Yes, Governor, Texas Levies Property Taxes

The Patriot-News reports that Governor Corbett, speaking to a meeting of township commissioners Monday, said: “Texas doesn’t have a personal income tax. Texas doesn’t have a property tax. So when we’re talking about taxes, don’t you think we ought to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges?"

Let me set the record straight: Texas levies property taxes — $40 billion worth in 2009, according to the Texas Comptroller. It is their largest state or local tax — by a lot. The state's sales tax brings in only about half of the amount it takes in from local property taxes.

I hope the Governor merely misspoke, as he could have meant to say Texas levies no personal income tax (true) or corporate net income tax (also true — but the Lone Star State levies a margins tax on all businesses, and they do it on a combined reporting basis).

Unlike in Pennsylvania, Texas levies property taxes on all property unless officially exempted by law. This includes personal property, business inventories, non-business vehicles, and oil and gas property. Oil and gas assets (which include oil and gas reserves that haven't been pulled out of the earth) account for 5% of all taxable property in Texas. This equates with more than $2 billion in property tax payments in 2009.

Video Podcast: Good Government Groups Join Call to Close Tax Loopholes

On Monday, I joined Barry Kauffman of Common Cause Pennsylvania and others to call on lawmakers to close tax loopholes and end special tax breaks before cutting schools, colleges and services for vulnerable Pennsylvanians.

We were joined by representatives of good government, faith and environmental groups for the "Close the Tax Loopholes" Day press conference on the Capitol steps. State Rep. Greg Vitali and former Rep. David Levdansky also spoke.

We have a four-minute video highlighting key points made by each of the speakers. Take a few minutes and check it out. The Patriot-News also has a great story on it.

Despite Changes, Senate Voucher Plan Deeply Flawed

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Next week, the Pennsylvania Senate may take up an amended plan to create the largest-in-the nation private school vouchers program.

While Senate Bill 1 was amended last week, the bill remains deeply flawed.

'Close the Tax Loopholes' Day

Many Pennsylvanians will grumble today as they race to file their tax returns on time. Others will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Who's laughing, you ask? Those well-connected few corporations and top earners who benefit from federal and state tax loopholes that drain revenue and shift the cost of services onto the rest of us.

In an op-ed in Friday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I shared the example of General Electric, the nation's largest corporation. As such, you would expect G.E. to have a pretty sizeable tax bill, right? Think again.

On Tax Day, a Fresh Perspective on Taxes

With the deadline for filing state and federal tax returns upon us, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has pulled together resources from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Demos' Taxes Matter Project to provide a fresh perspective on how we think about taxes.

In Case You Missed It: Third and State Blog for Week of April 11

This week, we blogged about  adultBasic and (Not So) Special Care, a lack of accountability in the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program, a fact check on claims about gas drilling in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and much more. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • On health care, Sharon Ward writes that few adultBasic enrollees who lost their health care last month are enrolling in the Blues' Special Care Program.
  • On education, Steve Herzenberg explains that we don’t know much about the 38,000 students who received taxpayer-funded scholarships in 2009-10 to attend private and religious schools under the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC)
  • On the state budget, Kate Atkins (in her Third and State debut) shares the story of a Delaware County man who pulled his life together thanks to a state-funded program that might be defunded next year.
  • On the Marcellus Shale, Mike Wood has a fact check on claims made by Acting Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser on gas drilling in West Virginia, with a drilling tax, and Pennsylvania, without one. 
  • Finally, in this week's Friday Funny, Chris Lilienthal writes that the City of Altoona has gone "Pom Wonderful" - selling naming rights to the city to documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock to promote his upcoming film about product placement.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Friday Funny: Altoona to Become 'Pom Wonderful'

Sometimes, the Friday Funny just writes itself.

This just in from The New York Times' Media Decoder Blog:

The documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock has found another catchy way to promote his next release, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” which takes a wry look at product placement and the integration of brands in the plots of movies and TV shows.

The city of Altoona, Pa., agreed on Wednesday night to sell naming rights to Mr. Spurlock for 60 days, beginning on April 27. For a fee of $25,000, Altoona will be called after the full title of the film, which is “Pom Wonderful Presents the Greatest Movie Ever Sold.”

In DelCo, a Success Story that Raises Big Questions About Budget Priorities

Advocates, educators and parents delivered a message to Harrisburg Wednesday from the steps of the Delaware County Courthouse some 95 miles away: Don’t enact a state budget that will do real harm to working people and families in our communities.

Halfway through the press conference, a tall, broad-shouldered man named Wilson Bryant, who had been standing all the way in the back, head and shoulders above the crowd, walked to the front.  He said he didn’t have a speech prepared but wanted to testify about his personal story.  He had become seriously ill, he said, and, without health insurance, had lost his home and with it his sense of hope. 

Fact Checking West Virginia Drilling Claims

Acting Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser told lawmakers in a budget hearing last month that only 20 Marcellus Shale gas wells have been drilled in West Virginia since that state enacted a drilling tax, while Pennsylvania has had more than 600 such wells drilled.

As we explained in a recent policy brief, that’s not quite accurate.

According to World Oil Online, West Virginia led the nation in new gas wells in 2010, along with Texas and Arkansas — all of which have drilling taxes. Pennsylvania, without a drilling tax, came in sixth, with 833 new wells.

Not So Special Care

It has been just about six weeks since the adultBasic program came to an end, leaving 42,000 Pennsylvanians without affordable health insurance coverage. Governor Corbett ended the program, claiming that the state, and the Blues, were too poor to continue funding it.

Never mind that the Governor took $220 million in health care money to create a new business loan fund, or that Highmark just keeps raking in the dough. (More about that later.)

AdultBasic enrollees were encouraged to sign up for Special Care — a Blues product most notable for its winning combination of expensive premiums and lousy coverage — through two letters sent to recipients and in numerous phone calls with the soon-to-be uninsured. Their new friends, the Blues, would be only too happy to accommodate the newly uninsured.

So how’s that working out? Turns out, not so well.

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