Today the Pa Senate continued its work on the 2017-18 budget and sent the House the Admin, Fiscal, Education, Human Services and Tax Codes to the House.
The first four bills instruct the departments on how to spend certain money allocated to it. We achieved some real positive things in these bills including requiring able bodied welfare recipients to search for work, protecting quality teachers from furlough due to lack of seniority, instituting a first chance grant program for at risk youth, instituting accountability to the Auditor General for how a department responds to his recommendations in his audits among many other things. I voted for these code bills.
The Tax code however I could not support.
Due to Governor Wolf’s lack of leadership in allowing the department of Human Services to rack up a $1.5 billion overrun we had a severe one time deficit to deal with from last year. Instead of making mid year adjustments like every governor before him has done, Governor Wolf’s administration continued spending as normal creating this massive deficit. It was entirely avoidable and I’m glad we have put language into the Human Services code to prevent this type of thing from happening again.
To deal with that deficit the tax code that I opposed but was passed today by a 26-24 vote institutes a gross receipts tax on natural gas utilities and increased it on other utilities which will increase the cost of your utility bills
It institutes a severance tax which will stifle economic development in our area and further increase your gas bills. Though I am pleased to see permit and regulatory relief included in this I don’t support industry specific taxation nor do I think the industry has recovered from its low prices enough to properly withstand this type of an increase.
I believe the budget we passed on June 30th is attainable without increased taxes via limited gaming expansion and reforms that will strengthen our already robust casino industry and through real liquor privatization. I also believe that we should look at putting some discretionary funding that was previously passed into reserves.
I was eagerly looking forward to seeing the no tax plan that the Speaker of House said he was going to pass last weekend. Unfortunately he could not get the votes for it and inexplicably sent the House home.
I hope the House immediately returns to session and offers a better way to fund the bipartisan budget plan we passed on June 30th.
It’s time to get our constitutional obligation to pass a balanced budget done and that can only happen with all parties negotiating in good faith.