No Time For Giving Up

It appears that members of the General Assembly are moving towards a final plan for funding the budget they passed in June. We share the sense of relief that is gradually emanating from the Capitol—we, too, are tired of talking about the budget. But we also know that the urge to get something done can sometimes overcome the urge to get it done right. So now is the time for members to demand that this budget not just be finished but be finished right. That means two things. First, that the revenue plan include sufficient recurring tax revenue to address our long-term structural deficit. The pain of the last three months will be for naught if the state finds itself facing an even larger deficit on July 1, 2018. A large deficit in an election year offers too much temptation for the worst kind of budget chicanery and gimmickry, which … Continue reading

Don’t Let the Extremists Win

There are lots of rumors about a budget deal flying around Harrisburg but few details and even less assurance that votes will be found to approve in the House and the Senate. What little we hear is concerning. And the best way to understand our concerns is to look again at why we have not reached a deal until this point—extremists control the Republican Party in the House. There is a broad agreement among Democrats and most Republicans that Pennsylvania has a structural budget deficit (which simply means that year after year revenues will not pay for state expenditures, either those approved by the General Assembly this year or those demanded by Pennsylvania voters). There is broad agreement among Democrats and most Republicans that we need new tax revenues to close the deficit this year and in the future. And there is broad agreement that a severance tax should be … Continue reading

How Pennsylvania Should Raise Revenues This Year

Now that a general appropriation bill has been passed by the House and Senate, the General Assembly and the Governor are turning their attention to finding the revenue to pay for it. And they are running into difficulties both reaching agreement on tax revenues that are real, recurring, and fair. But the PBPC-Senator Haywood proposal to slightly raise taxes on income from wealth meets all three criteria. Continue reading

Some Things are Worse Than a Late Budget

From the Third and State blog. As the June 30th deadline looms, we have little more than rumors about what kind of Pennsylvania budget might be enacted by the General Assembly for 2016-17. But while some may find optimism in talk of getting the budget done, the rumors we are hearing about the details of the budget in the works are extremely worrisome. We know that everyone on both sides of the aisle wants a budget done more or less on time. All members of the House and half the members of the Senate face re-election in November, and none of them want a long, drawn-out budget and delays in funding schools and human services. Yet to reach agreement on a budget legislators have to find their way between their determination to get one done and the structural deficit that requires either some new revenues or difficult budget cuts. More … Continue reading

How to Create a Progressive Income Tax in Pennsylvania

Originally appeared as How to create a progressive income tax in Pennsylvania, in Newsworks, May 24. So, it turns out that you can actually create a fair income tax in Pennsylvania. One of the unfortunate conditions of Pennsylvania politics has been our “uniformity clause,” which prohibits taxing any one class of income at different rates. It has stood in the way of creating what most states with an income tax have, a graduated system in which those with higher incomes pay at a higher rate. A consequence of our uniformity clause is that our state and local taxes, taken together, are among the most regressive in the entire country. The Institute on Tax and Economic Policy lists Pennsylvania as one of the “Terrible Ten” states with the most unjust tax system. It’s not hard to understand why. State and local taxes take a little over 12 percent of the income of the … Continue reading

PBPC Research Prompts Senators to Introduce Tax Fairness Legislation

Originally appeared on the Third and State blog, on May 11, 2016. Something new and unusual happened in Harrisburg today. Senators Art Haywood, Vincent Hughes and Jay Costa put forward an idea that actually could help resolve the pressing fiscal cliff we face this year, and at the same time could make our tax system more progressive. Despite partisan differences, three goals are more or less shared by everyone in Harrisburg. While their top priority may differ, for the most part, legislators all say they want: 1. to close the $1.8 billion structural deficit; 2. to spend more on education; 3. and to put no additional tax burden on low- and middle-income taxpayers. Yet no one has presented a plan to accomplish this feat. In an election year, legislators will say that they are not willing to raise the income tax or sales tax – which could generate the necessary … Continue reading

Which Door Will the Taxman Knock On?

Originally published in the Allentown Morning Call, February 6, 2016 If we in Pennsylvania are to avoid another billion-dollar cut in education spending plus a billion-dollar cut in spending on health care and human services, the taxman is going to have to knock on someone’s door. It’s time the knock comes on the doors of corporations and the wealthy, not those of the middle class and working people. The state’s Independent Fiscal Office recently projected that if no changes were made to current policy and taxes, the state of Pennsylvania would run a deficit of $318 million during the current year. That deficit would rise to $1.8 billion or more in the fiscal year beginning July 1. And that is the deficit before any new spending. If Gov. Wolf and the General Assembly reach an agreement on education spending, but not on how to raise the revenue to pay for … Continue reading

Why Conservatives Can Like Pennsylvania’s Personal Income Tax

Originally published at Third and State, December 14, 2015 Rumors of a sudden interest on the part of Republicans in raising the personal Income tax (PIT) instead of the sales tax to meet the revenue requirements of the budget framework have floated across 3rd Street to our offices at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. So I’m going to do something unusual for us—and frankly a bit uncomfortable—and give some conservative arguments for preferring the PIT over the sales tax. First, a PIT increase is for three reasons likely to place a smaller burden on businesses than a sale tax increase. For those goods and services on which the sales tax is imposed, the tax is paid on every purchase. It thus dissuades some people from making purchases. It especially dissuades those who live near a border with a state that has a lower sales tax from buying goods in … Continue reading