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Senator Rich Alloway
Wolf’s Second Budget Plan Follows Same Failed Strategy as His First
Although many lawmakers had hoped for a fresh perspective from Governor Wolf, his 2016-2017 budget proposal gave us more of the same – more taxes and more spending. Worse yet, the bulk of those dollars will come directly out of the paychecks of working Pennsylvanians through a hike in the Personal Income Tax. Pennsylvania working families deserve better.
The Governor proposes $3.6 billion in tax hikes to support his $33.28 billion spending plan for 2016-2017. The tax hikes include a 10.7% increase in the state Personal Income Tax, from a rate of 3.07% to 3.4%, an expansion of the state Sales Tax to include cable bills and other items, and a new tax on fire, property and casualty insurance.
Under the Governor’s plan, the PIT increase would be retroactive to January 1, 2016, meaning taxpayers will owe an extra six months in back tax payments if the budget is enacted June 30.
Contrary to the governor’s claims, we do not have any semblance of an agreed-to spending plan for the remainder of the 2015-16 Fiscal Year. The original framework budget was predicated on necessary pension reform and commonsense changes to liquor laws, neither of which the governor or his allies were able to deliver. Without those critical components, we were left only with more spending and higher taxes. That is an approach that the people of Pennsylvania have overwhelmingly rejected at every turn.
The governor claimed in his budget address that there are only two paths we can follow – one with massive tax increases and higher spending, and another with draconian cuts to schools and social services. The people of Pennsylvania are too smart to fall for this deeply flawed line of thinking. In a budget that includes hundreds upon hundreds of line items, there are plentiful opportunities to find savings. There is clearly no need for anyone to suggest cutting only those line items that the public would find most objectionable.
The governor’s misguided line of attack makes it clear that the only way he can make his own budget proposal look even remotely palatable is by creating another scenario that looks even worse. We can agree to disagree on legitimate public policy issues, including the size, cost and role of state government, and I welcome an honest and responsible discussion of those issues. However, the governor’s strategy of resorting to scare tactics, false choices and empty threats has no place in the public discourse.
While I can appreciate Governor Wolf’s desire to help our schools, his education priorities are still misplaced. We cannot solve the challenges facing our schools by simply throwing money at the problem. We need to fix a pension system that has grown too expensive for taxpayers, leading to massive property tax increases at the local level and curtailed investment in critical priorities at the state level. Fixing education requires fixing pensions. Anything less will result in more tax dollars contributed by taxpayers and fewer dollars devoted to the classroom. That is the polar opposite of what taxpayers expect from their elected officials.”