PA Top Ten – But this list is no joke

Columnist : Albert Paschall

Pennsylvania has a tough time with rankings. In so many things we always seem to end up at or near the bottom of the list of states. But we’ve finally achieved some notoriety and made it on to a list of the top 10 states to offset some of our other poor showings.

Since we’ve made it to the list of states with some of the highest business taxes; the Commonwealth tanks at 45th in favorable business climate and 42nd for economic freedom. The state that can boast that Walmart is its largest employer last year ranked 43rd in sales growth for independent business owners.

Women don’t fare much better than business people. Pennsylvania is only 6 states away from dead last in the level of women who hold elective office in the state.

We’re not much on libraries either. We’re usually in the bottom 10 states when we measure local governments’ financial support for our public book lenders.

Pennsylvania’s largesse doesn’t extend to community college students either. Only 9 states are behind us in the amount of subsidy per student in our local colleges. The colleges that are enjoying some of the most explosive growth in student enrollment in the history of public education in this country.

We’re near the bottom in highway safety. In 2004, 42% of the state’s bridges were structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

Our younger children bear the brunt of state budget cuts. About 15% of kids under 6 in this state live in poverty while we maintain a constant position of 33rd in the nation in support for preschool education. It’s no wonder that 67% of fourth graders read below grade level.

But Pennsylvanians should take heart. On some lists we’ve actually made into the top five.

We’re number 4 in nuclear legacy dumps. These were factories and fields where plutonium was extracted to make atomic weapons during the cold war.

We up there in the third spot in the country in fluoridated waste production. We push about 5-1/2 million pounds of fluoridated chemicals into the air each year. Only Ohio and South Carolina can beat us at that.

In certain areas we are growing. We’ve climbed to 19th on the list of states of adults with obesity problems.

And only California, the nation’s largest state, now pays its state representatives, senators, judges and cabinet members more than we do courtesy of the new state budget.

Somedays when these sorry statistics get you down buck up and remember that no state can beat Pennsylvania for keeping things in the dark and feeding them manure. The Keystone State is number one in the production of mushrooms.

Albert Paschall
Senior Commentator
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc.

[email protected]