Sunday, July 23, 2006

Ed Rendell: The Farmer's Friend?

When you think Ed Rendell, you do not think bib overalls.

The governor is a big-city guy, born in New York, lives in Philadelphia.

His opponents have criticized him for being ultra-urban. The rap is that he directs too much money to Philadelphia and its environs and not enough to the rest of the state.

Here in the evil big city we are glad he's got a Philadelphia state of mind. Rendell denies the tag, but to little effect.

But, as I was noodling around the web the other day, I came upon the Rendell for Governor site and found a nifty map they had posted that showed the extent of state investments in each county of Pennsylvania made between 2003, when Rendell took office, and today.

Hoping to make a little mischief, I decided to click on each county, write down the state investment figure and and compare it county-by-county. To make it fair, I divided the total into population (as of 2000) to come up up with a per capita figure.

The results surprised me. I thought the list would tilt towards the populous counties of the east. It did not. Most of those counties, including Philadelphia, were in the bottom third when it came to per capita state expenditures.

Who were the big winners? The rural counties of the "T". Snyder, Union, Juniata and Somerset counties led the list. I have posted the list so you can see where your county ranks.

The list, as compiled by the Rendell research staff, includes mostly grants and capital expenditures -- for highways, economic development, historic preservation, tourism, jobs training and creation, housing, etc. etc. When it comes to PennDOT, it also includes the federal matching money for highway work.

The list does not include federal pass-through money for such programs as welfare, medicare and medicaid. Nor does it include the salaries of state employees stationed in different counties, such as the state police.

I've posted a list that details the money for one county -- Allegheny -- to give you an idea of the nature and range of the grants.

Something to keep in mind in reviewing the list: large projects in less populated counties can distort the picture.

An example: A $30 million bridge reconstruction project in Snyder County, with a population of about 37,500, equals $800 per capita. A similar $30 million bridge project in Philly, with close to 1.5 million people, equals about $20 per capita.

One more thing: looking at top 20 counties on the per capita list, I can only see five that Rendell has a shot of winning in November.

8 Comments:

Blogger rasphila said...

Nice job of research here. There was an op-ed in the Inquirer about this issue some years ago, so I wasn't surprised by your results. Nor am I surprised that the stereotype (the rural counties are subsidizing the cities) persists. There are a lot of pols out there who have an interest in keeping this particular myth alive.

2:38 PM  
Blogger A Big Fat Slob said...

Interesting list, but I am not sure of the point of the per capita breakdown.

It is not like the money is going into the pockets of the individual residents of the counties.

The more difficult analysis would be the economic value -- the worth -- of the projects to the overall economy of the counties. One would need to look at the effectiveness of the projecdt, whether it resulted in new jobs in that county, whether it has a long-term inpact on the county economy, etc.

I am not even sure how that would be judged, but to say that Rendell is more generous to Cameron County by giving it $5 million, than to Allegheny, which received $1.1 BILLION, is a bit of a stretch.

As I glance through the state's newspapers each week, it seems to me that Rendell has been everywhere handing out grnat money lately. One list I'd be interested in seeing is the timing of the handouts relative to election cycles.

5:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fact Check -Somerset is not in the T. Somerset is considered SW PA. It is part of the Pittsburgh Media Market, not the T market which covers Harrisburg, Lebanon, Lancaster and York.

9:00 AM  
Blogger rasphila said...

The Inquirer op-ed actually compared the amount of tax money collected by the state in the various counties with the amount spent on the various counties. The author concluded that the urban regions and surrounding suburbs were subsidizing the rural counties pretty substantially. Most urban areas provided more in tax revenue than they received in benefits from the state, while most rural areas received more in benefits than they provided in revenues. Somebody ought to update this study to see whether this is still the case. Per capita figures didn't enter into the op-ed piece that I remember, just tax out/benefits in calculations.

11:15 AM  
Blogger ACM said...

I guess I'm with slob in wondering whether a per capita breakdown is useful -- you say it's "just to be fair," but there are some costs (imagine running telephone wires, say) that are just much higher in scantly than in densely populated areas. (Of course, I'd argue that those costs, as well as environmental efficiency, are good reasons for encouraging urban growth over suburban and rural, but that's a discussion for another day.) It's still "fair" to run those telephone wires to all state residents, but that automatically means a subsidy is required. Probably the same for highways, since cities keep up their own (burdened) streets.

Anyway, thanks for the numbers, as more data is always good for chewing. But there are many interesting discussions to be had about the "right" way to compare expenditures among regions. For schools, per capita seems right, but I don't really know how you'd get at the "effectiveness" or practical value measurement of such investments.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

Nice research. How do these priorities compare to the Ridge and Schweiker years?

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Per capita? Come on.

It is a fact, $5 million in a rural county makes an impact. $30 million in Philadelphia just goes to waste -- on friends of Eddie.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Rep. Mark B. Cohen said...

Governor Casey won all but one county in Pennsylvania in his 1990 re-election victory, and Rendell should do very well for re-election also.

He will win far more counties in 2006 than he did in 2002. He is certainly in contention in every county, and is in contention to match the Casey record of carrying counties.

4:36 AM  

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