Motorists frustrated with high gas prices should be on the alert- your pain at the pump could get worse, and it has nothing to do with Middle East tensions or gas company profits.
Sadly, many in the transportation industry and some lawmakers in Pennsylvania believe the only way to fix our roads is to increase gasoline taxes and charge drivers more in vehicle fees. This low-octane loser is surely another wrong exit for taxpayers whose tank is already on empty.
To be certain, Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges need repair. But before taking one more dollar from working men and women through higher prices at the gas pump, lawmakers must do a better job spending the billions in taxes and fees they already get.
In February, Governor Corbett delivered his second budgetary address. In similar fashion, the Governor revealed another plan to balance the public ledger without imposing tax increases on the existing sluggish economy.
Since the inception of the new budget plan, the Treasury has reported higher than anticipated revenues. Consequently, the Senate recently passed a proposal that restores funding to basic and higher education and several other social health programs. While the Senate proposal is balanced, the increased spending relies on additional transfers from last year’s balance and the rainy day fund.
For lawmakers who are committed to providing funding and relief for public education, there is a public policy alternative which would free up another $500 million. Expanding Pennsylvania’s successful Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) is a feasible legislative proposal that can salvage public school budgets while avoiding tax hikes and increasing educational opportunities for tens of thousands of students.
After several months of deliberation, the State House passed House Bill 2150 by a final vote of 129 to 58. This highly anticipated legislation, introduced by Rep. Dave Reed (Indiana County), will make Pennsylvania’s tax code more equitable while promoting job creation and economic growth in Pennsylvania. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. Lawmakers must act swiftly to deliver reforms aimed at improving the state’s dismal business climate.
Democratic party leaders within the General Assembly continue to send a message insinuating that the Governor’s budget is an assault on working families. House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (Allegheny) took the floor early in the budgeting process to voice his stern disapproval of the plan for a balanced budget. In his critique, Rep. Dermody called the proposal “year two of the Corbett property tax hike agenda” and further condemned the budget as an “unprecedented attack on public education.” Such fiery floor rhetoric fails to foster an honest debate concerning the state of education funding in the Commonwealth.
While Pennsylvanians have enjoyed a much-needed respite from tax increases at the state level, the same cannot be said for local government. School boards across the Commonwealth continue to raise property taxes for homeowners. Considering that Pennsylvania already has the 10th highest state and local tax burden, taxpayers have just cause to be frustrated with the ever-increasing property tax rates. In recent years, lawmakers have enacted legislation intended to keep tax hikes at bay only to fall short of a meaningful solution. Fortunately, Rep. Jim Cox (Berks) has introduced House Bill 1776, the Property Tax Independence Act. This bill intends to eliminate the constant increases in property taxes in exchange for a more equitable system.