Property Tax Elimination in PA — on HB/SB 76

As we at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center point out here, some people believe that the constitutional amendment on the ballot in November would make it easier to enact some version of the property tax elimination proposal HB /SB 76. We’re not sure that this is true. But if it were, we would certainly oppose the constitutional amendment because HB / SB 76 is possibly the worst policy proposal we’ve ever encountered.  There is a superficial appeal to the proposal to replace the property taxes raised to fund Pennsylvania’s schools with state-wide income and sales taxes. We rely too heavily on local taxes, mostly property taxes, and far less heavily on state taxes to fund our schools. And the over-reliance on local property taxes is one of the main reasons we have the most inequitably funded schools of any state in the country. It is also why property taxes … Continue reading

GOP-Trump Tax Plan: A Windfall for Top 1% of Pennsylvania, a Tax Increase for Many Middle-Class Pennsylvanians

  A 50-state analysis of the GOP tax framework reveals that in Pennsylvania, the top 1 percent of taxpayers would receive a substantial tax cut worth $67,970 while many upper-middle-class Pennsylvanians would face a tax increase. This plan is bad for Pennsylvania and our country. At a time when incomes are rising for the very rich and relatively stagnant for everyone else, a plan that lavishes tax breaks on the top 1 percent, and pays for it in part by taxing others, should not be the starting point of our tax reform debate. The Washington-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released the 50-state numbers today. While GOP leaders have pitched the plan as a tax cut for the middle class, the analysis shows that this is not true for the nation as a whole or for Pennsylvania. While most Pennsylvanians would receive a modest tax cut, on average that cut … Continue reading

What Would an Adequate Pennsylvania Budget Look Like This Year?

What Would an Adequate Pennsylvania Budget Look Like This Year? A really good budget for Pennsylvania would begin addressing our long-term public investment deficit. It would provide new funds to: eliminate our worst-in-the-nation inequality in K-12 school funding; expand pre-K education to all three and four year-olds; make higher education more accessible, especially to students from low-income families; restore the funding that would allow the Department of Environment to better protect our air and water; provide new funding to repair roads and bridges and support public transit.   Continue reading

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

Sam Brownback became governor of Kansas in 2010 just as Tom Corbett became governor of Pennsylvania. Brownback and Corbett, with the help of Republican majorities in their legislatures, embarked on an extremist Wizard of Oz economic agenda of cutting taxes, especially for large businesses, and reducing spending on education and human services. Spending as a share of the state’s economy dropped by 10% in our state. Faced with slow economic growth, stark budget deficits, and citizens who were demanding better public services, a bi-partisan majority in the legislature in Kansas this week stood up for common sense against Wizard of Oz extremism and, over Brownback’s veto, rolled back many of those tax cuts. Is this the year that state legislators in Pennsylvania also embrace common sense and reject extremism?   Continue reading

The Russian Connection? It’s Not a Distraction.

I see a lot of folks saying don’t get distracted by the Trump’s “craziness” and / or the investigations of his connection to Russia when the Republicans in Congress are about to pass a series of horrible pieces of legislation. It’s certainly important to keep fighting against all that legislation, especially, the attacks on the ACA and Medicaid which will lead to to thousands of premature deaths and enormous  suffering if they are successful. But… 1. That the President of the United State might have conspired with a foreign power to take power is not a distraction from more important issue. If Trump did what many suspect, he betrayed the core of political life, our republican form of government. Everything else we care about, including our freedom, the future of the earth, and economic justice depends on protecting that form of government. The mere possibility that Trump conspired with Russia … Continue reading

Pennsylvania Needs a Fairer Tax System

Originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 26, 2016 Our proposal would be more equitable while also helping to close the deficit Pennsylvania faces another budget crisis. The combined deficit for this year and next is roughly $3 billion. It’s time all Pennsylvanians — and especially the members of our General Assembly — recognize that recurrent budget crises won’t stop until we fix our upside-down tax system. Federal tax rates are higher for those with higher incomes than those with lower incomes. However, combined state and local taxes, because they rely on property taxes, sales taxes and income taxes that do not have steeply graduated rates, often tax those with low incomes at roughly the same percentage as those with high incomes. Pennsylvania is worse than most states on this score. It is one of what the Institute on Tax and Economic Policy calls the “terrible 10” when it comes … Continue reading

Time to Fix Our Upside-Down Tax System

Originally published at the York Dispatch on December 23, 2016. Pennsylvania has been struggling with persistent budget deficits since the start of the Great Recession in 2008. And we at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center have been recommending a “balanced approach” to resolving the deficit from the beginning, one that combines restraint in spending with new revenues. But since 2010, under Gov. Tom Corbett and Gov. Tom Wolf, the General Assembly has adopted an unbalanced approach. Spending has gone down but revenues have gone down faster. From 1994 to 2011, under both Democratic and Republican governors, the state spent 4.7 percent of the state’s GDP. During the Corbett years, that fell to 4.3 percent as spending on education and human services were sharply cut. And while, thanks to Wolf, the state has been able to restore some of those cuts, spending in the last two years remains at the same level … Continue reading

The Rich Can Take the Hit to Fix the Budget, They Should Pay Their Fair Share

Originally published at Penn-Live on December 23, 2016 Remember how Lucille Ball would work her way into some kind of predicament and then look around and wonder how she got there? That’s how our state legislators seem to look at the budget deficit we are stuck with right now. They are looking around wondering how the current Pennsylvania budget deficit, which approaches $3 billion for this year and next year together, happened. But it didn’t just happen. It was the product of a series of long-term and short-term decisions made by legislators, sometimes with the help of our governors. Let’s start, however, with what did not cause the budget deficit, because too many of our legislators, like Lucy, want to blame someone else for the mess they have made. Growth in state spending is not the cause of budget deficits. From 1994 to 2011, under both Democratic and Republican Governors, … Continue reading

How Bernie Could Have Run Better

Had Bernie run a campaign that attacked Republicans for creating the horrible economic inequality we have today, instead of attacking Democrats for it, I think he would have had a much better chance to be the nominee. A lot of us who have worked for economic (and racial and gender) equality over the years wanted a candidate who put economic inequality first and put forward an aggressive and smart agenda for reducing it. But he constantly turned off people who have been working for economic equality by telling us the compromises we made to get the real victories we won were the equivalent of selling out. It was a stupid campaign strategy that taught a whole bunch of his followers to have a misguided and overly cynical view of Democratic (and democratic) politics. And today it makes it hard for him to (1) to recognize how much he has shaped what … Continue reading

Bernie, Yes. Bernie Bots, No.

I’ve never seen a political campaign like the Bernie Sanders campaign,  especially one which I intend to vote for.  It has  generated a more counter-productive kind of support, support which the candidate himself continue to disavow. I’ve been saying for months that Bernie’s political views are closer to my own and I intend to vote for him if I can see any evidence that he is building the kind of movement he would need to win a general election. So far, I see little evidence of that. I’ll probably still vote for him because I don’t expect him to become the nominee and it is important for him to do well to keep pushing the Democratic Party to the left on economic issues. But that has to be done in a way that builds a movement not a party tendency, cult, or sect. Bernie clearly wants to build a movement, … Continue reading