Here's the latest edition of State Capitol Roundup courtesy of state Rep. Bob Mensch, R-147:
House Republicans Unveil StopPATaxHike.com, Press for Budget Progress
While Gov. Ed Rendell continues to push for higher income taxes, House Republicans have unveiled a new Web site for taxpayers to voice their opinions on the plan. StopPATaxHike.com allows visitors to sign a petition against the tax increase, as well as make both written and video comments on the proposal. Thousands of Pennsylvanians have already signed up, supporting Republican claims that now is not the time to be taking more money out of the pockets of already struggling taxpayers, and that it is time to cut spending and force government to live within its means. The end of the current fiscal year and the deadline for a balanced budget is June 30. For the latest state budget news, visit PAHouseGOP.com
GOP Wants Stronger Gaming Laws Before Industry Expansion Considered
With some lawmakers calling for an expansion of the state's gaming industry to generate new revenue, House Republicans say the first priority must be reform of the current gaming law. While praising a Senate-passed reform measure, the lawmakers say additional changes are needed. Those changes include: prohibiting convicted felons from being employed in the gaming industry, making the license application process more transparent, and granting the Attorney General or Pennsylvania State Police the authority to enforce the state's gaming laws. The Senate bill is expected to be considered in the House in the near future, at which time House Republicans will offer their amendments. For the latest legislative news, visit PAHouseGOP.com
Republican Tax Amnesty Proposal Could Raise an Extra $100 Million
Legislation sponsored by Rep. John C. Bear (R-Lancaster) to create a one-time tax amnesty program in Pennsylvania could bring in at least $100 million worth of delinquent taxes. Under the bill, a 90-day tax amnesty would be declared during the 2009-10 fiscal year. All penalties would be waived if the person or business filing for amnesty pays all back taxes in full or enters into an approved payment plan. Applicants for previous amnesty periods would not be eligible, nor would filers be able to apply for future amnesty programs. New Jersey recently reported that its own tax amnesty program brought in at least $400 million in back taxes, and could generate as much as $700 million in total revenue after all tax filings at the program deadline are counted. House Bill 1627 has received bipartisan support and currently has 52 co-sponsors. It has been referred to the House Finance Committee for consideration.
Lawmakers Gather to Promote Online Transparency Database
Lawmakers, led by Rep. Jim Christiana (R-Beaver), this week announced their support for an online accountability and transparency database like that proposed in House Bill 1460. The legislation, sponsored by Christiana, would create the Pennsylvania Web Accountability, Transparency and Contract Hub (PennWATCH) to organize information about state spending and government-awarded contracts. The proposal is part of a wider effort by House Republicans to restore the public's faith in government after allegations of pay-to-play relationships between the Rendell administration and several campaign donors who later received lucrative, no-bid contracts for work. For details, visit PAHouseGOP.com, and click on "government reform."