitcher Michael Lorenzen was throwing a no-hitter against the Nationals Wednesday night,  representatives of Americans for Prosperity were scoring points with fans of low taxes and economic growth at an RV tailgate in the Citizens Bank Park parking lot,

AFP’s “Prosperity is Possible” workers handed out free hotdogs, chips, drinks, T-shirts, hats, reusable bags, and other swag, along with brochures about the organization’s principles of free markets and individual liberty.

“What Prosperity is Possible aims to do is connect voters, connect concerned taxpayers in Pennsylvania that the status quo we’re living in –gas almost $4 a gallon, grocery bills three times as high as what we’ve seen in previous history—doesn’t have to be this way,” said Emily Greene, state deputy director.

The RV and AFP community outreach workers are going around the state and around the country to spread that message, Greene said.

“We reached a lot of people we wouldn’t ordinarily reach (by coming to the Phillies game),” she said. “People get caught up in donkeys vs. elephants, get caught up in partisan politics, and what we’re looking to do with prosperity is take a nonpartisan approach to solve some of the problems plaguing taxpayers here in Pennsylvania.”

(Left to right) Isaac Gardner, Charles Gates, Roslyn Williams, Javin Fulson, Clayton Rasche, and Charles Rodgers. 

Roslyn Williams leads the AFP grassroots efforts in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley. She used to be a community organizer for the Democrats until they required that she get the COVID vaccination, she said.

“I left the Democratic Party almost three years ago,” she said.

“This organization is about freedom. I’m a freedom fighter,” said Williams. When she discovered AFP, “I found my people.”

Then she rhymed: “Biden didn’t build back better; He built back broke; Check your pockets; It ain’t no joke.”

At the national level, AFP has actively and openly encouraged Republicans to consider a presidential primary candidate other than former President Donald Trump. The group is sending mailers and running ads in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

In February, AFP Chief Executive Emily Seidel sent a memo to her staff and activists saying the free-market organization would get more directly involved in Republican primaries.

“Here’s the hard truth as I see it,” Seidel wrote. “The Republican Party is nominating bad candidates who are advocating for things that go against core American principles. And the American people are rejecting them.”

A DVJournal poll of likely voters in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties found Biden’s popularity has sagged since 2020, and just 33 percent of voters in this Democratic stronghold want Biden to run again. However, in a head-to-head matchup, Biden handily beats Trump 50-39 percent.

Greene said, “The Prosperity is Possible tour hangs on three rungs. We want to empower the workforce, combat inflation, and unleash energy abundance. We have a whole host of legislation in Washington that would help solve some of these problems. And what we’re looking to do is just encourage people who would otherwise be interested in talking politics at a Phillies game, connect them with the policy solutions to help drive down the cost of gas and the cost of groceries, and encourage them to reach out to their member of Congress.”

In Pennsylvania, AFP has reached tens “of thousands of people” through email and digital ads, she said.

“But most importantly, what makes this a grassroots effort and a true AFP endeavor, we’re talking to them by phone and on their doorsteps…the bulk of it is door-to-door conversations with individuals, neighbors, and over the phone, which has been very fruitful.”



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Americans for Prosperity Gears Up for 2024 Election Cycle in PA

Pennsylvania voters approved two constitutional amendments to limit a governor’s emergency powers in the wake of COVID-19 mandates in 2021. One of the forces behind the successful effort was the free market organization Americans for Prosperity (AFP).

AFP worked to make that happen, knocking on doors and talking to voters, helping to shape public opinion. And the AFP Action, its political wing, will be on the ground running in 2024, with endorsements for the presidential primary, U.S. Senate, Congress, and other races, said Ashley Klingensmith, AFP state director.

The free-market activist group has been in Pennsylvania for 13 years and has activists in all 67 counties. They are also in all 50 states.

“We’re looking to expand as we move into next year,” said Klingensmith. “We do a lot of skills training through our sister organization, Americans for Prosperity Foundation.”

The organization works against “government barriers to economic opportunity,” said Emily Greene, deputy state director. It focuses on policy issues like licensing and regulation reform, economic opportunity, taxation, and spending.

And like the press, it tries to hold government officials accountable, said Klingensmith.

Its key issues include taxes. According to WalletHub, Pennsylvania has the third-highest taxes overall of the 50 states, including the highest gas tax, and it is in the top five among states where residents vote with their feet, moving to other states for better opportunities.

AFP puts a lot of effort into its Pennsylvania taxpayer scorecard, said Klingensmith. It tracks how representatives and senators vote on various “key” bills and rates them.

They are “bills that we believe are going to be the most transformative,” said Klingensmith. “One of the differences between us and other advocacy organizations is that we do focus principally on transformational policy. While there are 5,000-plus bills introduced in a given legislative session, we’re honing in on a few dozen of the most transformative.”

Greene said AFP does not coordinate with individual campaigns but does its own canvassing, phone banking, and digital marketing for candidates they have endorsed.

“We’re sticking to our message, our vision, and why that individual is worthy of an AFP endorsement. We got involved in some primary races last year. One was for Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R) in Allegheny and Washington Counties. That was one where it came down to (about) 800 votes. It was very, very close, and we were the force that got her over the finish line because we believe she had been such a champion under the dome in Harrisburg, she deserved another shot.”

“We do everything through our activists,” said Klingensmith. “We’re out there knocking with them as well. And we don’t write checks to get our point across. We do it all through manpower in the grassroots.”

Another “exciting race” it was a part of was for Rep. Marla Brown (R-Lawrence), whom the group endorsed. She beat an incumbent who had been in Harrisburg for nearly two decades.

“She promoted a message of change,” said Greene, with “a priority of removing governmental barriers and tax reform.”

“We were super excited to play a small part in that race,” she said.

“We are very public with what we do,” Klingensmith said. “All of the endorsements and political engagements that we have are announced through press releases. We are like the tip of the spear. We are in communities 365 days a year. We were at the last two President Biden visits in the southeast…I was there protesting.

“Politics, at the end of the day, is just a means to a greater political landscape,” she said.

Christine Ravold, an AFP spokeswoman, said, “Last year, we knocked on nearly a million doors for Dr. Oz. We don’t know who it’s going to be in the 2024 cycle. We’re getting involved in a presidential primary for the first time ever.

“And we’re looking at a number of statewide races,” she continued. “We want somebody to be challenging (Sen.) Bob Casey. And we’re looking at some districts that are ripe for targeting, like (Rep.) Susan Wild’s in the 7th.”

To that end, AFP opened an office in Allentown on Thursday.

The group does not know who it will be backing in the presidential primary.

“We’re doing a full court press talking to right-of-center voters to see where they’re at on the issues, where they’re at on the candidates that have already announced,” said Greene. “We just want to get a good sense of where the electorate is.”

The final survey question was: Do you still think people can achieve the American Dream, or are the country’s best days behind us?

“In Pennsylvania, 67 percent of the people we talked to fully believe the country’s best days are behind us as a result of bad policies,” said Greene. “So we see that our work is cut out for us. And we’re trying to be that positive force so we can get this country and this commonwealth back in positive shape.”

And even though Democrats in Philadelphia have a 7-1 voter advantage, AFP has an outreach director in the city, Roslyn Williams.

“We’re doing critical work, building relationships with voters,” said Klingensmith.