More than 200 people attended a rally Monday in support of the proposed Property Tax Independence Act. They gathered at the Capitol to tell lawmakers they’re tired of burdensome school property taxes, tired of seeing neighbors' houses foreclosed.
The bill, pending in the House and Senate, would eliminate school property taxes, the $12.7 billion in annual revenue replaced by an expanded tax base and higher income and sales taxes, among other sources.
Demonstrators said they were willing to pay more on goods and services throughout the year, as opposed to footing an annual tax bill.
“It seems like we can keep all the other bills paid, and the property tax bill just keeps going up,” said Chester County resident Ruth Ann Wheatley.
House GOP seems split over Senate budget plan
The state House has the Senate's state budget plan, but a mix of opinions portends a controversial approval process.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, said he sees “a lot of positives” in the plan, keeping the budget at a level that won’t lead to a tax hike while accounting for extra revenue collected this spring.
“It’s a good work product, it is under the rate of inflation and it is taking into account revenues and projections that were not in front of the governor when he did his proposal in February,” Turzai said.
State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, said the increase leads the state in the wrong direction.
“Last year, we tried to reset some of the spending, but I think we still had a continued reset to do this year,” Metcalfe said. “We need to work to reduce spending, not pump $500 million back into the budget the governor proposed this year.”
Spending on welfare and subsidies for higher education, he said, are increases that, conversely, could be cut. Assistance to colleges and universities, he says, isn’t helping the average taxpayer.
House Democrats, meanwhile, are expressing concern over the spending plan, and want to see more money for education, higher education, long-term care and funding for the disabled.
The state House is expected to begin addressing the state budget the week of May 29.
Taxpayers shell out $30M to keep Delaware County refinery open
Earlier this month, Delta Airlines announced its subsidiary, Monroe Energy, would buy the ConocoPhillips refinery.
Before the purchase, hundreds of pink slips had been readied, threatening the community at its economic core. A Department of Labor and Industry report says every 100 jobs at the refinery leads, indirectly, to 1,800 jobs.
The purchase, with an initial cost of $180 million, was bolstered by a $30 million state subsidy — called an Opportunity Grant — from the Department of Community and Economic Development.
Delta's hope is to save on its annual $11.8 billion jet fuel bill by integrating a refinery, a landmark business move that made national headlines. Locally, the purchase was a saving grace for the town, and Delaware County.
The $30 million grant wasn't without precedent, said Steve Kratz, spokesman for the DCED. Delaware gave a $25 million grant for a refinery purchase in 2009.
Taking into account what was at stake — and the private investment coming from Delta — the significance of preserving Trainer's economy outweighed the cost of a taxpayer grant, said Kratz.
“This was a case of basically saving a town, saving a way of life in our community, saving thousands of jobs and really keeping fuel and oil prices under control,” he said. “If that shut down, that’s going to have a widespread effect not only on Pennsylvania but the entire Northeast.”
Pennsylvania Joins Opposition To Real ID Act
Corbett signed into law a measure making Pennsylvania the 16th and most populous state to oppose the federal Real ID Act.
The federal program was enacted in 2005 to create national standards and a national database for drivers’ licenses by requiring states to connect their existing information electronically. It also added costs to verify documents necessary to apply for a license, such as birth certificates and Social Security cards.
Several national organizations estimated that law would cost at least $11 billion annually over a five-year period to implement nationally. Pennsylvania would have paid $140 million in the first year and another $40 million annually, the state Department of Transportation estimated.
Some groups also have warned that the national database would be a “honeypot for identify thieves.”