Property tax elimination closer than ever?

Sponsors of a proposal to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania are feeling more optimistic than ever before about its chances for passage.

“We are closer than we have ever been before in this long, painful process, but we still have a long way to go,” Sen. Dave Argall (R-Schuylkill) told The PLS Reporter. “We believe we have the votes that we need for the first time in the Senate.”

The proposal he's sponsoring, Senate Bill 76, plans to eliminate Pennsylvania’s school property taxes by raising the personal income tax from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent and increasing the sales tax from six to seven percent while also expanding the base.

Those tax increases would also rise with inflation based upon the statewide weekly wage.

Sen. Argall anticipates the proposal will raise $12 billion, enough money to completely eliminate the school property tax.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
Democrats meet with Gov. Wolf on budget

Democrats meet with Gov. Wolf on budget

Democratic legislative leaders met with Gov. Tom Wolf Tuesday where they discussed the progress of talks on getting to an agreement on a budget as well as natural gas extraction tax and property tax relief proposals.

“We’re trying to understand how it is that Speaker Turzai does not want to do a Marcellus Shale tax that at the end of the day means that we’re not going to provide education funding for our kids,” Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) told The PLS Reporter. “That’s disturbing to us and we’re just trying to get our arms around that.”

While he did not comment on what strategy might develop to have severance tax negotiations that do not include the Speaker, Sen. Costa indicated Democrats will continue to try to build consensus with Republicans and the governor on getting to a budget.

“We’re going to work hard to do that,” he added. “I think there needs to be a comprehensive budget approach that we’re trying to do.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views

Late afternoon budget meeting yields little progress toward compromise

A late afternoon budget negotiation session between legislative Republican leaders and Gov. Tom Wolf yielded little in terms of getting to a final budget product, but negotiators find some positive in that meetings will continue.

“[There is a] significant gulf,” said House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) upon leaving the meeting. “The governor has not moved off of any of his massive tax increase proposals and it presents difficulty because the public does not support his tax increases and he doesn’t have the votes in the chambers for it.”

“That’s really it,” he said as he walked away from a gaggle of reporters.

However, it was Gov. Wolf who blamed Speaker Turzai for holding up negotiations—particularly as it relates to a natural gas severance tax, a key piece of the governor’s education funding plan.

“The thing that stunned me the most was the Speaker’s continued intransigence on the severance tax,” Gov. Wolf said of his takeaway from the meeting. “He’d rather do good things for his friends in the oil and gas industry than help find a way to fund schools.”

Monday, July 13, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
Gov. Wolf vetoes pension reform bill as budget stalemate rhetoric intensifies

Gov. Wolf vetoes pension reform bill as budget stalemate rhetoric intensifies

Gov. Tom Wolf Thursday vetoed the General Assembly-passed pension reform plan as rhetoric from both sides intensified and Pennsylvania’s budget stalemate entered its ninth day.

In vetoing the pension reform bill—which would have moved new state and public school hires into a hybrid cash-balance and 401(k)-like pension plan—Gov. Wolf said there were portions of the legislation he could support, but the plan would hinder the Commonwealth’s ability to attract new, highly qualified employees.

“I understand the need for pension reform, but this legislation provides no immediate cost savings to taxpayers and does not maximize long-term savings for taxpayers. We need pension reform that works," he said in a statement on the veto. "There are provisions within this legislation, which as part of a comprehensive pension proposal I could support; however, Senate Bill 1 does not address the problems facing our pension system comprehensively and fairly."

Gov. Wolf advocated for his pension plan, which he said would save $17 billion for the current retirement system and reduce the $700 million paid in management fees.

Thursday, July 9, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views

Wolf vs. Corman and a mid-week budget update

A day following a sit-down meeting with Gov. Wolf and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) where Sen. Corman told reporters that Republicans will not support broad-based tax increases proposed by the governor, Gov. Wolf’s press secretary called the senator’s viewpoints one of political expediency.

"The refusal by Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and Republican leaders to accept basic math and acknowledge Pennsylvania’s massive structural budget deficit is the sole obstacle preventing budget talks from moving forward," Jeff Sheridan said in an email to interested parties.

"Strangely, today’s Sen. Corman doesn’t agree with the Sen. Corman of the past. Sen. Corman’s leadership title seems to have shifted his ideals on budgeting and financial planning."

The email uses quotes from media reports showing Sen. Corman in the past has said some tax increases would be necessary to fill budget needs and would’ve been supported by Senate Republicans in the last budget cycle.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
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