State Budget and Taxes

OP-ED: Is this the year Pa. resolves its perennial budget crisis?

This piece originally appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, December 28, 2016.

Many of us who write about budget politics have a keyboard shortcut to enter "Pennsylvanian Budget Crisis" into a document. Year after year, we write in December about the upcoming crisis and again in July (or sometimes far later) about how the crisis has been temporarily averted.

It is crisis time again. But perhaps this is the year we can change the script. There are new ways to do something that has eluded us in the past - solve the crisis on a long-term basis without imposing harsher new taxes on working people and the middle class.

Two Approaches to the State Budget

It’s becoming more and more rare to see serious attempts on the part of newspapers (and their virtual counterparts) to compare policy proposals meant to deal with a serious public issue. That’s one reason I was so happy to see Tim Stuhldreher’s excellent piece, “Pennsylvania think tanks battle over remedies for $1.7 billion state budget deficit” in LancasterOnline.

Broad and Narrow Taxes

Last week, just as we were putting out our paper on how to raise revenues without raising taxes on working people and the middle class, Governor Wolf announced that he would not call for raising broad-based taxes, particularly the personal income tax and sales tax, in the budget proposal he puts forward in February.

The Budget Our Democracy Deserves

Many of the ideas in this post are components of PBPC's recently-released "Fair Share Tax Proposal for Pennsylvania."

The recent political talk about Pennsylvania is focused on the latest in a series of fiscal crises. But lurking in the background is a larger crisis—a crisis of democracy in Pennsylvania. 

New Report: A Fair Share Tax Plan for Pennsylvania

In the wake of Budget Secretary Randy Albright’s mid-year budget briefing and the news that the Pennsylvania budget for 2016-17 will have a deficit of $600 million, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center today released a new, comprehensive revenue proposal to address the looming deficit for FY 2017-18, which when combined with the deficit for this fiscal year, could approach $3 billion.

On The Mid-Year Budget Briefing: The Full Picture Is Even More Grim

Budget Secretary Randy Albright’s mid-year budget briefing this week brings worrisome news that, at its current level of expenditure and revenues, the Pennsylvania budget for the 2016-17 will have a deficit of $600 million. Part of that deficit is the result of lower tax revenues than were projected when the budget was enacted in July. Another part is higher human service caseloads, which will require a supplemental appropriation.

On The Inaction by State Senate to Fund Unemployment Compensation Call Centers

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center Director Marc Stier made the following statement after the state Senate failed to vote for additional funding for the Department of Labor and Industry’s unemployment compensation call centers during its only scheduled post-election session day:

IFO Report: Deficits Now and In The Future

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center Director Marc Stier made the following statement following the Independent Fiscal Office release of their Five Year Economic and Budget Outlook:

The Revenue Shortfall and the Budget

Almost as soon as the Pennsylvania budget was passed in July, rumors swirled about the legislature coming back—either in a lame duck session in December or next year—to fix it because it was not truly balanced. The Department of Revenue’s announcement yesterday that revenues for the year to date are running $218 million below estimates, makes revisting the budget even more likely.

In July, we at PBPC pointed out that estimates of some of the one-time revenues included in the budget—especially those from selling licenses for internet gaming, for a second Philadelphia casino, and for the expansion of alcohol sales—were possibly over-stated. We also said that we were not confident that enough money was appropriated to meet the likely caseload for medical assistance (The Commonwealth must appropriate its share of funding for these programs to continue to draw down the federal funding for them.) Those problems still remain.

A Missed Recurring Revenue Opportunity on the Budget – Raising the Minimum Wage

This is the third in a series of blog posts assessing the 2016-17 budget and the budget negotiation process from PBPC and its allies.

A consensus exists that raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would generate at least tens of millions of dollars for the state budget and possibly as much as $225 million (more on the different estimates at the end of this blog). If the minimum wage were indexed for inflation, as legislative salaries already are, this would be recurring revenue. The annual boost to the minimum wage would continue to put more money in the pocket of working families each year, driving up their buying power, growing the economy, and increasing state tax collections.

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