Harrisburg, PA – Legislators throughout the state are reacting to Governor Tom Wolf’s state budget address, with mixed feelings.
Gov. Wolf’s 2021-22 Budget Proposal for Pennsylvania would set spending at $37.8 billion.
The plan would increase the tax rate on income, but not sales.
Most of the $3-4 billion in new revenue would go to public schools and social services, including fast-growing Medicaid rolls and to reduce waiting lists for services for the intellectually disabled. The personal income tax rate would rise to 4.49% from 3.07%. Exemptions would rise to the first $15,000 of income from $6,500 per taxpayer and to $10,000 from $9,500 per dependent.
The Governor’s budget calls for the expansion of a bond-funded redevelopment grant program by $1 billion and make the money available to schools for the cleanup of lead, asbestos and other environmental health hazards in school buildings, as well as to help school districts expand high-speed internet service to help educate children online.
The budget also calls for a raise in the minimum wage and the legalization of marijuana.
Harrisburg, PA – Senator Cris Dush, serving our area, gave his thoughts after watching Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget address. He says, firstly, he does not agree with how the address was given virtually without giving a chance for the House and Senate to discuss together, calling it a “performance”.
Senator Dush also acknowledges that many business owners will fall into the category of making $85,000 or more, meaning they will not get tax cuts and will in fact see a 46 percent increase for personal income taxes if they are considered high earners. Dush says a tax increase of that much would destroy small businesses at a time when they are already struggling.
Reaction from the PA Rep. Mike Armanini, serving Clearfield and Elk Counties:
HARRISBURG – State Rep. Mike Armanini (R-Clearfield/Elk) issued the following statement in reaction to Gov. Tom Wolf’s more than $40 billion budget proposal for the 2021-22 fiscal year:
“Starting the day in a House Commerce Committee hearing with statewide representatives of Pennsylvania’s struggling taverns, clubs and VFW’s only provided more reasons why we cannot continue down the path where we’re being led by the governor and his administration. These businesses and social organizations continue to fight to make ends meet as our Department of Health has managed to distribute a mere 57% of available COVID-19 vaccine to potential recipients.
“We MUST do better if we are to escape from this pandemic-related economic ‘holding pattern,’ much of which is self-imposed. If we raise the minimum wage right now, how does a small business owner pay more to the remaining employees he or she has if half as many customers are coming through their doors? How does that same business pay a higher Personal Income Tax while operating at 50% capacity? Where are Pennsylvanians going to find the money to pay the inevitable higher energy bills if we impose ANOTHER tax on natural gas drillers and enroll our state in the costly, job crushing Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)?
“We’re wearing our masks and social distancing while 43% of the ‘answer’ lies in cold storage. Once we prioritize and improve our vaccine distribution process, then and ONLY then can we even begin to consider the merit of any of the governor’s proposals.”
Questions about this or any legislative issue should be directed to Armanini’s DuBois district office at 814-375-4688, his St. Marys office at 814-781-6301 or his Clearfield office at 814-765-0593.
Harrisburg, PA – Senator Jay Costa, serving Allegheny County, says Gov. Wolf’s proposed budget has steps in the right direction, including more school funding and higher wages for the lowest earners.
Reaction from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives GOP Caucus:
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.”