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

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

The GOP Federal Tax Proposal: Multiple Reasons to Worry

The outline of the tax proposal released by President Trump and Republican House and Senate leaders should worry all Pennsylvanians for multiple reasons. First, the plan calls for adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next ten years. This is remarkably hypocritical, given that Republicans blamed President Obama for deficits even as they declined year after year after the end of the Great Recession. And it is economically risky at a time when the economy is growing. Republicans claim that tax cuts will generate much faster economic growth. This is unbelievable, given the record of previous huge tax cuts during times of economic growth. And, of course, most professional economists, on both the Left and Right, do not believe it at all. Second, the likely result of added deficits will be new pressure to cut federal spending to balance those deficits, with most of those cuts coming from health … Continue reading

The PA House GOP Budget Plan to Raid Special Funds Explained

The Pennsylvania House Republican plan to balance the budget in part by raiding other state funds is something of a moving target. A new amendment Representative Moul (A03286) to House Bill 593 is the legislative vehicle in which elements of the plan will move to the floor of the House as early as today. We want to take a step back and put the whole plan to use supposedly “surplus” money that is “sitting around doing nothing” into perspective. This plan rests on a fundamental confusion between bank balances and budgets, one that has played a role in the life of most married couples once or twice. And perhaps the easiest way to understand it is to consider a scenario not unfamiliar to most of us. One partner — I’m going to make him the husband in this version but it doesn’t have to be — picks up a flyer from … Continue reading

Pennsylvania’s Budget Choices This Year

As we head into what everyone hopes will be the last month of the Pennsylvania budget season, this is a good moment to take stock of where we are and what’s at stake in the decisions the governor and General Assembly will make this year. Doing so will also explain why the Pennsylvania’s Choice campaign is urging people to attend a tele-town hall on the budget at 7:15 on June 1, a budget rally at noon on June 5 in Harrisburg, and lobbying days later in the month. (More information and registration for these events can be found here.) Continue reading

The House Republican Budget Proposal

The House Republican Budget proposal for 2017-2017 is deeply problematic in six respects. First, the proposal does not close the state’s budget deficit, but leaves a gap of close to $800 million. Most of the revenue ideas presented by the House Republican Caucus to fill that gap are similar to the one-time revenues and fund transfers that have failed to fix our structural deficit in the past. The Republicans do not seem to be considering any proposal to increase recurring revenues by fixing our upside-down tax system. Second, the House Republican budget widens, rather than closes, the state’s investment deficit, especially in education, environmental protection, human services, and community and economic development: Education: It proposes $50 million less for Pre-K education and Head Start than the Governor’s budget, as well as eliminates the $8.5 million safe school initiative. Environmental Protection: It proposes $9 million less than the Governor’s budget for … Continue reading

Is this the year Pa. resolves its perennial budget crisis?

Originally published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, December 28, 2016. Many of us who write about budget politics have a keyboard shortcut to enter “Pennsylvanian Budget Crisis” into a document. Year after year, we write in December about the upcoming crisis and again in July (or sometimes far later) about how the crisis has been temporarily averted. It is crisis time again. But perhaps this is the year we can change the script. There are new ways to do something that has eluded us in the past – solve the crisis on a long-term basis without imposing harsher new taxes on working people and the middle class. Before coming to our long-term solution to the crisis, first a word about its dimension and cause. The Independent Fiscal Office has projected that the deficit for the current fiscal year, ending June 30, will be $500 million while the deficit for the next … Continue reading

Combine spending restraint with new revenue

Originally appeared in the Erie Times, December 28, 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 Govs. Tom Corbett and 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 gross domestic product. 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 … 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