Elected leaders in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania have pledged to start anew round of negotiations to put an end to the 100 day state budget stalemate after the test vote on the revised tax play of Gov. Tom Wolf fell through.
Following a six hour debate, the house lawmakers defeated the plan of the Democratic Governor with a vote of 127-73 which was held in the Republican-controlled chamber.
No a single GOP lawmaker voted for this plan. Mr. Wolf had lost nine of the Democratic lawmakers from South Western Pennsylvania, this is a region that has a strong antipathy historically to tax hikes.
Recently Mr. Wolf unveiled the plan for increasing the state’s personal income tax rate to 3.57% from 3.07% and also levied a severance tax on the production of natural gas to bridge a revenue deficit. He proposed the expansion of the existing property tax as well as a rent rebate program that will cover more senior citizens and disabled individuals. The governor’s response was a challenge to the GOP leaders, to show that he had the votes supporting tax hikes in order to provide needed revenue.
The pressure is on to end this stalemate, due to lack of state aid district schools are borrowing money to remain open, and the human service agencies are cutting back services due to lack of funds from the state.
Mr. Wolf put a number of tough votes to demonstrate the need for more revenues to address the states deficit. He continued that he thought this went quite well, and that he was not removing any of the tax options from the negotiation table.
Lawmakers from both parties mentioned in the floor debate that expanded gambling is a way to get new revenue sources.
Legislative committees had held hearings earlier in the year about proposals that will allow casinos to be able to offer online gambling, sorts betting and bingo for their patrons, also satellite slots casinos at the off-track betting parlors as well as other locations, to have slot machines at airports plus to create a separate license to sell alcohol at casinos.
Mike Turzai, House Speaker, said that expanded gambling could, depending on what the package includes, generate between between $200 million to $500 million in additional new revenue.
The vote on the Wednesday was unusual as there wasn’t an agreed-to plan for the tax revenue spending. Which meant that the lawmakers voting did not have the usual assurances from their constituents and the schools and how they would benefit from the spending side.
Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich, D-114, Taylor said he thought it was the right think to do to help education funding.
However, Rep. Aaron Kaufer, R-120, Kingston, placed his vote against the plan, after he had met with Mr. Wolf the previous Tuesday when they discussed the budget. Mr Kaufer continued that it would be like asking the hard working Pennsylvanians and people in his district to take a pay cut.
Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-121, Wilkes-Barre said that without the new revenue the state would have to implement cuts to aid for public schools and property taxes will need to be increased to cover this. He added that he hoped that the vote will force all the parties back to the negotiation table and reach an final agreement.