FILE - Bob Casey 10-4-2016

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

Governments use tax credits and other targeted carve-outs to help certain economic sectors realize growth or stave off a crisis. Often these provisions come with a sunset date so that the tax credit will expire after it has achieved its aim, but in recent years federal lawmakers have sought to use “tax extenders” to keep the credit going past its expiration date.

To advocacy groups like Americans for Prosperity, these industry-focused tax credits amount to corporate welfare, and the Pennsylvania chapter of AFP has launched an effort to convince members of the state’s congressional delegation not to support tax extender measures this year.

The lawmakers targeted by AFP-PA’s efforts are U.S. Reps. Mike Kelly, Brendan Boyle and Dwight Evans and Sen. Bob Casey. Kelly, a Republican, and Boyle and Evans, both Democrats, all sit on the House Ways & Means Committee, while Casey is a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

“All Pennsylvanians deserve a level playing field where everyone is free to compete by the same set of rules,” AFP-PA state director Ashley Klingensmith said in a statement Thursday. “Unfortunately, too many laws and regulations on the books make this impossible. Government favoritism in the form of subsidies, special tax breaks, and regulatory barriers rig the game by picking winners and losers.”

The group has produced a series of mailings encouraging taxpayers to call the four lawmakers and speak out against tax extenders. The push is part of a campaign AFP is calling “Unrig the Economy.”

Auditor general lauds advance of bills to rein in PBMs

Pennsylvania state Reps. Dyle Heffley, R-Weissport, and Rob Matzie, D-Ambridge, saw their legislation to introduce new oversight of pharmacy benefit managers advance this week in the House Health Committee. House Bill 941 would create new guidelines on how PBMs set drug reimbursement rates.

The bill’s advancement earned praise Thursday from Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a frequent critic of PBMs. The organizations are the link between pharmacy and pharmaceutical companies and have been accused by some officials of inflating drug prices for their own benefit.

“It’s past time for Pennsylvania to increase oversight of PBMs so that we can ensure taxpayers are not paying for unnecessary services,” DePasquale said in a statement.

The committee also advanced bills to allow the auditor general to audit PBMs and to end “gag clauses” that restrain pharmacists from offering advice to customers on cost savings.

Utility commission moves to encourage more electric vehicle charging stations

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is trying to make it easier for drivers of electric vehicles to find charging stations. The PUC on Thursday approved a plan by UGI Utilities that allows third-party electric charging stations to be classified as a service rather than the resale of electricity.

The ruling will help “reduce regulatory uncertainty and [provide] greater consistency among electric distribution companies,” the PUC said in a news release.

The request by UGI was approved by a 5-0 vote at Thursday’s PUC hearing.

Regional Editor

Dave Lemery is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience. He was the editor of Suburban Life Media when its flagship newspaper was named best weekly in Illinois, and he has worked at papers in South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York.