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Pennsylvania's 2010 Census Results Mean a Congressperson Will Be Gone, But Which One?

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The Census Bureau announced last month that the nation’s population on April 1, 2010 was 308,745,538 up from 281.4 million a decade ago.  Every 10 years, the bureau releases population figures that are used to distribute the 435 seats in the U.S. House. Fast-growing states pick up seats at other states' expense. This year, those loser states included Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and New York.

Despite a 3.4 percent increase in population over the last 10 years, Pennsylvania's growth is significantly behind the national population growth of 9.7 percent.  The population of the state climbed to 12,702,379, an increase of 421,000 residents since the 2000 census.

PA Congressional Delegations

Why Pennsylvania’s Population Growth is Slow

So why is Pennsylvania growing so slow compared to the rest of the nation, and especially states that gained seats, like Texas and Arizona?

Kevin Shivers, executive director of the Pennsylvania branch of the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), said the census is evidence states with pro-business environments tend to gain population.

"There are a number of states that have seen out-migration of citizens over the years. It's because people go where the jobs are," said Mr. Shivers.  Mr. Shivers pointed to Pennsylvania's 9.99 percent corporate income tax - the highest such tax in the nation - as a major factor in the equation.

Southern and Western states, which gained population and congressional representation in the newest census, generally have lower tax rates than Northeastern and Midwestern states, which are experiencing slower growth. For instance, Texas uses a corporation tax called a franchise tax, which is 1% or less.  No wonder businesses are moving to Texas.

Pennsylvania has a relatively low personal income tax rate at a flat 3.07%, but the state's 9.99 percent corporate tax is the highest in the country. From this tax paradox, one should conclude that Pennsylvania is a good place to be as a worker, but it is a bad place to be if you're an employer. Unfortunately for Pennsylvania, you need employers to have employees.

So unless Pennsylvania can reverse this unfriendly business climate, expect another seat loss for the 2020 Census.

The Effect of Lost Seat.

So what effect will this census have on a “loser” state, like mine—Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania will lose political influence in Congress over the next decade, as job losses in the region contributed to slower population growth, according to government data released last week.

Pennsylvania will see its representation fall to 18, compared with 19 this past decade. Pennsylvania’s House delegation will be reduced for the ninth consecutive reapportionment.

The state had 36 seats a century ago. Yes, Pennsylvania now has half of the representation in the House as it once maintained. That means there are less voices in Washington to speak on Pennsylvania’s behalf.

Besides a loss in congressional representation, federal funding for many programs is tied to census data. Therefore, a relative loss of population can reduce a state's funding levels.  Among the programs affected are Medicaid, federal highway aid, low-income housing programs, and special education funding.

Because other states have seen their population grow significantly in recent years, Pennsylvania stands to receive a smaller slice of the federal funding pie.

Such an impact can be seen with another state that lost a congressional seat—Michigan. According to one source, their loss will cost all of its state’s citizens.

Dec. 20, Detroit News: "It comes to about $10,000 per counted resident over a 10-year period," said Curt Weiss, spokesman for the state Department of Management, Budget and Technology, which oversees the state's budget and led its campaign to get more residents responding to the census.

"Schools, roads and just about any other state function you can think of get help from the federal government, and it's all based on population. It's a matter of getting our fair share."

With that said, it makes you wonder why some people are so apathetic about filling out their Census forms with so much at stake.  Heck, I know some people that outright refused to give any information to the Census workers. Perhaps these people would rather just sign away $10,000 in lieu of being “hassled” by Census employees.

Okay… Which Congressperson Will Be Out of a Job?

Following each decennial census, the House of Representative’s districts are redrawn to make them roughly equal in population - although each state gets at least one seat regardless of the population. The House now comprises 435 districts. Not surprisingly, redrawing districts usually triggers contentious partisan wrangling if new lines help or hurt either party.

In the coming months, politicians in Harrisburg will meet to determine how to redraw the state into new congressional districts with one fewer seat — down to 18. The process often uses a process called gerrymandering that helps a political party.  In my opinion, gerrymandering typifies politics at its worst with the political equivalent of insider trading. With the Republicans taking control of the state Legislature and governorship next year, it would be a Democratic seat that will be cut. 

There will be seven Democrats serving Pennsylvania in the House of Representatives in the 112th Congress. They include: Bob Brady (District 1), Chaka Fattah (District 2), Jason Altmire (District 4), Mark Critz (District 12), Allyson Schwartz (District 13), Michael Doyle (District 14), and Tim Holden (District 17).

One of these Democrats will no longer have a district, forcing them to campaign against another Representative.

The Philadelphia area Representatives could be in danger.

The three congressional districts that cover the city "could be redrawn to move more of Philadelphia" into U.S. Reps. Bob Brady's and Chaka Fattah's districts "and move more Republicans into" the district represented by Rep. Allyson Schwartz, who represents parts of Montgomery County and Northeast Philadelphia, said Randall Miller, a political historian at St. Joseph's University. That would make it harder for Schwartz to win re-election.

Or, it is possible Schwartz's district could be eliminated altogether, he said. "In our area, she's the most vulnerable," he contended.

Others argue that 12th District should be eliminated. Rep. Mark Critz, who won a special election in May to fill the seat vacated by the late Rep. John Murtha, holds this john murthadistrict.

G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, also pointed to Critz's seat as the possible loser.

"He's the newest Democrat in the area of the state where the population loss tends to be the greatest," Madonna said.

Population estimates issued over the past decade indicate the state's western region has lost population, while southeastern areas - Chester County in particular - have experienced gains. That suggests the new congressional district map may consolidate two western districts.

Others, however, contend that Tim Holden of the 17th District, who faced a major challenge last Census, may be the target of a lost district.

Jim Burn, chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, said it wouldn’t surprise him if Holden’s district would face redistricting.
  
Holden or Critz are the most likely targets, said Chris Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.

So, whether you are a politician, an employee, an employer, use federal aid programs like Medicaid or Medicare, or drive on federally funded roads, Census matters.

I guess that includes just about everybody in Pennsylvania.

Contact Erik Uliasz at euliasz@philly2philly.com