Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Rep. DiGirolamo Unveils Alternative Budget Proposal, Including Severance Tax

Citing the need to appropriately fund critical services in the Commonwealth, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) Wednesday unveiled his own budget proposal, which responds to the needs of most Pennsylvanians.
The DiGirolamo plan, called the Roadmap for a Stronger Pennsylvania, addresses the needs of middle-class residents.  Click Here for a 2-page summary of the proposal.
“Our middle class is bearing the brunt of the economic crisis we find ourselves in,” Rep. DiGirolamo said. “Across our great state, Pennsylvanians are struggling – whether it is paying for college, supporting their loved ones in long-term care, providing quality child care options to their kids, or ensuring a roof over their heads and food on the table. This budget proposal puts the average Pennsylvania at the forefront of budget discussions – where they should be.”
The budget plan seeks to make long-term, sustainable investments in our communities that are necessary to succeed. The plan would add about $1.1 billion in new revenue.
The budget focuses on better funding for education, human service needs, environmental protections and crime prevention while looking to viable alternatives for generating growing and reliable revenue streams.
The Bucks County lawmaker specifically cited additional revenue from closing outdated tax loopholes, enacting a Marcellus Shale severance tax, and maximizing the revenue generated by existing state assets. He anticipates this revenue to not only cover state expenditures for the 2014-15 fiscal year but to position the Commonwealth to better face needs in 2015-16.
Important elements of the plan would give additional financial support to:
— Education services, including $10 million for the Accountability Block Grant, $1 million more for libraries, $3 million for Pre-K Counts, $20 million more for community colleges, $5 million for early intervention services and $40 million for school construction projects.
— Special education, to be increased $20 million.
— Human Service Development Fund, which would be replenished by $84 million.
— Various health line items that were proposed to be eliminated. This includes funding for lupus, Tourette’s syndrome, epilepsy support, adult cystic fibrosis, hemophilia and sickle cell programs.
— Crime-fighting efforts through the attorney general’s drug task force, which would be raised another $5 million.
— Veterans housing assistance, which would increase by $3 million.
— Emergency drug and alcohol treatment, which would add another $20 million.
“My goal today is to share a roadmap for steps we can take to set us back on track as a Commonwealth toward fiscal stability – including greater tax fairness, economic revitalization, job growth and protecting Pennsylvania families against the ongoing harmful effects of severe cuts to the programs they need and deserve,” he explained. “This roadmap represents a more thoughtful and commonsense approach to fixing the issues we face and I look forward to working with my colleagues and the administration in creating a budget that best serves the needs of the Commonwealth.”
Rep. DiGirolamo has already begun the first steps of his budget plan by introducing legislation which calls for a 4.9 percent severance tax on Marcellus Shale. He estimates the severance tax to raise an additional $360 million in 2014-15.
Additional budget revenue will come from delaying the phase out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax; removing the 1 percent vendor discount for sales tax remissions; upholding the sales tax on Internet-based companies called the Amazon law; removing the tax exemption of smokeless tobacco and imposing the cigarette excise on e-cigarettes; and strengthening the corporate add-back rules, which currently shifts the tax burden to thousands of Pennsylvania-based small businesses that follow the rules and pay their fair share of taxes.
Rep. DiGirolamo has also unveiled his alternative to liquor store privatization, House Bill 2184 (sponsor summary) a move that could raise about $185 million in state revenue, and expand the state’s Medicaid program to reap federal funds. A side benefit of Medicaid expansion is the creation of 35,000 quality health care jobs that will strengthen the state’s Personal Income Tax base.

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