Silly Talk with Gov. Wolf

Gov. Tom Wolf appeared on Radio Smart Talk yesterday morning. He mostly danced around host Scott LaMar's questions—claiming “You don't know what I’ve been supporting” on pension reform, and comparing legislation to allow private retailers to sell wine to robbing someone’s home.

But his answers about the size and impact of his tax proposals were particularly dishonest.

Asked if his tax increase was the highest in the nation, and higher than every other state combined, Wolf responded, “That’s not true.”

In fact, Wolf’s $4.6 billion increase next year is $4 billion more than any other state.

Wolf went on to imply that his plan calls for a dollar for dollar shift to reduce property taxes.

“I’m talking about a $3.8 billion tax decrease for property taxes…

I’m calling for—yes that’s right—a $3.8 billion increase in state taxes….

Those net out.”

I’m not sure Wolf has read his own budget!

In fact, he has proposed $4.6 billion in tax increases next year, and $8 billion the following year. His property tax reductions and renter relief—beginning in 2016—are only $3.6 billion.[1]

That’s more than $12 billion in tax increases for only $3.6 billion in property tax reductions. Only 30 cents of every dollar in new taxes goes towards tax relief. Even looking just at the full year, 2016-17, less than half of Wolf’s taxes goes towards tax relief.

A moment later, Wolf does acknowledge there’s more to his tax plan than a dollar for dollar property tax shift, but dismisses that as minimal.

“What I’m proposing to actually close the gap is not that big.”

Wrong! The net increase is larger than the proposed property tax relief. We’ve pegged it as a net increase of almost $1,400 per family of four, using Wolf’s own estimates.

The Independent Fiscal Office estimates are slightly different, but show the same trend—tax increases will be double property tax relief.

It's no wonder Wolf tried to dodge the question. His tax increase, especially his sales and income tax increases, would hit working families hard.

In fact, the the IFO projects that every income group would pay more in taxes, even after the property tax relief.

Estimated Revenue Change, Wolf's Budget Proposal in millions
  2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Income Tax Increase $2,243 $2,396 $2,509 $2,631 $2,759
Sales Tax Increase $399 $991 $1,024 $1,058 $1,093
Sales Tax Expansion $1,172 $2,979 $3,207 $3,423 $3,599
Total Sales $1,571 $3,970 $4,231 $4,481 $4,692
Total Sales + Income $3,814 $6,366 $6,740 $7,112 $7,451
Other Tax Increases $816 $1,009 $867 $1,067 $1,281
Total Tax Increase $4,628 $7,375 $7,607 $8,179 $8,732
Property Tax Reductions $0 $2,732 $2,732 $2,732 $2,732
Rent Rebates $0 $369 $383 $396 $388
Philadelphia Reductions $0 $452 $452 $452 $452
Total Reductions $0 $3,553 $3,567 $3,580 $3,572
Net Tax Increases $4,628 $3,822 $4,041 $4,599 $5,159
Source Independent Fiscal Office


[1] Wolf’s “$3.8 billion in property tax relief” includes $600 million from current gaming money that goes towards reducing property taxes, but excludes $400 million from new taxes for renter relief.