Less than one week remains before the state budget deadline, and details are slowly emerging about a $31.5 billion spending plan.
This $1.5 billion spending increase would be the largest spending hike in a decade. Moreover, this increase is more than 5 times the rate of inflation plus population growth, and is about $1.1 billion more than net revenues for the year.
So where do Gov. Wolf and some legislators propose coming up with the additional money? Here is some of what we know or have heard so far:
- Gov. Wolf and legislative leaders have said sales and income tax increases are off the table—but he, along with some lawmakers, are looking at many others ways to extract more in taxes from families and businesses.
- Approximately $150 million of this additional revenue will come from tax amnesty. Rep. Marguerite Quinn’s tax amnesty bill passed the House this week. Another $100 million would come from lapsed funds (unspent tax dollars). These represent one-time revenue sources that don’t take more from working families.
- The state House is positioning a gambling expansion for final passage. The bill would allow casinos to run internet gambling and allow slot machines in international airports and off-track betting facilities. The estimated state revenue from this expansion is $200 million. That’s significantly smaller than the $300 to $450 million projected from a previous gambling expansion proposal that included video gaming terminals in bars and fraternal organizations.
- Tobacco taxes remain “on the table.” Gov. Wolf’s proposal for a $1.00 per pack tax hike on cigarettes and a 40 percent tax on tobacco products (excluding cigars) are part of budget discussions. As noted by Elizabeth, this $500 million tax hike would hit poor households hardest, is an unreliable revenue source, and results in greater cigarette smuggling.
- A new tax on energy has been rumored. This proposal would impose the gross receipts tax on natural gas sold to homes and businesses. One estimate suggests this proposal would generate $500 million in new taxes. That means more than 2.7 million homeowners (and thousands of businesses) will pay more for their home-heating bill next year.
- Gov. Wolf’s proposal to increase taxes on savings accounts held at banks, and a new tax on Uber and other ridesharing services has also been rumored.
Instead of focusing on a halfway point between the governor’s unreasonable $33 billion proposal and the current $30 billion budget, lawmakers should focus on what taxpayers can afford.
If we learned anything from last year’s nine-month long budget marathon, it’s that Pennsylvanians have no appetite for tax hikes.