Budget Proposal seeks to Steal SB76 Funding Mechanism

Since the start of the budget debacle in Harrisburg attempts have been made to use the budget to kill funding mechanisms of SB 76.  The latest proposal is the most blatantly hypocritical.

According to a posting on Senator Pat Stefano’s Facebook Page which reads:

Details are still scarce but it looks like a budget will be voted on next week that will include pension reform and liquor reform. Though both proposals are not perfect they seem to be steps in the right direction.

It also appears that there will some sort of changes to what the sales tax applies to, though details are not yet confirmed here.

Some calls were made and this information seems to be confirmed.

The pension reform package being discussed is something similar to the previous hybrid plan which, while better than what we currently have, fails to offer any real substantive relief from the pension burden which is only going to continue to drive up the cost of the school property tax.

The push for the privatization of the liquor industry is something the GOP has wanted and while I agree with the concept in principal, we don’t want to see something that will kill all the family owned distributors in the state to give advantages to corporate chain stores.

The discussion on the expansion of the sales tax has me the most concerned because it steals one of the funding legs of SB 76.   Without expanding the sales tax, the revenue needed to replace the sales tax would require a 6% PIT tax which will be a much harder sell than the current 4.95%.

In reviewing the needed revenue for SB76 because of the endless excuses and delays with this legislation in just one year we have had to take the PIT from the 4.34 PIT up to 4.95.   The longer we wait the more we’ll need.

Our opponents, both legislative and lobbyists, have used the expansion of the sales tax in SB 76 as one of their main talking points.   Our supporters , at least legislatively, should know that the sales tax expansion is one of the key funding mechanisms of the bill.  So you would think that proposing expanding the sales, not as a tax shift but just as a tax increase, would have legislators and lobbyists up in arms whether they supported SB76 or not and yet its relatively quiet on that front with barely a whimper.

You would think with all the opposition based on the sales tax expansion, this would be a dead deal since opponents wouldn’t vote for it, nor should supporters of 76.   That isn’t what we’re hearing though.

This begs the question, was the expansion really as big a problem as our opponents claimed or was it just their excuse in order to protect the status quo with public sector unions while driving increasing numbers of families and seniors from their homes while preventing younger families from making that important first step into home ownership.

Apparently it’s suddenly okay to expand the sales tax to increase the tax burden without eliminating another tax.

Jake Corman had reported that Property Tax relief isn’t off the table but it would have to wait until after the budget was passed.  Hidden in that statement, now that we know more of what the budget deal involves, is the fact that the fight will be for some form of temporary relief (which is nothing more than a disguised tax increase since school taxes will continue to exceed the Consumer Price Index).  By expanding the sales tax, the attempt is being made to stop the progress made on elimination.

We’re told that Kim Ward, a long-time cosponsor of SB76 who bailed the week before the vote was to be taken, became one of the most vocal opponents in the GOP caucus.  Since nothing had really substantially changed when she withdrew her support (the PIT increase came later) it begs the question, how could she support the bill for as long as she did and then when hearing it was coming up for a vote suddenly find the bill repulsive?   She wasn’t alone.  Was the talk of School Property Tax Elimination just a re-election ruse?

Just as we saw HB76 sabotaged by leadership in the house, we saw the same thing happening in the Senate.  Caving to lobbyist pressure that often resorted to misleading talking points, talking points mirrored by our opposition the night of the vote, once again the working families are being asked to bear the greater burden to protect public sector unions and their own legislative pensions and perks.

There should be a cleansweep type anger in this state and amid SB76 supporters.  We should be outraged at the relative silence from lobbyists from this legislative attempt to steal one of the funding legs of SB76 to provide the first real substantive bill in a very long time that actually would have provided real relief from the tax burden felt by working families in this commonwealth.  We however, continue to be the collateral damage of tax policies intended to help the entitlement mentality of both Public and Corporate welfare.

Consider that the Philadelphia School district managed to find 6 million that was supposed to be targeted for healthcare after collecting that money from taxes from the general public and then offer that 6 million as a loan to the Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers.  That loan, according to a report from PA Independent, was interest free with no real defined terms for repayment.  The Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers (PFT) main office is located in Philadelphia but a satellite office was also provided to them free of charge by the Philadelphia school district.  Nothing is free. They are provided their Union Satellite Office on the dime of tax payers even though the Philadelphia School district is operating with a deficit of 80 million as of last year.  While there is nothing illegal about this, it smells of being unethical.  Imagine collecting taxes to refurbish union offices that come at the expense of working families losing their homes.

Why aren’t the teachers out in the streets screaming that it’s all about the children over what their unions just did to money that was collected from taxpayers to be used for their healthcare?

This should come as no surprise to any of us since the pension debacle created by our legislators is doing the same thing and far too many legislators just don’t seem to care enough to do anything about it.

We can sit back and just let it happen but then we aren’t any different from those legislators who view us a being nothing more than collateral damage and then we only have ourselves to blame.  Or we can do something about it.  If you are willing to stand up because you’ve had enough then its time to contact your legislators and express your outrage at opponents of 76 who would vote for this budget proposal as well as alleged supporters of 76 who would allow one of the funding legs of the elimination bill to be stolen from us.  That means no one gets a pass.

You can’t expect somebody else to do this for you.  It doesn’t work that way.  A government established through the “Consent of the governed” operates through letting legislators know what we do not consent to.  Silence is consent.   Complaining to your friends and spouse or through social media can help spread the word but without picking up the phone and calling your legislators you passively consent to egregious actions in this Commonwealth against the working families in this Commonwealth.   Screaming at the local talk shows on the radio or at the news reports on television may help with your frustration but until you pick up the phone or schedule an appointment with your legislator, you are still consenting to these attacks on us by the very government we elect to represent us.

You have a right to be angry and you have a right to express that anger.   At this point we should all be outraged.  Don’t let the lobbyists and legislators continue to use us as collateral damage to their oppressive taxes.  Stand up and be counted among those who are saying “WE THE PEOPLE NO LONGER CONSENT!”

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