inside sources print logo
Get up to date Delaware Valley news in your inbox

Report: Fossil Fuels Fund 424,000 PA Jobs

As Gov. Josh Shapiro appears ready to push Pennsylvania into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a timely report is demonstrating just how much the state benefits from fossil fuel-related employment—and how much it stands to potentially lose if hardline environmentalist policies come to pass.

During his campaign for governor last year, Shapiro said he doubted the benefits of entering the RGGI compact. But his first budget includes about $600 million in revenue from the RGGI carbon fees on power plants. Plans for Pennsylvania to join the 12-state cap-and-trade compact are currently tied up in court.

Now a new report adds additional information about the impact the RGGI decision could have on the state’s economy.

The analysis, conducted by consulting firm PwC for the American Petroleum Institute, found the fossil fuel industry has an “exceptionally large direct impact” on Pennsylvania’s economy.

In recent years, the state has long been known as a mega-producer of fossil fuels, particularly natural gas. PwC’s analysis said the state retains “vast oil and natural gas deposits  … that have led to substantial upstream and downstream operations.”

Around 93,000 Pennsylvanians work in jobs “directly attributable to the oil and natural gas industry.” When the analysis was expanded to “direct, indirect, and induced impacts,” fossil fuel’s importance to the state economy was even larger. Regarding “total employment attributable to the oil and natural gas industry,” the researchers found that Pennsylvania enjoys 424,000 jobs it would otherwise not record.

The state further boasts a “total labor income impact” of $29 billion and a “total value added impact” of over $40 billion.

Stephanie Wissman, executive director of API Pennsylvania, told DVJournal that the state’s natural gas and oil industry “is vital to our economy and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs that are simply irreplaceable.”

“Pennsylvania is the second-largest natural gas producer in the nation, behind only Texas, thanks to the significant investments made here and a dedicated, well-trained workforce,” she said.

The Keystone State is the only northeastern state with a bounty of natural gas. The RGGI program is meant to move Pennsylvania rapidly toward green energy infrastructure by imposing caps on regional CO2 generation by power plants, driving up costs.

At a state Senate appropriations meeting in February, Montgomery County Sen. Tracy Pennycuick asked Independent Fiscal Office Director Matthew Knittel what effect RGGI would have on state job development. “Like other levies on energy, I would assume that those costs would be passed forward to the ultimate consumers of the energy,” he said.

According to Gordon Tomb, a senior fellow at the Commonwealth Foundation, the program could severely hamper Pennsylvania’s economy due to excessive energy prices and job losses.

“Pennsylvania’s economic losses resulting from RGGI have been projected to be 22,000 jobs and $7.7 billion,” he said. “The promise of RGGI’s supporters to provide a net gain of economic benefits with higher electricity costs and unreliable energy sources defies common sense and basic laws of economics.”

“What the climate industrial complex mostly offers in the way of benefits are government handouts in the form of lucrative subsidies to politically favored ‘green’ energy firms and paltry welfare payments for paying energy bills or insulating homes,” he argued.

“The latter are crumbs compared to the wages of family-sustaining jobs at power plants and in the manufacturing industries that require affordable and reliable energy supplies.”

Tomb pointed to a study from the UC Berkeley Labor Center last month, which examined the effects of a Marathon refinery plant closure in Contra Costa County, Calif. The study found that nearly 18 months after the closure, roughly 25 percent of the laid-off workers were still unemployed to some degree. Those who found work, meanwhile, did so “at the cost of lower wages and worse working conditions.”

Grim unemployment numbers aren’t the only potential outcome of RGGI. A nonpartisan Independent Fiscal Office review earlier this year projected that the program would cost Pennsylvania billions in the coming years.

Advocates for Pennsylvania entering RGGI say it is necessary to fight climate change and transition the state’s economy.

Not all the projections of RGGI are negative. They point to a report from the Analysis Group this month that found in the states where it was implemented, RGGI has generated “net economic benefits,” including $669 million of “total economic activity” in 2018-2020.

Robert Routh, a public policy and regulatory attorney with Philadelphia’s Clear Air Council, told DVJournal that fossil fuel employment contractions have occurred in Pennsylvania independent of RGGI.

“All the remaining large, conventional coal-fired plants in the Commonwealth have already committed to retiring or to cease burning coal by 2028, and that’s without having been subject to RGGI compliance obligations,” he said.

Routh pointed to modeling from the state Department of Environmental Protection, which “projected that RGGI participation will result in a net increase of over 30,000 jobs in-state by 2030.”

“That would be driven by growth in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors,” he said.

Stephanie Wissman with API said policymakers should focus on permitting reform to ease the market entry burdens for energy producers.

“As global energy demand is projected to increase,” she said, “policies should support American energy and infrastructure development and the millions of skilled workers across the country who produce and deliver the energy that powers our everyday lives.”

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

Days Before Special Election, Race for New Delco State Rep Heats Up

By the time the special election determining which party controls the state House is held on May 16, Democrats will have spent upwards of $1 million to support Heather Boyd.

The Republicans will have spent a fraction of that, around $150,000, to try to elect Katie Ford. The two women, and Libertarian Alfe Goodwin, are vying to replace former state Rep. Mike Zabel, who resigned after three women came forward with sexual harassment allegations.

“I’ve been in politics since I was 13,” said former Upper Darby Mayor Tom Micozzie, whose father had held that seat for 38 years. “People don’t usually spend money if they think they’re winning.”

Disgraced former state Rep. Margot Davidson was spotted knocking on doors for Boyd, two sources told DVJournal.

The Democrats control the House 101 to 100, so a lot is on the line. And even with a 22,000 to 14,000 voter advantage they are pulling out all the stops. (Another 8,000 are unaffiliated.)

“The Democrats’ investment in this race isn’t that surprising given its crucial role and some concern about the less predictable nature of special elections,” said Christopher Borick, a political science professor and director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.  “It would be a monumental blow to the party to lose this race and their majority in the House.”

Ford, a former Army medic who is now a special education instructor, and Boyd, a party insider who is chair of the Upper Dublin Democratic Committee and worked for Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon before launching her run in March, debated once.  The debate did not garner much news coverage, although the DVJournal reported on it, so it is unclear how many voters watched.

Although Ford insisted during the debate that she is pro-choice and will not vote to change Pennsylvania’s law or for a constitutional amendment regarding abortion, she is being hit with commercials that say that she will do just that, including one from Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat.

Asked about this, his spokesman said that Shapiro answered this question at an event Monday, saying he believes Ford changed her position recently and will always protect a woman’s right to choose.

Borick said, “We see continued evidence that the issue of reproductive rights is a significant boost for Democratic candidates, and they certainly think highlighting the topic in a southeast Pennsylvania race can drive turnout.”

State Republican Party Chairman Lawrence Tabas defended Ford.

“Democrat politician Heather Boyd and Harrisburg Democrats are trying to trick voters into believing 163rd Special Election is about women’s rights, but it’s a smokescreen,” said Tabas.

“Heather Boyd declined to defend women’s rights when she helped cover up sexual harassment and voted to defund the police. Katie Ford will protect women’s rights by keeping our streets safe and rejecting ‘good old boy’ politics.”

Jake Zane, executive director of the Delaware County Republicans, said, “Outside dark money has been pouring in on their side. Katie has done a very good job, an outstanding job, raising money from grassroots individuals. And I really hope the voters of the 163rd District will see past all the special interest groups that have spent $1 million lying about Katie, misrepresenting her, who she is as a person and her record. Katie is a working mom, a family woman, and the wife of a police officer. She’s focused on going to Harrisburg and working on the issues that  actually matter to people: safe streets, crime, mental health, making sure our schools are funded in a fair and equitable way while, at the same time, senior citizens aren’t taxed out of their homes by exorbitant property taxes.”

Colleen Guiney, chair of the Delaware County Democrats, said, “Anyone making accusations of ‘dark money’ use don’t understand what ‘dark money’ is — money raised by organizations such as the Commonwealth Foundation, where their donors are hidden. The money raised by Heather is all 100 percent in the light, being totally reported.”

She accused the Ford campaign of mistreating the first victim to come forward and accuse Zabel, who told Boyd in 2021 what had occurred. That victim is now supporting Boyd, Guiney noted.

Micozzie said people in Upper Darby are very unhappy with Mayor Barbarann Keffer, who succeeded him in the office and is not running again after a DUI arrest.  And that unhappiness must be tarnishing Boyd, who, as the chair of the local Democratic party, has responsibility for those she helped elect, he said.

Micozzie is the former leader of the Upper Darby Republicans, so if poor management of the township had happened under his watch, he would have been held accountable, he said.

“Now you want to be a state rep,” Micozzie said of Boyd. “I mean, you have to take ownership over something in life, right? I think the Democrats are underestimating the impact people are feeling in the greatest part of the (167th) district.”

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

Candidates for State House Special Election Spar

Two women running in a special election for state representative in Delaware County had sharp elbows out during a debate.

Those women and a Libertarian are vying for the 163rd seat vacated by Rep. Mike Zabel, a Democrat, in the wake of sexual harassment allegations—a seat that could tip control of the House back to Republicans.

Two women –Republican Katie Ford and Democrat Heather Boyd—sparred in a debate that aired on PHL 17 over the weekend.

Asked about sexual harassment, Ford said, “The first thing I would do is make sure that didn’t happen. And make sure that it didn’t get covered up. And make sure the women who have gone through these challenges are represented correctly…And if something happens, I’m not going to put politics in front of common sense, and common sense says that if someone comes to you and says they’re being sexually harassed, you do something about it. You don’t just let it go. And you don’t continue to endorse someone. You don’t continue to champion for them.”

GOP House candidate Katie Ford

Boyd, chair of the Upper Darby Democrats, said, “The culture of Harrisburg has definitely been one that’s not been a safe one for women. As a woman who has worked in Harrisburg, I’ve witnessed sexual harassment. I’ve experienced sexual harassment.  When (lobbyist) Andi Perez (one of Zabel’s accusers) came to me, she asked for my confidence that I help her change the rules and change the culture of Harrisburg.  So when I met her in 2021, she asked for my help in securing the rule change, which is what I immediately worked to do…She wanted to change the rules to protect all women, and I worked to help her do that.”

“You continued to champion for him,” said Ford. “You continued to let him run. You were the political party boss. Why did that happen? You can protect privacy. But you can also go after the people who are doing this. You’re a woman. You should know better.”

Boyd denied that she endorsed Zabel after she learned about Perez’s allegations.

“Katie Ford fully does not know how the democratic process works,” said Boyd. She claimed she tried unsuccessfully to find someone to run in the 2022 primary against Zabel.

Abortion has become an issue in the campaign, with Democrats, including Gov. Josh Shapiro, hitting Ford with negative ads on the topic that the party sees as a winning issue since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

“Deciding when, where, and how to have a family is a fundamentally private decision,” said Boyd, who stated she supports “a woman’s right to choose.”

“I don’t think the government should be making decisions about how a woman makes her choices. I think it’s intrusive. I think it takes away rights.”

Heather Boyd

Asked whether she supports late-term abortions, Boyd said she does not and agrees with Pennsylvania’s current law that limits abortion to the first 23 weeks, with some exceptions afterward for rape, incest, or to save a mother’s life.

Ford said Boyd is running “a $100,000 campaign to smear me on this issue.”

“Number one, I also believe it’s a woman’s right to choose. I’m a mother of a daughter…guess what? Things happen, and women should be allowed to make that decision. I support the current (law) that’s going on right now, and I would not change it.”

Pressed on the issue, Ford said she would not vote on a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion.

Boyd supports a four-bill gun control package that the Democratic-controlled House recently passed. Ford said she also supports those bills but went even further, saying potential gun owners should be required to have training before being allowed to purchase a weapon.

And both candidates called for more state funding for public education.

Alfeia Goodwin

“Obviously, this election has more significance with control of the House hanging in the balance,” said Christopher Borick, a political science professor and director of Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.

“The district has been trending increasingly Democrat over the past few cycles, and there are significantly more registered Democrats in the 163rd than registered Republicans. However, special elections have regularly produced upsets, and I think Republicans see an opportunity here. Given that independents are usually closed out of primaries and may not even be aware that they can vote in this race, it may pose a bit of a challenge for the Republicans, who likely need a good yield from this group to offset the Democratic registration advantage,” he said.

Ford answered questions from DVJournal about her positions, but Boyd did not respond.

Asked why she is running, Ford said, “I’m not a politician and never have been. What I am is a regular citizen tired of the politicians failing us and ready to step up and make a difference on crime, on inflation, on schools and education, and on helping real people.”

Ford said her top issue is “Bringing common sense to government and helping people. That’s what is needed on every issue, not just one. We need to make our communities safe again. We need schools to do better for our kids. We need to fight inflation to help working families and seniors. These are all things the politicians have failed on because they are playing partisan games instead of doing what’s common sense.”

When asked why voters should choose her, Ford answered, “I am like the people of the 163rd and want to be their commonsense voice. My experience is that of a lifelong resident, working mom, a volunteer in our schools, someone who works with families with special needs children, a U.S. Army veteran, and the wife of a police officer – not a politician.”

Ford is a special instructor for early intervention working with children and their families aged from birth to three. She is a long-time community volunteer and the mother of three. She met her husband while both were students at Upper Darby High School.

Boyd has two children and raised two foster children. She taught history and art history and served on the Upper Darby School Board. She has worked as chief of staff for state Rep. Leanne Krueger (D-Brookhaven) and as district director and senior advisor for U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Philadelphia/Delaware). As well as chairing the Upper Darby Democratic Committee, Boyd founded the Delaware County chapter of NOW.

In addition to Ford and Boyd, Libertarian Alfeia Goodwin is also vying for the office. An Upper Darby resident, she is a retired police officer, Army veteran, and brigade command chaplain.

The 163rd District includes a section of Upper Darby, Collingdale, Clifton Heights, Aldan, and part of Darby Township. The special election will be held on May 16, the same day as the primary.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

As Delco Special Election Looms, Shapiro Pushes Abortion Message in Campaign Ad

This article first appeared in Broad+Liberty

Roughly two weeks before Pennsylvanians will go to the polls in the 2023 primary, Governor Josh Shapiro has inserted himself in the special election for House District 163 in Upper Darby, claiming in a television ad that if voters fail to elect the Democrat candidate, Republicans will make abortion illegal across the commonwealth.

“Delaware County, I need your help in the special election for state representative. The winner will determine which party controls the legislature. If Republican extremists win, they’ll take away my veto power by putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot to outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.”

Shapiro then concludes by asking Delaware County voters in the district to vote for the Democratic nominee, Heather Boyd. The Republican nominee is Katie Ford.

A top Republican campaign strategist said the ad was dishonest.

“Josh Shapiro jumped on the bandwagon for politician Heather Boyd and revealed political power is more important than honesty,” said Bob Bozzuto, executive director of the Pennsylvania House Republican Campaign Committee. “By doubling down on the lies about Katie Ford, Gov. Shapiro adds his name as a co-conspirator in the sexual harassment cover up that led to this Special Election,” he said, referring to the recent resignation of Mike Zabel, a Democrat.

Broad + Liberty asked the governor’s office to defend the statement that Republicans will “take away” his “veto power.” That request for comment was not returned.

It is true the Pennsylvania Constitution does not give the governor any power to veto legislation that would create proposed constitutional amendments, which are voted on by the people. Whether this equates to Republicans “taking away” that power is a matter of semantics. Nevertheless, the constitution does make the process more difficult, given that amendments to the constitution are more legally powerful than simple changes to state statute. For example, the legislation would have to pass both the Pennsylvania Senate and House in consecutive years, would have to survive legal challenges, and then win a majority of votes from the full commonwealth.

Additionally, for Shaprio’s claim to be true, he assumes that all 101 House Republicans would vote for the measure, and that there would be no breakaway votes from the party line — and that they could pull off that feat in consecutive years. Given that House Republicans had a difficult time electing a speaker at the beginning of the 2023 session when they still possessed a majority because of a technicality, maintaining pure party discipline across all 101 members would seem difficult.

The ad further illustrates that Democrats, in the commonwealth and nationwide, have come to see abortion as a winning wedge issue in the wake of the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned nearly 50 years under the ruling Roe v. Wade.

It also highlights the stakes of the special election, given that House Democrats took the majority for the first time in years after the 2022 elections, but did so with a slim one-seat margin that later would become up for grabs when Zabel was forced to resign under a cloud of sexual assault allegations.

Spotlight PA reporter Stephen Caruso earlier this week tweeted that Democrats are trying to rally the troops.

“According to two Democratic sources, House Democrats had a caucus-wide call this weekend asking members to put money into the election, citing concerns about the race,” he tweeted.

“It’s hard to tell what’s justified concern and what’s just irrational panic from Democrats [right now], or as some have described it, a fear of never having nice things,” he added.

Shapiro’s claim in the ad about abortion, however, is heavily disputed.

In the summer of 2022, the Republican-controlled senate did pass a bill that would create a ballot question asking voters to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution, but partisans are passionately divided over how far it would go.

The key paragraph of that legislation proposing the ballot question says, “The policy of Pennsylvania is to protect the life of every unborn child from conception to birth, to the extent permitted by the Federal Constitution. Nothing in this Constitution grants or secures any right relating to abortion or the public funding thereof. Nothing in this Constitution requires taxpayer funding of abortion.”

Republican lawmakers have said not conferring a right is vastly different from outlawing the procedure altogether.

“[Abortion is] legal, but it’s not a right,” Ward said. “The amendment just puts (into the state constitution) that it isn’t a right and that taxpayers aren’t mandated to foot the bill for an abortion.”

Democrats, however, have held to a message similar to Shaprio’s that abortion access would be “outlawed.”

Zabel’s resignation from the seat created its own political whirlwind, especially around the partisan control of the lower chamber, as well as the special election in the Delco.

When the House was deadlocked in January and then-Speaker Mike Rozzi went on a statewide “listening tour,” a lobbyist for the SEIU, Andi Perez, gave public testimony that she had been sexually assaulted in 2019 by a still-sitting member of the House.

In mid-February, Broad + Liberty reported that the identity of the person alleged to have inappropriately touched Perez was widely known in Harrisburg, but the report did not name the individual at that time. The report included a quote from a former Republican member of the House who alleged Democrats were not pursuing disciplining that member because it might flip the balance of power.

About a week later, Broad + Liberty was first to identify Zabel as the member who allegedly assaulted Perez.

The report that named Zabel was possible because of new allegations made by an anonymous member of the House. Rep. Abby Major (R-Armstrong) later revealed herself as that accuser. Zabel resigned soon after Major publicly put her name behind the allegations.

Further reporting by other outlets showed Democrats knew about allegations against Zabel at least as far back as 2019.

Major can be seen in a television ad about the special election in which she claims Heather Boyd knew there were accusations of improper conduct swirling around Zabel in previous years, but that she was complicit as part of the county’s Democratic party machinery in sending Zabel back to the House regardless of that knowledge.

“Year after year, Heather Boyd sent the man who harassed me to Harrisburg by covering up his deplorable actions,” Major says in the ad.

Although the makeup of the district has voted Democratic in most top-of-the-ticket races like governor and president in recent years, there have also been notable Republican wins at the municipal level, making the race all the more interesting.

In the 2022 elections, House Republicans won the statewide vote by more than 300,000 votes but lost control of the chamber because of the way district lines were drawn. The 163rd district last elected a Republican in 2016.

The ad featuring Shapiro was paid for by the Pennsylvania House Democratic Campaign Committee, and was approved by Heather Boyd. The ad featuring Rep. Major was paid for by Friends of Katie Ford.

The primary is May 16.

Bucks County Man Facing Death Row Retrial as Shapiro Blocks Executions

Many convicted killers sitting on Death Row are understandably worried about their ultimate fate. Condemned prisoners in Pennsylvania, however, likely rest easier knowing that Gov. Josh Shapiro has no intention of signing any death warrants while in office.

That includes any potential death sentence handed down to Alfonso Sanchez, a Bucks County man facing a double-murder trial for the second time since 2008.

Sanchez was first sentenced to death by lethal injection in 2008 for the double killing of Lisa Marie Diaz and Mendez Thomas, Jr. His trial found he had killed the two as part of a drug-fueled dispute over money.

Then-Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, signed Sanchez’s execution warrant in 2015. But Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub granted Sanchez a retrial in 2017, finding prosecutors had not provided important DNA evidence at his earlier trial. Specifically, that one of the victims had the skin of Sanchez’s accomplice under her fingernails.

The retrial was set to occur in 2020 but was delayed until this week due to the COVID pandemic.

Shapiro’s office told DVJournal the governor’s position on executions has not changed. The governor said in February he would “not issue any execution warrants during his term” and urged the General Assembly to officially abolish capital punishment in the state.

The Bucks County District Attorney’s office confirmed to DVJournal that it would seek a renewed death sentence for Sanchez. DA spokesman Manuel Gamiz said the governor’s opposition to the death penalty would not change the district attorney’s intent.

“It’s speeding along,” Gamiz said of the trial. “We’re hoping to have a resolution soon.”

In addition to the 2008 conviction, court records also indicate that Sanchez reportedly attempted to arrange the killing of key trial witness Jessica Carmona from prison.

“He tried to finish the job,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Matthew Lannetti said at the retrial on Monday. “He tried to have people kill [a witness] so she couldn’t sit in that witness box and tell you what happened that night in that apartment.”

Joseph McGettigan, a former prosecutor in Delaware County and Philadelphia as well as a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, told DVJournal that “individuals who willfully, intentionally and without justification take another human life under some circumstances, should forfeit their own.”

McGettigan said that as a prosecutor, he led “probably half a dozen cases” where a jury imposed the death penalty, “but because of the various appeals process, none of the persons who I tried and saw sentenced to death have been executed.”

“Although one has died,” he added.

McGettigan argued Shapiro “has never been a prosecutor, although he was attorney general. He’s never been a trial lawyer. He’s never, to my knowledge, had contact with the victims of a horrendous murder.”

“It’s easy for him to espouse these progressive views that the death penalty isn’t warranted,” he said. “But I think the world would be a safer place if some people were executed for the heinous crimes they commit.”

The last prisoner put to death in Pennsylvania was Gary Heidnik, who was given a lethal injection at State Correctional Institution at Rockview. Heidnik shocked the state and the country when investigators discovered he had held captive, raped, and murdered half a dozen women using a pit dug in the basement of his North Philadelphia house.

Heidnik’s crimes partially inspired the Buffalo Bill character in the Thomas Harris novel “The Silence of the Lambs” and its subsequent film adaptation.

Though Pennsylvania is unlikely to resume executions for at least the next four years, one Pennsylvania man, Kaboni Savage, still faces the death penalty for crimes committed in the state.

Savage ordered the firebombing of a rival’s Philadelphia family home in 2004 while in federal custody in the city. The attack killed six people, including four children ranging from 15 months old to 15 years old.

Convicted in 2013, Savage was handed 13 death sentences. He remains incarcerated at ADX Florence, an ultra-maximum security prison in rural Colorado.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

Casey, Fetterman Still On TikTok, Despite Spying Concerns

Time may be TikToking away for TikTok and the Americans who use it.

On Friday, six more U.S. Senators signed on as sponsors of the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act, bipartisan legislation giving President Joe Biden new powers to ban the Chinese-owned app. Now 18 senators are on board, and the Biden administration has endorsed the effort.

Not on the list of sponsors: Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman. They are, however, on a recently-compiled list of a handful of members of Congress with TikTok accounts.

Both accounts were still active as of Sunday night. Neither senator responded to repeated requests for comment about their decision to remain on the controversial — and Communist-owned — video app.

The issue of TikTok giving China’s government access to data on U.S. citizens isn’t new. President Donald Trump tried to ban the app in 2020 but was blocked by the courts. Late last year, Biden signed an order banning the app from nearly all federal government devices.

The social media platform that is very popular with teenagers is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. ByteDance had admitted that some employees had filched Americans’ information, The New York Times reported. But the parent company claimed those workers were fired.

Biden is demanding ByteDance sell TikTok. And the Biden Justice Department is investigating whether the Chinese-made app is spying on some of the journalists who cover the tech industry.

More and more Pennsylvania government entities are banning the app, including Chester County and Bucks County, which just filed a lawsuit against it for harming children’s mental health. In state government, Treasurer Stacy Garrity banned it on state devices her department controls. However, Gov. Josh Shapiro has a campaign account. At the same time, however, Shapiro was investigating TikTok as attorney general for its impact on youth.

A January 2023 review by States News Service confirmed 32 of the 535 members of Congress had TikTok accounts, including Casey, Fetterman, and local Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks)

Contacted by DVJournal, a Houlahan spokesperson confirmed, “Her account still exists, but it is not active, and it is not on any House-issued devices.”

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is scheduled to testify before Congress on Thursday. According to reports, he plans to argue that the app, which has about 150 million regular users in the U.S. — or about 45 percent of the population — is too deeply enmeshed in the nation’s social media to be banned.

A TikTok spokesperson recently sent DVJournal this statement: “The ban of TikTok on federal devices was passed in December without any deliberation, and unfortunately, that approach has served as a blueprint for other world governments. These bans are little more than political theater. We hope that when it comes to addressing national security concerns about TikTok beyond government devices, Congress will explore solutions that won’t have the effect of censoring the voices of millions of Americans.

“The swiftest and most thorough way to address any national security concerns about TikTok is for CFIUS to adopt the proposed agreement that we worked with them on for nearly two years. These plans have been developed under the oversight of our country’s top national security agencies, and we are well underway in implementing them to further secure our platform in the United States.”

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

O’Neal: Shapiro’s Budget: Irresponsible Spending and More Costs for Pennsylvanians

To put it simply, Gov. Josh Shapiro’s proposed budget is hallmarked by irresponsible spending increases and initiatives that will increase costs for Pennsylvanians and likely lead to future tax increases.

While Gov. Shapiro claims his spending plan is $44.4 billion, what he does not include is funding for the State Police, which he moves into a non-transparent offline account.

When one considers that spending, which the Commonwealth will be responsible for and that was taken out of the General Fund, along with expiring COVID federal dollars, total spending in the budget rings in at $45.8 billion, or a $2.5 billion increase that is nearly six percent over last year’s budget.

As a legislature, we will absolutely keep our commitment to law enforcement and ensure police and prosecutors have the resources they need to keep us safe. But the overall irresponsible spending increase and non-transparent funding shifts are what Republicans worked hard to avoid over the last 12 years.

To cover for the increase in spending that is projected this year and carrying over into future fiscal years, Gov. Shapiro has also proposed raiding our hard-earned state reserve accounts that we worked to build up over the years despite trying economic circumstances.

Pennsylvania is blessed to have a significant surplus and a moderately-funded Rainy Day Fund. But under the budget plan and fiscal outlook proposed by Gov. Shapiro, the current surplus will be spent down completely in three years and the Rainy Day Fund fully raided in five years.

Not only does this leave Pennsylvania vulnerable to a sudden economic downturn or some type of emergency that would require unforeseen spending, but if Shapiro’s spending continues along this trend, it will undoubtedly lead to a tax increase on Pennsylvanians while national economic patterns continue to make the cost of living difficult.

Keeping spending in line with revenue is not only constitutionally required, but it is not that hard. Republicans in the legislature, leading on fiscal affairs, avoided the temptation to needlessly increase spending beyond what we could bring in. We did so while still investing more in public education, creating significant reserves, and continuing our support of law enforcement.

There is simply no need for this stark change in direction represented in Gov. Shapiro’s first budget proposal.

To make matters worse for Pennsylvanians, Gov. Shapiro’s budget assumes revenue from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is a direct tax on Pennsylvanians’ energy bills and comes at a time when Pennsylvanians have been paying historically high amounts to heat their homes, turn on their lights, and fuel their cars.

While then-candidate Shapiro expressed concern and even lukewarm disapproval of RGGI, now-Gov. Shapiro is supporting this household budget-crushing and job-killing program.

As I said, Pennsylvanians are already paying too high a price for basic, everyday energy resources.

This is even more of a slap in the face given our abundant energy resources in Pennsylvania.

Instead of focusing on producing more of our home-grown energy assets and finding ways to get them to market to reduce our in-state energy costs and those across the country, Gov. Shapiro is literally raising the price of energy and making it more difficult for Pennsylvanians to make ends meet to sustain his irresponsible spending plan.

It is part of a trend in what we have seen from Gov. Shapiro’s largest policy initiative – purporting to say one thing, but actually doing another.

This is further evidenced in his call for permitting reform on one hand – a nod to limited government and making Pennsylvania more appealing to those looking to invest in our communities and workforce – and then hiring an army of labor law investigators on the other, which is a weaponization of our state government to attack our small business job creators in a way not seen since the early days of the COVID pandemic.

Looking ahead, Republicans in the House of Representatives are going to keep our commitment to sound budgeting principles.

We will maintain fiscal responsibility by advocating to keep spending in line with revenues and utilizing what we have to make key investments in growth areas while maintaining our commitment to education, law enforcement, and growing our economy.

We will work within our largest entitlement programs to save taxpayers money while providing those truly needing help with better alternatives.

And we will work toward a limited government that encourages growth, energy production, and the utilization of our strongest home-grown assets.

Pennsylvanians deserve better than having to pay more while receiving less, but that is what they are getting under Gov. Shapiro’s first proposed budget. When House Republicans have a seat at the table, we will fight to ensure taxpayers get the responsible government they deserve and expect.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

PA Named America’s Fourth-Highest Taxed State

Pennsylvanians are “being crushed under a mountain of rising prices,” said Gov. Josh Shapiro in his recent budget address during which he unveiled plans to eliminate the state cell phone tax and expand a senior property tax rebate program.

And just in time, based on a new  WalletHub data analysis naming Pennsylvania America’s fourth-highest-taxed state.

In Pennsylvania, residents pay 29.3 percent more in state and local taxes than the average American household, or about $8,820. Roughly 12 percent of Pennsylvanians live in poverty, with the median household income hovering around $68,000, according to the U.S. Census.

According to the data compiled by Wallethub, the average American pays $11,000 in federal income taxes, with taxpayers in higher-taxed states shelling out, on average, about double the amount paid by those living in cheaper states.

The analysis reviewed 50 states and the District of Columbia for four types of taxation—real estate, vehicle, income, and sales tax—and compared them against the national median.

The five lowest-taxed states were Alaska, Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming, while Kansas, New York, Connecticut, and Illinois joined Pennsylvania in the top five bracket for tax burdens.

Pennsylvania was also third-highest in gas taxes. The state’s gas tax increased three cents at the beginning of the year, up to 61 cents per gallon. That’s more than every state except California and Illinois, according to the American Petroleum Institute, though the state Senate tried nixing that by passing a bill to undo the automatic bump.

Pennsylvanians ranked among the highest-taxed Americans across the board: 40th in real estate taxes, 49th in income taxes, and 26th in sales taxes. The analysis also found that people in Democrat-controlled states typically paid more in taxes than Republican states – 27.88 versus 24.04.

Norm Richter, a former tax chief executive who now lectures on accounting and law at Babson College, said local taxes aren’t usually part of the calculus for people when deciding on places to live. They tend to relocate for jobs or to be closer to friends and family.

His father was one of the exceptions to the rule – he chose Pennsylvania over Rhode Island, knowing the commonwealth wouldn’t tax his pension.

While retirement income is exempt from state and local taxes, a report from the Independent Fiscal Office lends further credence to WalletHub analysis. The IFO found that Pennsylvanians overall have some of the highest tax burdens in the county.

“Local and state governments must balance tax rate considerations with providing the quality-of-life factors needed to make their communities great places to live,” says G. Jason Jolley, a professor of economic development at Ohio University.

Looking to ease that burden, Shapiro, a Democrat, laid out possible areas for relief when unveiling his proposed $44.4 billion spending plan that looked to extend an olive branch in several ways to overtaxed residents.

The governor’s office estimated the cell phone proposal alone could save Pennsylvanians about $124 million a year.

Another proposal would also reduce staffing shortages in critical nursing, law enforcement, and education positions by providing a $2,500 refundable tax credit to those who earn licenses in those fields, lasting up to three years.

The governor also floated expanding the state’s Property Tax Rent Rebate Program, upping the maximum for seniors to $1,000. The roof of the income cap for renters and homeowners would increase to $45,000 a year under his proposal, enabling 175,000 more residents to qualify.

“I want to tie that cap to increases in the cost of living so that this commonwealth never has to say: ‘Sorry, you’re out of luck,’ because their Social Security payment went up, and we didn’t act,” Shapiro said during his address earlier this month.

The governor’s fiscal wish list must survive hearings and budget negotiations among divided lawmakers. Democrats have a slight majority in the House while Republicans control the Senate, but they must come together to have a spending plan by July 1, the start of the fiscal year.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

Is Shapiro Shifting Stance on RGGI?

A single paragraph of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s recently-released budget is already proving to be among the most controversial.

Tucked inside the nearly 1,000 pages of Shapiro’s executive budget proposal is an indication the state will likely embrace the controversial Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) as part of the governor’s “environmental protection and management” goals.

RGGI is touted by green activists as “a cooperative, market-based effort” among a dozen East Coast states “to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector.” The program uses a system of “allowances” to clamp down on the amount of CO2 that power plants in member states can emit.

Advocates insist the program is a necessary part of the effort to bring down greenhouse gas emissions and head off catastrophic climate change. Critics say it is an expensive boondoggle that will drive up energy costs for working families and give too much power over the energy sector to state regulators.

Efforts to conscript Pennsylvania into the program have stalled. The Commonwealth Court last year blocked then-Gov. Tom Wolf’s attempt to implement RGGI in the state, leaving the program’s future here uncertain.

During his campaign for governor, Shapiro expressed skepticism about RGGI’s feasibility. “We need to take real action to address climate change, protect and create energy jobs and ensure Pennsylvania has reliable, affordable, and clean power for the long term,” he said in October 2021. “As governor, I will implement an energy strategy which passes that test, and it’s not clear to me that RGGI does.” Shapiro’s willingness to resist pressure from his party’s progressive base on RGGI sent a message to moderate voters that he was a more centrist Democrat, not part of his party’s fringe.

Now in office, it appears Shapiro may be pivoting to the left on RGGI, though notably, he did not directly mention the program in last week’s budget address before the Pennsylvania legislature.

His office told the DVJournal the governor has not flipped on the issue, and that Shapiro is merely exploring the program as one possible route for addressing environmental concerns. RGGI, a Shapiro official noted, remains tied up in the courts with its future uncertain.

Energy and policy experts, meanwhile, said Shapiro’s apparent intent to follow RGGI could bring pain for Pennsylvanians already reeling from high inflation and price hikes for basic necessities.

Jeff Nobers, the executive director of the industry advocacy group Pittsburgh Works Together, told DVJournal that joining RGGI would be a “disaster” for Pennsylvania.

“We are a major exporter of electricity, and we help keep the lights on in much of the eastern half of the country,” Nobers said. “Gov. Shapiro said during the campaign that RGGI was not the right policy for Pennsylvania, and we have no reason to believe he has changed his mind.”

Nathan Benefield, the senior vice president of the Commonwealth Foundation, said RGGI is “effectively a tax that will increase home electricity prices by 30 percent.”

“Rising energy prices are a top concern for Pennsylvania voters, who are struggling with the increased cost of living and looking for our elected leaders to work together with energy-producing companies to lower the cost of utility bills,” Benefield said. “Shapiro’s continued push for Wolf’s electric tax hike will only make matters worse.”

Shapiro’s office told DVJ the program’s provisions in the budget fall under the state’s Clean Air Fund, and that it would be inaccurate to call any money raised via that mechanism a tax.

The program’s possible adoption in Pennsylvania, meanwhile, has drawn cheers from progressives.

“We have a clear and present opportunity to supercharge the state’s clean energy economy by maximizing benefits from the Inflation Reduction Act and implementing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to build a cleaner, more equitable future for all Pennsylvanians,” Jackson Morris, a senior adviser to the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund told NPR.

The governor’s budget projects upwards of $663 million brought into state coffers via RGGI enforcement.

RGGI, meanwhile, is facing pushback in at least one other member state, with Republicans in Virginia earlier this year attempting to withdraw from the initiative via the state legislature.

That effort was ultimately defeated by Virginia Democrats, though the state’s Air Pollution Control Board has indicated it will seek a regulatory path to withdrawal.

Pennsylvania and Virginia are the only states involved with RGGI in which their respective legislatures are divided between Democrats and Republicans. Only one state, New Hampshire, has the GOP in control of both legislative chambers; all others are controlled by Democrats.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or


Mastriano Reportedly Eyes Run for U.S. Senate

If God wants state Sen. Doug Mastriano to run for U.S. Senate, He hasn’t told the leadership of the Republican party.

Last week, Politico reported Mastriano — crushed by nearly 15 points in last year’s governor’s race against then-Attorney General Josh Shapiro – is considering a challenge to Democrat Bob Casey in 2024. He’s “praying” about it, Mastriano told the magazine. After God, his wife, Rebbie, will have the final word he said.

But National Republican Senate Committee Chair Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who is in charge of the group’s candidate recruitment, already has a word or two on the subject: No way.

“We need somebody who can win a primary and a general election. His last race demonstrated he couldn’t win a general,” Daines tweeted.

He is not alone. “Mastriano running for any statewide office would be another big gift to Pennsylvania Democrats,” said Christopher Nicholas with Eagle Consulting Group.

Mastriano ran as a solidly MAGA candidate with hardline views on social issues like abortion in the relatively purple state of Pennsylvania. He lost the money race, raising just $7 million compared to Shapiro’s $73 million.

Pennsylvania Republicans told DVJournal they were not interested in a repeat performance.

Republican insiders are already looking to former hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick in 2024.

“I think [Mastriano] has little to no chance of defeating David McCormick in a primary,” said Jeff Jubelirer with Bellevue Communications. “McCormick came within a whisker of defeating Dr. Oz in the GOP U.S. Senate primary in 2022, and many observers believed he would have fared better, and perhaps even beat, John Fetterman in the general election.

Charlie Gerow, CEO of Quantum Communications who also ran in the GOP gubernatorial primary, said Mastriano would have to give up his state Senate seat or run for both offices at once.

“I think his constituents would not be happy with that,” said Gerow. “A lot of people are talking about running for the U.S. Senate. He took a lot of time away (from his state Senate job) to run for governor.”

And, Republicans say, defeating an incumbent like Casey won’t be easy.

“Perhaps if Donald Trump injects himself again in the Senate race, it could benefit Mastriano a little [in the primary], but it didn’t help him make a dent when he ran against Josh Shapiro for governor,” Jubelirer said.

“I think the Republicans would prefer a stronger candidate, especially after taking it on the chin statewide in 2022.”

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or