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Census Numbers Will Impact Pennsylvania's Clout And Money In Decade Ahead

PITTBSURGH (KDKA) -- Pennsylvania's 2020 population is now officially 13,011,844 residents.

That's the good news from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The bad news is the state did not grow fast enough and that will cost the state in the years ahead.

On the surface, it looks good. Pennsylvania grew 2.4 percent over the decade. But in this numbers game, that's not good enough. The slow growth will impact the state's political clout and the federal dollars we get.

"As a result, fewer federal dollars will make their way here to Pennsylvania to be distributed to Pennsylvania programs, and that's one of the major concerns that we have to deal with," Pa. Sen. Jay Costa, a Forest Hills Democrat, told KDKA political editor on Tuesday.

"We're going from 18 Congress members to 17. That means we've diminished our voice as a congressional delegation. That's a big deal," noted U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, a Peters Republican.

Both Reschenthaler, a Republican, and Costa agree that the first batch of census figures was not great, but Costa thinks there may have been an undercount during the pandemic under the Trump administration.

"I believe we have grown greater to what they have said we have grown as a Commonwealth in terms of the number of our population. And I believe there are concerns that have been raised given the nature of the barriers that were put into place through the Census process in 2020," said the Democratic Senate leader.

Reschenthaler dismisses that, blaming state policies for slow population growth.

"We have one of the highest corporate income taxes in the United States. We also have a personal income tax. We have a sales tax. And we also have a regulatory environment that makes it very difficult to expand or move your business to," said the Republican.

The most immediate impact will come when a special commission redistricts 50 state Senate districts and 203 state House districts. After that, the General Assembly and governor will create 17 -- not 18 -- congressional districts.

"My hope is that we can get districts drawn by January at the latest," says Costa.

That requires an already-delayed second batch of community, race, and age numbers by mid-August. If that slips, the May 2022 primary could be affected.

As for losing that member of Congress, that's a done deal. Although New York lost its last Congress person because it was shy of just 89 people, it was different in this state.

"Pennsylvania would have needed an additional 335,165 people to keep that seat in Congress," says Sue Copella with the State Data Center.

With 13 million people, Pennsylvania is still the fifth-largest state in the nation, and that will keep the state relevant in national politics and the Electoral College, at least for the next decade.

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