Op-ed: Protecting Pennsylvania Taxpayers

As the heat waves of July have arrived, we are entering the fourth week of a budget impasse in Harrisburg. On June 30th, the General Assembly sent a balanced budget to the Governor that required no tax increases. I firmly believe that before asking taxpayers for more of their money we needed to do all that we could to balance the budget without tax increases – which I’m very pleased we were able to accomplish. It is very unfortunate that Governor Wolf chose to veto the entire budget, leaving our Commonwealth in limbo.

Recently, my colleague from across the aisle, Representative Hanna, has made many claims surrounding the budget that are misleading and inaccurate. He has accused “Republican Leaders of refus[ing] to consider proposals supported by the majority of Pennsylvanians”. His statement could not be further from the truth. Pennsylvanians have voiced loud and clear that they want our State to move forward with a budget, privatize Pennsylvania’s outdated liquor system and have future state employees and legislators receive 401K-style retirement plans like those in the private sector. Over the last several months we listened to our constituents and worked very hard to accomplish each of these objectives and pass bills to address each issue. However, it is immensely unfortunate that Representative Hanna and Governor Wolf did not support any of these important measures.

In addition, Representative Hanna has stated that Governor Wolf is seeking to lower taxes on small businesses. The reality is that a majority of small business owners and all of their employees pay a Personal Income Tax. Governor Wolf’s proposal would increase their tax burden by a staggering 21%. This is a substantial burden a majority of Pennsylvanians are unable to bear and even fewer support. Perhaps, Representative Hanna knows that. As a member of House Democrat Leadership, he had an opportunity to vote for the Governor’s tax plan when it came up on the floor of the House for a vote. However, Hanna and all of his Democrat colleagues joined Republicans in unanimously voting down the amendment. Fortunately for Pennsylvania taxpayers, Governor Wolf’s massive tax increases have no support in the legislature, even within his own party.

Governor Wolf also continues to push for a $1 billion severance tax on the Marcellus Shale Industry as part of the budget. We are already seeing drilling companies cut jobs due to low gas prices and placing an additional tax on them could further jeopardize family sustaining jobs in our region. Representative Hanna recently claimed that the “Marcellus Shale drillers are not paying [their] fair share”. He seems to forget the many benefits that our region has seen from the more than $835 million that has been collected by the Marcellus Shale Impact Fee, implemented in 2012.

The longer that this budget impasse continues the more concern I have for ensuring timely funding for human services, programs that aid vulnerable citizens and all state agencies that Pennsylvanians rely on. Governor Wolf still wants to see $4.7 billion in new taxes for the 2015-16 fiscal year, and Representative Hanna continues to support the Governor’s plan in public. If Representative Hanna wants what the Governor is trying to sell, he should have voted for the tax increases needed to implement it. It is unclear yet how long it will take, but we are going to continue working towards finding a solution and will get through this impasse that the Governor has created.