Tax and Budget

Republican members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, with the support of outside advocates, are moving to announce plan to borrow massively, perhaps up to more than $2 billion, from many of the 100 or so special funds that, along with the General Fund, are part of the state budget. Their justification for doing so is that, at the end of each year, many of these funds have a surplus. So it seems easy enough to shift those surpluses – money they are quick to say is “just sitting there not doing anything” – into the General Fund.

As work on the 2017-18 budget continues, a bipartisan group of state legislators have become more vocal in their support of a severance tax on natural gas drillers. In response, the Marcellus Shale Coalition is putting on the full-court press.

In its recent letter to Speaker Mike Turzai, the Marcellus Shale Coalition points, in paragraph three, to the effective tax rate (ETR) on production as a key indicator of whether Pennsylvania should enact a severance tax in addition to the per-well impact fee we already have.

As legislative leadership and Governor Wolf look to wrap up the revenue portion of the 2017-18 state budget, the remaining negotiations is at least focused on the right subject: finding adequate and sustainable long-term revenues. Unfortunately, rather than work for new recurring revenues, Republican Leadership continues on the irresponsible path it has taken for most of this decade.

Gov. Tom Wolf presented his 2017-18 State Budget Proposal on February 7, 2017.  The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will be posting analysis, infographics and related documents on this page as they become available. Check back often for the latest updates.

In his budget address, Governor Wolf observed that Pennsylvania faces a choice of two paths. Taking one path would require us to deal with the reality of our structural deficit and raise revenues to close it. It would enable government to continue to meet its responsibilities to educate our children, serve those who need our help, protect the environment and encourage economic growth. Taking the other path would require us to accept devastating cuts to education and health and human services.

The ideas in this document were compiled by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center based on our own work and that of our partner, the Keystone Research Center, and that of advocates on many issues. The names of our partners are in our letter to the Governor and the members of the General Assembly.

Budget numbers are always difficult to understand, not least because those with different perspectives can present the numbers in sharply different, but honest ways. In the context of the state’s still-unfinished 2105-16 budget, this brief presents a series of careful “apples-to-apples” comparisons of the three budgets in play in Harrisburg last year: Governor Wolf’s budget proposal, the Republican budget and the bi-partisan budget agreed to by Governor Wolf and the leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties in the General Assembly.

In a democracy, public policy is ideally made after extensive public deliberation and debate. Deals made in private and announced at the last minute make it impossible for citizens to understand and evaluate the actions of their legislators or for advocates to mobilize citizen opinion on the critical issues of the day. Unfortunately, the last few days have given us two striking examples of the failure to live up to this fundamental democratic norm.

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