Thursday, January 10, 2019

Lowman S. Henry: Gov. Tom Wolf's latest tax grab

By Lowman S. Henry
Guest Columnist

Pennsylvania motorists already pay one of the highest state gasoline taxes in the nation thanks to what was effectively a 30-cent per gallon tax hike during the Tom Corbett Administration. Now, a new multi-state compact advocated by radical environment interests threatens to add to that tax burden.
As with most policies pushed by the Left this one has a lofty sounding name, it is called the Transportation and Climate Initiative. Its goal is to ratchet up the war on carbon-based fuels by setting new goals for the reduction of their use. And, of course there is the usual tug at the heart strings rhetoric as the "initiative" seeks to "maximize environmental, economic, social, and public health benefits."
If you cut through the spin what it actually is being proposed is a tax grab to fund dubious "low carbon technologies" which cannot compete in the marketplace because they are ineffective, overly expensive or both; and — surprise — re-direct more money to urban mass transit systems. As Inconvenient Facts author Greg Wrightstone puts it: "They want to take money from Perry County (rural Pennsylvania) and give it to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh."
As Wrightstone explained the compact on a recent edition of Lincoln Radio Journal the Wolf Administration has entered into an agreement with nine other mostly northeastern states to cap each of the states' carbon emissions from transportation (your car). The states have one year to come up with a plan. Such plans will most certainly include additional taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel. Then, Wrightstone concluded, the money will be "redistributed" to "low carbon transportation systems" — in other words urban mass transit.
Those urban transportation systems, specifically the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) in the Philadelphia region and Port Authority Transit (PAT) in the Pittsburgh area have an insatiable appetite for public dollars and annually develop new schemes to fleece taxpayers from other regions to subsidize the many and well documented inefficiencies and outright corruption that regularly plaque those agencies.
Thus the lofty sounding Transportation and Climate Initiative allows Governor Wolf to advance two of his top agenda items: establish a new revenue stream to keep urban mass transit afloat, and penalize users of carbon based fuels. Keep in mind those users include you every time you start your car or use a product that was delivered to the store by motor vehicle, which is to say everything.
In addition to the cost to consumers, higher taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel will increase the cost of doing business for companies based in Pennsylvania. This will put them at a competitive disadvantage with states that are not part of this ideologically driven compact. Notably, the state of Ohio declined to participate in the boondoggle, correctly seeing an opportunity to gain a competitive edge over Pennsylvania-based businesses.
All of this raises the issue of how new and or higher taxes will be imposed. Since this is an administrative agreement it is entirely possible, even likely, the Wolf Administration will attempt to bypass the General Assembly and impose the new cost as a regulatory fee.
There are many reasons to believe the governor will try that route. First, with Republicans in control of both houses of the General Assembly the chances of winning legislative approval for a fuel tax increase, especially in the House, are slim to none. Second, the General Assembly has a recent history of allowing its constitutional authority to be usurped by other branches of government without putting up an effective fight.
For example, last year the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in clear violation of the state constitution abrogated the legislature's power to draw congressional district lines and instituted by judicial fiat a new congressional district map gerrymandered to favor Democrats in the 2018 election. Legislative Republicans howled in protest, even appealed to the federal courts. But they failed to take the one action that would have been effective: impeach the offending justices, especially one who in a blatant breech of judicial ethics campaigned on doing exactly what was done.
So Gov. Wolf can be forgiven if he believes he can impose an entire new layer of taxation on We the People of Penn's Woods without the legislature taking any effective action to stop him. But this is an issue where legislative leaders, particularly those in the state Senate, need to stiffen their spines and take a stand.
The policy goals of the Transportation and Climate Initiative are dubious at best, this is a clear tax grab for urban mass transit, and consumers are already over-burdened when it comes to gas and fuel taxes. Even for the legislative faint of heart this is a battle worth fighting.

Lowman S. Henry is chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His email is

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Cable News Repeats Myth Illegals Commit Less Crime Than US Citizens

Cable News Repeats Myth Illegals Commit Less Crime Than Citizens

America Didn’t Love Her Back, Sarah Silverman’s Show Canceled 

America Didn’t Love Her Back, Sarah Silverman’s Show Canceled 

GUEST COLUMN: Time to eliminate property taxes in Pennsylvania

By Rep. Frank Ryan
Guest columnist

There have been discussions about eliminating property taxes for decades.
In November 2017, a constitutional amendment passed by substantial margin to allow for the elimination of property taxes. With that amendment, it would only be necessary for legislation to be enacted to rid the Commonwealth of this regressive tax.
The question then becomes what is the status of the bill to eliminate property taxes?
In December 2018, I circulated a co-sponsorship memo in the PA House for a bill which will eliminate property taxes 100% for all properties if enacted. The objective of the bill is simple — to eliminate all property taxes. The tricky part is the replacement tax.
That very simple statement will be the subject of eight detailed articles I intend to write explaining the issues in detail to solicit your feedback and to allow the best possible solution to come about as quickly as possible.
The eight articles will include:
1. Critical economic reasons for eliminating property taxes.
2. Problems with the existing property tax system.
3. Unfunded pension liabilities.
4. Funding formulas for school districts under current laws.
5. Property tax elimination and impact on senior citizens.
6. Property tax elimination and impact on working families.
7. Property tax elimination and impact on schools and teachers.
8. Proposed property tax elimination bill.
Eliminating the property tax is critical to the economic survival of the Commonwealth and our citizens!
In my 40+ years as a certified public accountant and expert in helping organizations avoid bankruptcy, I can think of no more complicated problem to the financial survival of the Commonwealth than eliminating property taxes.
The reason this is so complicated is because our current system of taxation and funding schools is so fundamentally flawed that even minor fixes to peripheral elements of the system may have significant unintended consequences.
For example, the funding formulas for the schools result in Palmyra Area School District receiving $1 Million less per year than it would receive under a newly enacted funding formula which will take almost 20 years to fully implement. This means that Palmyra School District must fund that shortfall from the state by either cutting spending and or with property tax increases.
The Independent Fiscal Office five year outlook provides an insight into Pennsylvania’s stagnant growth and substantial budget shortfalls over the next five years. When combined with declining population for citizens under age 60 and significantly increasing population for citizens over 65, the trends continue to be negative for the Commonwealth.
If we take decisive action now to reform our tax policies for working families, seniors, businesses, and school districts with the fundamental shift in the elimination of property taxes we can reverse these negative trends. I am extremely optimistic if we take the problem seriously.
Efforts in the past to eliminate property taxes have not been successful because of a whole bevy of reasons.
The primary reasons for the failure of prior efforts revolve around the following:
A. The proposed replacement taxes involve funds going to the Commonwealth rather than to local control.
B. The impact of property tax elimination on people who rent rather than own their homes.
C. The perceived lack of stability in school funding under the replacement formula.
D. The expansion of the sales tax base was a problematic for some powerful stakeholders.
E. The proposed replacement taxes were directed predominantly at working families.
The system that I am proposing will address these issues and provide for an orderly phase in so that the schools and the community are able to adapt to a new system with no major disruptions to the educational opportunities of our students.
I cannot emphasize enough how severe the problem is with property taxes. The funding formula itself which is a separate issue is equally problematic and leads to the difficulty in solving this problem. It is critical however that everyone understand that if we do not resolve this problem together the probability of surviving the next economic downturn is limited.
Our financial rescue plan that I proposed when I first got elected two years ago discusses all the efforts we need to turn around the finances in Pennsylvania. We are well on the way to enacting these bills and property tax elimination is a major component of it.
I look forward to your input and comments on the particles that we will be submitting and ask you to please get active in this and provide me the guidance that you feel needs to be included in any legislation. We cannot afford to make a mistake.
A copy of our financial rescue plan can be found at my website

Frank Ryan, CPA, USMCR (Ret.) represents the 101st District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He is a retired Marine Reserve Colonel, a CPA and specializes in corporate restructuring. He has served on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations. He can be reached at