Wolf Truth Squad: The Dirty Dozen

Gov. Tom Wolf is touring the state, touting an energy tax for education—while omitting several important facts. 

He’s not mentioning that a severance tax will hurt real people with higher utility costs and lost jobs. Nor is he mentioning that his severance tax isn’t dedicated to education. The revenues are going first to pet projects including corporate welfare for alternative energy companies.

Wolf also shies away from an honest discussion of his other proposed tax hikes. As we’ve pointed out, his proposed severance tax is just a sliver of his tax package, dwarfed by rate increases in income and sales taxes.

But his plan to expand the sales tax to more than 45 goods and services is larger than his income tax increase and larger than his sales tax rate increase. In fact, its more than triple the (dubious) estimate of $1 billion from an energy tax. Wolf’s sales tax expansion would generate more than $3 billion in new taxes once fully implemented in 2016-17.

Below are the “dirty dozen”—the 12 categories that would generate the most new tax revenue in Wolf’s sales tax scheme by 2016-17. These dozen items alone account for a $2 billion tax increase.

The Dirty Dozen

Largest Revenue Sources from Wolf’s Sales Tax Expansion (Dollars in Millions)
Category 2015-16 2016-17
Basic Cable Television $106.2 $260.5
Amusement and Recreation Services [1] $94.1 $258.7
Social Assistance (Including Day Care) $72.6 $200.4
Real Estate Agent and Broker Services $67.3 $195.1
Personal Care Services (Including Hair, Nail, and Skin Care) $57.1 $157.1
Nursing and Residential Care Facilities $55.2 $152.4
Legal Services $55.3 $152.0
Non-Prescription Drugs $58.0 $151.8
Other Personal Services (Including Pet Care, Personal Trainers, Wedding Planning) $48.5 $133.5
Higher Education (Meal Plans and Student Fees, not Tuition) $102.4 $120.9
Waste Management and Remediation $40.5 $110.9
Candy and Gum $43.8 $107.9
Total, Dirty Dozen $801.0 $2,001.2
34 other categories $380.9 $1,025.6
Total, Sales Tax Expansion (includes reduction due to rounding) $1,177.5 $3,003.9

[1] Definitions:

  • Amusement and Recreation Services: Amusement parks and arcades, fitness and recreational sports centers, bowling, skiing, golf course fees, and marinas
  • Social Assistance: Child care, community food and housing, emergency relief, vocational rehabilitation, and individual and family care services
  • Personal Care Services: Hair (including hair removal and non-medical hair replacement), nail, and skin care (including tanning, spa treatments, makeup, permanent makeup, and tattoo) services
  • Other Personal Services: Pet care and boarding, photofinishing, parking lots, garages, and all other (personal trainer, personal shopper, wedding planning, house sitting, dating services, etc.)
  • Higher Education: Higher education charges for meal plans and fees not included as part of tuition