To Tax or Not to Tax? That is the Question
1/22/2016
To tax you more or to hold the line on spending? That has been the question before the Pennsylvania Legislature since Gov. Tom Wolf gave his first budget address last March and called for a nearly $5 billion in new spending this year alone, which would be more than $12 billion in higher taxes over the next two years.

To put his ask into context, former Gov. Ed Rendell, who was never shy about growing government, increased spending by $7.74 billion, but it took him eight years to do it.

Wolf’s plan would have increased the state Personal Income Tax (PIT) by 21 percent and increased the Sales and Use Tax (SUT) by 10 percent. Wolf also wanted to collect taxes on many products and services used by every day working Pennsylvanians, like non-prescription drugs, diapers, day care and nursing home care.

Understandably, Wolf’s drastic tax increases were met with serious concern across the state, and in June, when it was brought up for a vote in the House, it was unanimously rejected. Not one Democrat or Republican supported it.

After the governor’s plan failed, we moved forward with a plan we felt was more reflective of what Pennsylvanians could afford: a balanced, no-tax increase budget with a modest overall increase and the highest level of funding for education in Pennsylvania history.

The budget aligned with the governor’s proposal in many ways. In fact, about two-thirds of our budget’s line items were funded at the same level or higher than the governor requested. However, because it didn’t include the higher taxes or the increased spending he requested, Gov. Wolf vetoed it completely, eliminating the state’s legal authority to spend money, not even for public schools or social service programs.

That is when the impasse began.

Over the next six months, I was involved in several attempts to pass fiscally responsible measures to end the impasse and get funding out of Harrisburg and back to our communities, including a vote to override the governor’s complete veto, which was blocked by House Democrats, as well as an attempt to release emergency funding, which was also vetoed by Wolf.

Finally, in December, the governor reluctantly agreed to sign a bipartisan compromise budget, which further increased funding for education, one of Wolf’s top priorities, by more than $405 million. This budget, agreed to by the House and Senate, would require some new revenue, but it would not require any of Wolf’s broad-based increases in the income or sales taxes.

While his signature ended the impasse, Wolf cut about $6 billion from the budget, the majority of which was education funding, in order to keep the pressure on and his tax and spending proposals on the table.

Still today, in January, after months of debate, the governor continues to advocate for higher taxes on working Pennsylvanians and small businesses. (Keep in mind, more than 80 percent of small businesses and job creators pay the PIT.) Disappointingly, under Wolf’s direction, political organizations have spent millions on misleading television commercials that conveniently leave out just how detrimental these higher taxes would be for our economy and for job creation.

Throughout the last six months, many people whom I represent have been vocal about their frustration and have told me to stand up for taxpayers. They do not want, nor can they afford, Wolf’s tax increases. They feel they are already taxed enough, paying school taxes, municipal taxes, income taxes, occupational taxes, and a seemingly endless list of other taxes and fees.

On top of that, most Pennsylvanians are seeing little to no increase in their paychecks this year, the cost of living continues to climb and those on Social Security will see zero increase in their monthly payments. Why then, does Wolf believe state government should grow at such an unseen, unsustainable rapid pace?

You be the judge. Do you really believe taking more money from working people for the purpose of more spending is the best way forward for Pennsylvania? Or is now the time to look seriously at real cost-saving measures and reforms?

This is not about Republicans vs. Democrats, despite what some will portray. It is about government taking more of your money.

Only a few weeks away from his next budget address, I hope you will join me in sending a clear message to Gov. Wolf: State government needs to live within its means, just like every Pennsylvania family with car payments, student loans and mortgages must do. This is not the time to raise taxes; it is time to get our fiscal house in order, reduce government spending and build a better future for our children and grandchildren.

Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin)

Representative Kerry Benninghoff
171st Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Morgan Wagner
717.260.6281
mwagner@pahousegop.com
KerryBenninghoff.com / Facebook.com/RepBenninghoff
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