Reports & Briefing Papers

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center produces a variety of reports, policy briefs, and other publications on state budget and tax policy, health care policy, education policy, poverty and public welfare, the economy, and several related issues. Below is an archive of all PBPC publications to date.

Browse by Issue: You can also browse PBPC publications by the following issue areas:

Tax and Budget     |     Education     |     Health and Family Security     |     PA Economy     |     Democracy

The tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) proposed by Mayor Kenney, also known as the “soda tax,” is controversial mainly because, like other sales taxes, it takes a greater share of the income of poor families than rich ones. However, while the costs of the soda tax fall more heavily on those with low incomes, more of the benefit of the tax will go to low-income Philadelphians as well, for two reasons:

The first benefit of the tax flows from how the new revenue will be spent — on pre-K education, community schools, and parks and community recreation centers. Pre-K education helps kids from low- and moderate-income families have a better start in life. Studies have shown that children who attend pre-K programs score higher on academic tests and that these benefits are greater for those whose families have lower incomes. And the effects of Pre-K education are long lasting: long-term studies have shown that those who receive Pre-K education have higher IQs at age 5, have higher high school graduation rates, are more likely to own a home and have higher incomes at age 40.

 

This briefing paper analyzes several options for raising revenue for the Pennsylvania state budget which would fall much less on middle- and low-income families than the existing Pennsylvania state and local tax system.

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.

As of December 10, 2015, the 2015-16 Pennsylvania Budget is still not done. Two different budgets are now before the General Assembly. In this brief, we provide an overview of the differences between the two budgets, looking first at critical differences in spending for education and human services, then at the impact of those differences, and finally at some subtleties in how the two budgets organize  and present certain spending choices they have in common and how this affects the bottom line budget numbers

It appears that legislators have decided to raise new, and necessary, revenue by expanding the sales tax base to include more goods and services instead of increasing the sales tax rate. There are good reasons to broaden the base of the sales tax, if it is done in ways that make the tax more equitable. But a broader sales tax is still likely to fall more heavily on low-income families. Legislators can limit the burden on those least able to bear it by coupling the sales tax expansion with a new refundable sales tax credit.

With ongoing negotiations over the state budget focused on property tax cuts, and the State Senate taking up a bill to eliminate property taxes, this briefing paper compares property tax elimination with two more targeted approaches that would reduce, but not eliminate property taxes: the Republican proposal that passed the Pennsylvania House in May (House Bill 504) and Gov. Wolf’s original proposal from March.

We find that property tax elimination would raise taxes on the middle class to give wealthy homeowners and businesses in wealthy communities a tax break. Both targeted approaches would be better for the middle class, but the Wolf proposal would be the best for moderate-income homeowners and would also cut non-residential property taxes the most in lower-income communities, a potential boost to community revitalization.

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