The latest round of cuts totals $500 million, with the Departments of Education and Public Welfare slated for the largest reductions. We won’t know which programs will be affected until the details are released to the public any day now. Here’s what we do know about the proposed tax increase:
- Pennsylvanians now pay 3.07 percent in Personal Income Tax (PIT). The Governor’s proposal would raise it to 3.57 percent for the next three years. At 3.57 percent, Pennsylvania would have the third lowest personal income tax rate in the country.
- The average Pennsylvania household earns $48,562 per year. The table below shows the impact on families at various income levels.
- More than one third of Pennsylvania households would be unaffected by an increase in the PIT. These are low-income households (earning below $34,400) that already receive a refund on the PIT through Pennsylvania’s Tax Forgiveness program and senior citizens whose primary income is Social Security.
- Pennsylvania has a successful track record of enacting temporary increases in the PIT. In 1983 under Governor Thornburgh (R) and 1991 under Governor Casey (D) the legislature increased the tax but included a ‘sunset’ date in the enabling legislation. The sunsets occurred on schedule.
- Pennsylvania’s proposed tax increase is consistent with actions taken by other states to reduce their deficits. At least 16 states have enacted tax increases this year. At least six increased the PIT and the same number increased sales tax. Seventeen states increased tobacco taxes, at least seven raised taxes on alcohol, and at least two have raised corporate taxes.
What You Can Do
Opponents of tax increases are well-organized and making their views known in the press, on the airwaves, via robocalls and on blogs.
State legislators from both sides of the aisle recognize that we cannot cut our way out of this financial crisis. The magnitude of the projected deficit makes a tax increase inevitable if the General Assembly is intent on fulfilling its legal obligation to pass a balanced budget.
Legislators are asking for ‘cover,’ urging constituents who care about preserving services for children to contact them and the news media.
Write to them. Tell them how cuts approved by the Senate – including 50 percent reductions in state-funded Head Start and Pre-K, the denial of child care subsidy to 7,700 families, reducing the number of children enrolled in CHIP by 12,000, and a slowdown in Basic Education funding -- would affect you, your family and community.
Let them know you would be willing to support a nominal tax increase to maintain these vital programs for Pennsylvania’s kids!
Legislators: http://www.pccy.org/ or http://www.legis.state.pa.us/
Letters to the editor:
And don’t forget community newspapers!
Speaking of letters to the editor... here are a few recent ones that give us hope:
Posted on Tue, Jun. 23, 2009 (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Letters: GOP plan would hurt Philadelphia schools
As a proud parent of a student in the Philadelphia school system, I have been pleased with the upward direction of the schools. But the recent gains the district has achieved depend on continued resources.
I am concerned that the Republicans' bare-bones education plan would reverse recent gains. The plan would eliminate summer school programs and limit alternative-education services for at-risk students. It would reduce school police coverage.
And it would increase class size. Superintendent Arlene Ackerman's plan to reduce kindergarten classes to a maximum of 23 would be killed, as the limit would be increased to 33. Instead of reducing class size in grades one to three to 24 or 26 students, it would increase it to 33. And class size in grades four through eight would increase to 35.
In the famous Peanuts comic strip, Charlie Brown tries to kick the football held by Lucy, who pulls it away at the last moment. Just as the Philadelphia schools' Charlie Brown is ready to kick the ball through the uprights of a strong education system and commonwealth, please do not pull away the ball of education funding.
Michael A. Carrier, Philadelphia
Posted on June 20, 2009 (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Letters: Can't cut services that help the needy
Most thinking people would agree that we need to get the waste out of government, and stop corruption, friendship deals, use of public dollars for political purposes, and hiring of unqualified pols to assess property. No argument there.
But what services exactly do you think the state should cut in this year's budget? Services to autistic children? The Senate's proposal does that already. Services to persons who need mental-health and retardation programs? The Senate proposal does that, too. Slash Head Start? Children's health care? Cut library services in half? Early childhood programs? All cut in the Senate bill.
The Senate's proposal will make our huge waiting lists grow by leaps and bounds. We shouldn't forget that taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society.
Gerry Kaufman, Philadelphia
Posted on June 22, 2009 (Philadelphia Inquirer) http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/48757627.html
Letters: Better-funded schools are a crime deterrent
When talk from Harrisburg heats up about rolling back plans to address underfunded public schools, police chiefs like me take notice. We know what happens to a dream deferred, what happens to the undereducated, unemployed, and poor, who have limited options in life. They help fill our jails and state prisons.
Yes, revenues are tight this year - for corporations, municipalities, and individual homeowners. But what's the cost to communities like Upper Darby if we retreat on public education now?
High school dropouts are eight times more likely to be in jail or prison than people who complete high school. A study by economics professor Lance Lochner concluded that "a one-year increase in the average level of schooling in a community is associated with an almost 30 percent decrease in the murder and assault rates."
Imagine the impact of that on Upper Darby, home to one of the most underfunded school districts in the state. Pennsylvania ranked 44th in the nation for its contribution to public education; funding reform should not wait another day. The prison population certainly isn't.
Michael Chitwood, Superintendent of Police, Upper Darby
...Meanwhile, Governor Rendell has made a slew of appearances in suburban Philadelphia to promote the importance of funding children and families and to emphasize the only way this can happen is if the legislature supports a temporary tax increase.
Three weeks ago he appeared in Delaware County to underscore the importance of staying the course with education funding, which the Senate budget would reduce by hundreds of millions of dollars. Over the weekend he spoke in Montgomery County about cuts to autism services if the Senate budget stands. Yesterday he returned to Delaware County to talk about the impact of cuts to CHIP – the children’s health insurance program. You can see a report on KYW’s web site, http://www.kyw1060.com/Rendell---Child-Health-Care-May-Be-Cut-to-Balance-/4669206 or on http://www.philly.com/.
Simultaneously hundreds of people gathered in Philadelphia’s LOVE Park to urge legislators to preserve more than $12 million in the state budget for youth violence prevention programs. Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition’s Sharmain Matlock-Turner explained that funding for a variety of programs including mentoring, chess, and summer camp with life-skills coaching are all at stake. Read more about it here: http://www.kyw1060.com/Phila--Protesters-Demand-Money-for-Antiviolence-Pr/4667799 .
What do YOU think?