Strong April Puts Pennsylvania's Fiscal Surplus at $506 Million

In some very good news for Pennsylvania’s budget, the Commonwealth saw its fiscal-year surplus grow to $506 million last month.

Better-than-expected collections in April – the second largest revenue month of the year – will likely position the Commonwealth to end the 2010-11 fiscal year with a significant surplus. This could offset some of the deep cuts to K-12 education, colleges, health care and human services that were proposed in the Governor’s 2011-12 budget.

Third and State This Week: Zombies, Millionaire Taxes and Gas Drillers

This week, we blogged about New Jersey's millionaire tax, taxes and Marcellus Shale drillers, zombies and much more. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • On state budget and taxes, Steve Herzenberg explains that a millionaire tax didn't chase the rich out of New Jersey. In light of that, Steve writes, Pennsylvania should consider enacting a higher tax rate on unearned income, which would mostly impact top earners in Pennsylvania. Kate Atkins, meanwhile, posts a short video of a Berks County rally for a better state budget.
  • On the Marcellus Shale, Sharon Ward invites each natural gas drilling company in Pennsylvania to release details on the state and local business taxes it pays. And Chris Lilienthal shares concerns about Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati's proposed local impact fee on Marcellus Shale drillers.
  • Finally, Mark Price fights zombies who believe that only the rich pay taxes.

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

Advocates Call for Better Budget at Reading Rally

About 100 Reading area residents rallied outside the Berks County Services Center Wednesday to call on lawmakers to close tax loopholes and end special tax breaks before making deep cuts to schools, colleges, and services for people with disabilities.

The event, sponsored by Better Choices for Pennsylvania and the CLEAR Coalition, featured Mike Morrill of Keystone Progress as emcee. Keystone Progress put together a short video to highlight the best parts of the event.

Concerns Raised About Sen. Scarnati's Local Impact Fee

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Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati today unveiled his long-awaited proposal to enact a local impact fee on Marcellus Shale gas drillers in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center was among a group of advocates to raise some concerns about the plan. While we give Senator Scarnati credit for taking a step forward on this important issue, the plan lets drillers off the hook too easily and provides little to no benefit for most Pennsylvanians.

Obama Releases Birth Certificate, Now Gas Drillers Should Disclose Taxes

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President Obama today released his full birth certificate from the state of Hawaii in an effort to put to rest unending speculation about his American citizenship.

In that spirit, we’d like to invite each natural gas drilling company in Pennsylvania to release details on the state and local business taxes it pays in Pennsylvania.

This request comes on the heels of a new report we put out this week, which found natural gas drillers are paying very little state and local taxes in Pennsylvania. The report examined state Department of Revenue data from 2008 and found that gas drillers paid only $38.8 million in business taxes that year, despite industry claims that drillers are paying hundreds of millions of dollars in Pennsylvania taxes.

Millionaire Tax Didn't Chase the Rich From Jersey, So Why Not a Higher Tax Rate on Pa.'s Top Earners?

Anti-tax advocates maintain that higher tax rates on the wealthy lead to millionaire flight. But a study of a 2004 “millionaire tax” in New Jersey shows that, in fact, the rich don’t move to avoid higher taxes.

The new study was written by sociologists at Stanford and Princeton and published in The National Tax Journal. Economist Robert Frank reported on it in The Wall Street Journal, writing that the study “provides some of the most detailed evidence yet that so-called millionaire taxes have little effect on the movements of millionaires as a whole.”

Zombie Ideas: Only The Rich Pay Taxes

A big part of our work is fighting zombie ideas — claims that don't actually have empirical support but just keep getting repeated over and over again.  On Friday and again this morning, Paul Krugman let loose his wicked cricket bat on one we hear repeated ad nauseam by Harrisburg pundits.

Third and State This Week: Closing Loopholes, a Flawed School Vouchers Plan and More

This week, we blogged about closing tax loopholes on Tax Day, a deeply flawed school vouchers plan in the state Senate, Governor Corbett's claims about property taxes in Texas, and much more. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • On education, Steve Herzenberg wrote that despite amendments made to the Senate school voucher bill, it remains a deeply flawed and expensive new program, with little to no accountability.
  • On state budget and taxes, Sharon Ward shared her Tax Day op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where she suggests that instead of grumbling about taxes this year, we start the work of closing tax loopholes that disproportionately benefit the well-connected few. Meanwhile, Chris Lilienthal passed on Tax Day 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. And Michael Wood posted a video clip from a Monday press conference, hosted by Common Cause Pennsylvania, where he and good government advocates called on lawmakers to close tax loopholes before cutting schools, colleges and services for vulnerable Pennsylvanians.
  • Finally, on the Marcellus Shale, Michael Wood sets the record straight on what taxes Texas drillers do and don't pay, in response to recent comments by Governor Corbett.

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

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.

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