HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus discussed its prioritization of COVID-19 relief and ensuring robust vaccine deployment while Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled a budget proposal that increases the state’s Personal Income Tax by 46%—or $7 billion annually—on working Pennsylvanians and small businesses.
“No matter how you slice it, today Gov. Wolf proposed a massive tax increase on working Pennsylvanians and small businesses—the very same Pennsylvanians who have been unfairly targeted by overbroad and inconsistent economic shutdowns over the past year. Tax increases are not the answer to our current problems,” said House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin).
“Thankfully for Pennsylvanians, the House Republican Caucus will continue to lead by prioritizing economic recovery, protecting Pennsylvania families and ensuring we have a government in which Pennsylvanians can be proud. This week, we will be passing nearly $1 billion in short-term COVID-19 economic relief while working to get vaccines off the shelves and into people’s arms,” continued Benninghoff.
This week the House is expected to pass Senate Bill 109
, legislation appropriating nearly $1 billion to small businesses, the hospitality industry, and those needing rent and utility assistance, among other. The plan also includes a grant program for the hospitality industry funded by $145 million from the Workers Compensation Security Fund.
House Appropriations Majority Chairman Stan Saylor (R-York) noted the importance of helping these businesses, which will be largely targeted by Gov. Wolf’s proposed increase to the Personal Income Tax.
“What the governor proposed today was just more of the same, but it shockingly and unfairly targeted middle-class, working Pennsylvanians and small businesses job creators to pay the brunt of this massive proposed increase in spending,” Saylor said.
“House Republicans are going to be leading in a different path for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians,” Saylor continued. “This week, we will provide short-term relief to small businesses most impacted by this governor’s ridiculous and confusing economic shutdowns, those needing rent or utility assistance, and the hospitality industry as we plan for long-term solutions to return Pennsylvania back to normal.”
The House is also expected to take up and pass House Bill 326
, sponsored by Rep. Tim O’Neal (R-Washington), which would utilize the Pennsylvania National Guard in developing vaccine distribution infrastructure to help lift Pennsylvania from its near-bottom ranking in terms of vaccine distribution efficiency.
As of Wednesday morning, Becker’s Hospital Review ranks Pennsylvania as 44th in the nation in terms of distribution efficiency.
Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness, Rep. Karen Boback (R-Luzerne/Wyoming), noted the bill will be considered in that committee Wednesday.
“Our National Guard is a tremendous resource during emergencies and this legislation simply codifies into law key provisions that will enable our national guard, and the agencies they support to be prepared with plans and operations tools that will greatly assist with our state vaccination and pandemic response efforts,” Boback said. “I look forward to moving this bill out of committee today and working across the aisle with my colleagues on a finished product that the Senate can take up in the near future.”
O’Neal commented on the impetus for his bill, which is to improve Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 vaccine deployment.
“With Pennsylvania being at the bottom of states when it comes to vaccine administration, it is simply unacceptable,” O’Neal said. “I’m hopeful my legislation to involve the National Guard in distributing and possibly administering the vaccine will speed efforts to get shots in arms. The National Guard has expertise in logistics. We need to use their talents to take this important step in stopping the spread of COVID-19.”
Representative Kerry Benninghoff
Pennsylvania House Majority Leader
171st Legislative District