Wolf seeks billions in higher taxes for schools, tax revamp

Tom Wolf

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WYTV) – Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf wants to raise Pennsylvania’s sales tax for the first time in nearly 50 years.

The governor presented his first budget on Tuesday, laying out a plan to increase state spending to $33.7 billion, which is nearly $5 billion more than last year. He is asking lawmakers to approve higher taxes and new taxes to support public education and cut property taxes.

“I was surprised at how many things he increased the tax levels on,” State Rep. Tedd Nesbit, R-Mercer/Butler, said.

He wants to raise the cigarette tax $1 per pack, increase income taxes roughly $200 per person and, as promised, he also wants a severance tax on Marcellus shale gas drillers.

“Our budget should be as ambitious as Pennsylvania has been for the past 300 years. Today, I laid out my plan and I am going to fight for it,” Wolf said.

He also wants to raise the sales tax 10 percent. And Pennsylvanians also would start paying taxes on candy, baby diapers, cable TV and even flags.

“One positive was that  did not see a sales tax increase on clothing. That would be critical for our area. We have a big outlet mall. A big increase would have been devastating for our area,” Nesbut said.

Gov. Wolf is trying to fund public education at all levels. He wants to increase the state’s share to 50 percent. Right now it is 37 percent, which is far below the national average.

The state contributing more to schools means property owners should pay less. The governor promises a 50 percent cut for average homeowners, that for most residents should offset the increased taxes on sales and income.

“But if you don’t agree with my ideas, here is my request. Please come up with your own ideas. It is not good enough just to say and continue with the same old, same old. It is our responsibility to the people of Pennsylvania,” Wolf said.

He also wants state universities and colleges to freeze tuition for one year, and wants to raise the state minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

If Gov. Tom Wolf’s tax hike and relief plan passes the Legislature, Pennsylvanians would feel the effect in different ways:

  • The typical income tax bill would go up about $200 under a plan to raise the flat tax to 3.7 percent, from 3.07 percent. A Pennsylvanian with the state’s median taxable income for 2012, the latest available figure from the Revenue Department, would pay $905 under the current rate and $1,091 under Wolf’s plan.
  • The sales tax would rise to 6.6 percent from 6 percent. And some exemptions would be lost, such as those for candy and gum, newspapers, magazines, nonprescription drugs, caskets, flags, textbooks and cable TV service.
  • Most homeowners would qualify for large reductions in their school property taxes. Details remain sketchy, but the administration calculates Wolf’s proposals would reduce homeowners’ school property tax bill by more than 50 percent, with an average homeowner seeing a $1,000 reduction.
  • Renters earning $50,000 or less would qualify for $500 rebates under a state property tax and renter relief program and 270,000 senior households will pay no school property taxes.
  • A pack of cigarettes would cost an extra $1. Wolf proposes raising the “sin tax” to $2.60, from $1.60.

A state budget has to be agreed on by June 30.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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