Taxpayer Protections

Commonwealth Foundation applauds efforts to control spending and taxes

HARRISBURG, PA — The Commonwealth Foundation applauded today’s introduction of a package of proposals designed to reduce the tax burden on families and to control the out-of-control growth of government spending in Pennsylvania.

Three bills introduced today by members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives will help Governor Rendell to keep his 2003 inaugural address promise to “make government live within its means.”

  • HB 1092, sponsored by Rep. Tom Quigley (R-Pottstown), would reduce the state Personal Income Tax rate to 2.8%—the rate prior to the 2003 increase to 3.07%.
  • HB 188, sponsored by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry Township), would require voter approval for any local school or municipal tax increase.
  • HB 1100, sponsored by Rep. Todd Rock (R-Waynesboro), proposes an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution which would limit the growth of state government spending to the combined rates of inflation and population growth.

“High and increasing taxes in Pennsylvania are harming families and hindering job creators,” said Matthew J. Brouillette, president of the Commonwealth Foundation. “Reducing tax rates and stopping the out-of-control growth of state and local government spending is critical to our commonwealth’s social and economic welfare.”

Recent data from the Tax Foundation indicate that Pennsylvania’s state and local taxes rose as a percentage of income from 9.3% in 1990 to 10.8% in 2007—a 16% increase. Pennsylvania climbed from having the 9th lowest tax burden in 1990 to having the 24th highest tax burden among states in 2007. Including federal taxes, almost 32% of Pennsylvanians’ income goes to taxes—over $13,000 for every man, woman, and child in the state.

Rep. Quigley’s bill would return the Personal Income Tax rate to what it was when Governor Rendell first took office, and leave more money in the hands of those who earn it. Reducing taxes on both families and small businesses would promote self-sufficiency rather than government-dependency.

“Governor Rendell’s efforts to tax, borrow, and spend our way to prosperity have failed. While government spending increased at a dramatic rate during his first term, Pennsylvania ranked 40th in the nation in job growth, 35th in income growth, and 42nd in population growth,” Brouillette noted. “This choice to grow the government at the expense of our economy has been disastrous. By nearly every key economic indicator, Pennsylvania continues to lag further and further behind the rest of the nation.”

Rep. Metcalfe’s bill would provide real taxpayer control over school property taxes as well as municipal taxes. Under Act 1, the so-called Property Tax Relief Act passed last year, school districts are allowed to increase property taxes by 3.4% to 5.5% (depending on the district) without voter approval for the upcoming fiscal year. An additional 210 districts have been granted exemptions, which permit districts to exceed their limit and still avoid voter input on proposed tax increases.

“Act 1 has already proven to be a major disappointment to taxpayers, offering only a façade of property tax relief,” said Brouillette. “Voters should have the right to approve or reject each and every local tax increase, without exception.” A previous analysis by the Commonwealth Foundation indicates that nearly every other state has controls over school property taxes, and voters actually approved a majority of property tax increases—but school districts were forced to justify these increases to the public that must pay them.

Rep. Rock’s bill would provide much needed constraints on state spending. The Commonwealth Foundation has long championed the need for government spending limits. Similar measures were introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate earlier this year by Senators Mike Folmer (SB 707) and Bob Regola (SB 7).

“Tax relief and spending controls in Pennsylvania are essential for our future prosperity,” said Brouillette. “We cannot continue to grow the government at the expense of our families and job creators. We applaud Representatives Quigley, Metcalfe, and Rock for introducing these sorely needed taxpayer protections.”

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The Commonwealth Foundation ( is an independent, non-profit public policy research and educational institute based in Harrisburg, PA.

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