Immigration activists rally outside the Supreme Court as the justices hear arguments over the Trump administration's plan to ask about citizenship on the 2020 census, in Washington, Tuesday, April 23, 2019.
Katie Meyer was WITF’s Capitol Bureau Chief from 2016-2020. While at WITF, she covered all things state politics for public radio stations throughout Pennsylvania. Katie came to Harrisburg by way of New York City, where she worked at Fordham University’s public radio station, WFUV, as an anchor, general assignment reporter, and co-host of an original podcast. A 2016 graduate of Fordham, she earned several awards for her work at WFUV, including four 2016 Gracies.
Katie is a native New Yorker, though she originally hails from Troy, a little farther up the Hudson River. She can attest that the bagels are still pretty good there.
WITF's Capitol Bureau Chief Desk is partially funded through generous gifts made in the memory of Tony May through the Anthony J. May Memorial Fund.
Wolf and his commission, which includes various advocacy groups, decided to ask for a dollar per resident–$12.8 million.
But asked whether that money would be included in next year’s state budget, GOP House Appropriations Chair Stan Saylor was blunt.
“No,” he said. “The federal government funds the census, so there’s no need for state dollars to go into the census.”
Micah Sims, a Complete Count member who heads the watchdog group Common Cause PA, said the money would have helped track hard-to-count people: for instance, elderly residents who might have a hard time with the census’s new online form, or people don’t speak English.
He envisioned it being used to set up community centers and libraries as assistance centers with extended hours.
“Where people put their money is where their values are,” he said. “Counting people shouldn’t be a political value, it is a constitutional value.”
Michelle R. Smith / AP Photo
FILE – This March 23, 2018 file photo shows an envelope containing a 2018 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident as part of the nation’s only test run of the 2020 Census.
Among other things, census counts are used to allocate federal money. The Penn State Data Center estimates that every uncounted Pennsylvanian means a loss of more than $2,093 over ten years.
Under-counting can also cause states to lose political power.
Pennsylvania’s population is shrinking; no matter how well the next census counts its residents, the commonwealth will almost certainly lose at least one congressional representative when districts are reapportioned.
But Wendy Underhill, with the National Conference of State Legislatures, said other states are more uncertain about whether they’ll gain or lose seats–and that makes them likelier to put money into census outreach.
“This year in particular, it seems as though there’s been a move toward more states putting money into census outreach,” she said. “California’s done it for at least two decades, but it’s not common practice that all states put money in.”
A spokesman for Wolf says former governor Tom Ridge, a Republican, allocated about $300,000 for census efforts and his successor, Democrat Ed Rendell, used state agencies to support the count.
Wolf, the spokesman said, will try to assist counting efforts through the executive branch.
There’s still one big unknown about next year’s census: whether President Donald Trump’s administration will be successful in adding a question about respondents’ citizenship status.
Opponents of the question argue it could dissuade non-citizen residents–who are supposed to be counted–from responding.