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June 25, 2015

GOP preparing no-tax budget after dismissing Pa. Gov. Wolf's tax proposal

After dismissing Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's production tax proposal, the GOP is preparing a new, no-tax budget, Newsworks reports.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf had called for sweeping changes to the tax code and larger investments in education. In March, he proposed lowering property taxes and raising revenue through increases in the state sales and income taxes. He also proposed a surcharge on natural gas drilling that would help fund education.

“We need a new approach -- and we need to question the decisions that got us to where we are today,” Wolf said in his budget speech.

Republican legislative leaders, after closed-door negotiations with the Democratic Wolf administration, announced that the governor's proposed severance tax on natural gas drillers had been rejected.

Wolf adviser John Hanger said the administration offered major concessions on a Marcellus Shale tax -- there would be no minimum price on gas, and drillers wouldn't have someone looking over their shoulder to double-check how much they make off the gas.
The governor's team also offered to guarantee that the state's existing impact fee levied on drillers would remain, addressing a concern of communities that receive funding from the fee to address the effects of gas extraction and the industry that has sprung up around it.

"Frankly, we're being met by a wall of ideology that is putting very special interests ahead of the people of the state," Hanger told Newsworks. "In this instance, the drillers were put ahead of the schoolchildren of Pennsylvania."

Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati said a budget that will include no new taxes and rely on revenues from changes to public pensions and liquor sales is currently being drafted and could be on Wolf's desk by June 30.