Democratic state senator wants to flood the Capitol with data on poverty

"I'm hoping that it will reach to the better angels of my colleagues."

  • Katie Meyer/WITF

(Harrisburg) — A top Senate Democrat is launching two bills he hopes will prompt his fellow lawmakers to think more carefully about poverty.

Vince Hughes, of Philadelphia, wants more data on how legislation in the commonwealth impacts the poor.

The first piece of Hughes’s bill package is based on a program in Utah.

It would create a state commission to perform studies on intergenerational poverty, and issue reports on steps to take and laws to pass to reduce it.

The second bill would require the state’s Independent Fiscal Office to do what Hughes calls a “poverty impact analysis” on state budgets and budget proposals–plus any other bill on request.

It would involve calculating whose income would rise or fall under a proposal, and how it affects access to things like housing, health care, and education.

Hughes sees it as a way to level the playing field.

“There seems to be a preponderance of legislation that is introduced and legislation that becomes law that helps a lot of folks become wealthier,” he said. “Doesn’t seem to be a lot of stuff that’s put into place that creates a more level playing field for people to get themselves through poverty.”

Hughes doesn’t think the whole initiative would cost much. At most, he said he expects the IFO might have to hire another analyst.

The package is still new, so it’s not yet clear if the Republican majorities will bite.

“This is data gathering,” Hughes said. “This is stuff that is trying to give a better focus to the workings of state government, and I’m hoping that it will reach to the better angels of my colleagues.”

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