Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Guest Column: Don't be fooled – Gov. Wolf's budget will cost you

These days, April Fools' isn't the only day you have to be on guard for potential pranks. As we move through budget season in the state legislature, don't be tricked by phrases like "holistic budget" or "property tax relief."

In fact, under Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed budget, the last thing middle-class, working families and small businesses will feel is relief. What's really in Gov. Wolf's budget plan for Pennsylvania? Billions in new taxes and borrowing to support historic levels of government spending.

Last month, the governor presented his ideal state spending plan, a $33.8 billion budget that relies on major tax increases and increased borrowing. As proposed, Gov. Wolf's budget would spend state taxpayer dollars at unprecedented levels, and represents a 16 percent increase with $4.7 billion in new spending this year alone.

Just how much does he want to spend? If Gov. Wolf's plan is enacted, the Commonwealth will spend $92.6 million in state dollars every day. That equates to $3.9 million per hour, over $64,307 per minute or $1,071 per second.

To pay for this huge increase in government spending, Gov. Wolf is looking to you, the taxpayer. His plan would raise the Personal Income Tax (PIT) by 21 percent and increase and expand Sales and Use Tax revenues by over 40 percent for more state spending. The result? An outrageous, every-thing-in-the-kitchen-sink budget that is balanced on the backs of hard-working, middle-class families and small businesses which account for more than 95 percent of all employers in Pennsylvania.

In addition to raising existing taxes, Gov. Wolf is also proposing to effectively create 550 new taxes, many of which would negatively impact our most vulnerable citizens. Products and services that were not taxed before, like diapers, baby wipes, child care, personal hygiene products, veterinarian services, non-prescription drugs, caskets and burial vaults, home health care services and assisted living services, will now be taxed at 6.6 percent.

What will Pennsylvanians get in return? Gov. Wolf has promised his plan will provide much-needed property tax relief, but will it? Not likely. The governor's plan would raise $6.8 billion in taxes, but only put $3.7 billion toward property tax relief. As proposed, taxpayers in more than 400 of the state's 500 school districts would pay more in personal income and sales taxes than they would receive in property tax relief.

Additionally, the governor's distribution of wealth plan disproportionally benefits urban districts, which already receive the highest allocation of state education funding.

Taxpayers can see how their school district fares under the governor's budget at

Think about it: It took this Commonwealth 200 years to reach a budget of $20 billion. Eight years under infamous spender, Gov. Rendell brought us to $28 billion. Our new governor blows those numbers out of the water, looking to spend an $8 billion more in the next two years alone. Just as you struggle to live within your means to balance your household budget, we as state government must also live in reality.

As state representatives who promised to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, we cannot support a budget that raises billions of dollars in new taxes but fails to address the state's well-known, impending pension crisis or rein in government spending. With our economy finally on the rebound, we need a budget that addresses government waste, fraud and abuse, continues to grow our economy and, most importantly, protects taxpayers.

This April Fools' Day, don't let a wolf pull the wool over your eyes with promises of "jobs that pay, schools that teach and government that works." The only guarantee that comes with Gov. Wolf's spending plan is that taxpayers will certainly pay.

Rep. Kerry Benninghoff is the Majority Policy Chairman, and Rep. Bryan Cutler is the Majority Whip of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Both are Republicans.

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