Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over” and the Pennsylvania budget battle is far from over.
If you thought it was over then you haven’t been listening to Gov. Tom Wolf.
After calling the proposed Republican budget “garbage” Wolf said he is trying to avoid a “train wreck” of a budget that would also drive up local taxes to fill the void of state funding.
The Republican-controlled House and Senate reconvened Tuesday amid a 7-month-old budget fight that’s left billions in school aid in limbo, but lawmakers took no action on budget-related legislation.
Wolf told KDKA-AM radio that “If we don’t fix the budget deficit by 16-17, there are going to be huge cuts in education, and huge cuts in local services, so that local taxes are going to go up and services are going to decline.”
“So we need a real balanced budget, we need some honesty, we need fiscal responsibility,” said the Governor.
Wolf’s “honest” budget called for increased taxes in several areas. In his first budget proposal, The Governor called for:
- Increase the state personal income tax by 20.5 percent, raising it from 3.07 percent of income to 3.7 percent on July 1, 2015.
- Increase the sales tax by from 6 percent to 6.6 percent starting Jan. 1 2016.
- Provide $3.8 billion in property tax relief in Oct. 2016, eliminating property taxes for 270,000 seniors.
- Increase the cigarette tax by $1 per pack.
- Start taxing all other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes effective Oct. 1, 2015.
According to WGAL-TV the Wolf Administration says higher taxes would bring in $2.5 billion for the state. Overall, the Democrat wants to increase state spending from $29 billion to $33.7 billion - an increase of 16 percent
You may have thought the budget crisis was over when the Governor released some money to cash starved schools and local government.
At the end of last year the Republican-controlled Senate sent Wolf the main appropriations bill in a last-ditch, $30.3 billion budget package that had been written by House GOP majority leaders. All but two Democrats opposed it.
Wolf signed $23.4 billion of it, calling it emergency funding to prevent schools from closing and social service agencies from laying off more workers. However, Wolf vetoed billions for public schools to keep pressure on the Republican-controlled House to pass the bipartisan deal.
In two weeks, Wolf is scheduled to deliver a budget proposal for the 2016-17 fiscal year, despite the fact that significant portions of the current 2015-16 fiscal year are still unfinished.
Yogi was spot on.