BUDGET, BUDGET, WHO’S GOT THE BUDGET?
This week the House returns to Harrisburg to continue its efforts to finalize a revenue budget (Fiscal Code). Right now, there are several options being considered. First is the Senate option which generated controversy because of its tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production and other tax increases. This was a non-starter for the House Republican leadership. Two other major options being considered this week are:
THE TAXPAYERS’ BUDGET
Crafted by conservative Republican House members and released September 5, it does not raise taxes. Instead, it taps into various special fund reserves. This plan envisions $2.44 billion in revenue. Out of specified 55 funds, a number directly involve agriculture and rural PA.
- Agricultural Conservation Easement Fund $27 million
- Conservation Districts Fund $3.33 million
- Racing Fund $27 million
- State College Experimental Farm Fund $24,000
- Volunteer Companies Loan Fund $25 million
- Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Fund $100 million
Quick to react were DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell and PDA Secretary Russell Redding who said dedicated funds are there to meet specific needs and should not be using as one-time vehicles to balance the State Budget.
Working on the Taxpayers’ Budget were Reps. Dan Moul (R-Adams), Keith Gillespie (R-York), Dawn Keefer (R-York/Cumberland), Seth Grove (R-York), Will Tallman, (R-Adams/Cumberland), Cris Dush (R-Jefferson/Indiana), Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon), Dave Zimmerman (R-Lancaster), Joe Emrick (R-Northampton), Kate Klunk (R-York), Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh/Berks), Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill/Dauphin), Paul Schemel (R-Franklin) Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland) and Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland).
THE DiGIROLAMO BUDGET
Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) presented an alternative budget for consideration on September 7. His proposal would:
- Tax Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling 3% ($400 million)
- Increase the rate of the Personal Income Tax (PIT) from the current 3.07% to 3.32% generating one billion dollars
- $300 million in estimated gaming revenue (expansion to other cities)
- $50-70 million from “alternatives to liquor privatization”
- $44.3 million from expanding the reach of the Sales Tax to online marketplaces and booking agents
- $400-500 million from “fund transfers”.
There are other budget options too. Among them are House Bill 453 (Ryan-R-Lebanon) which addresses numerous budget areas such as how Tobacco Settlement money will be spent (tobacco cessation programs, etc.) and authorizes the Philadelphia Parking Authority to impose a one-percent tax on ride-sharing networks such as Uber, etc.. A Democratic alternative to Republicans’ State Budget ideas comes from Rep. Curtis Thomas (D-Phila.). House Bill 542 also covers a wide span of State Budget areas. Both of these bills were referred to the House Rules Committee September 8.
Adding his perspective, PA Auditor General Eugene DePasquale argued for legalization of recreational use of marijuana which he says would bring in $200-300 million per year. (Opinion editorial in Philly.com on September 7)
FALL SESSION DAYS
Month Senate House
September 18,19,20 11,12,13,25,26,27
October 16,17,18,23,24,25 2,3,4,16,17,18,23,24,25
November 13,14,15 13,14,15,20,21,22
December 11,12,13,18,19,20 4,5,6,11,12,13,18,19,20
On September 7, U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-15) announced that he is not seeking re-election in 2018. That brings to three the number of PA Members of Congress opting not to run. Rep. Tom Marino (R-10) was tapped by the White House to serve as the Nation’s Drug Czar. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-11) is not running for re-election as he is seeking the Republican nomination to oppose Democratic Senator Robert Casey. A House member, Justin Simmons (R-Lehigh/Montgomery/Northampton) is seeking the GOP nomination to succeed Dent as is fellow House member Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh).
REST IN PEACE… On September 8, Rep. Dan McNeil (D-Lehigh) passed away due to natural causes. He was elected in 2012 and served on the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee. Earlier, on September 1, former Rep. Bud George (D-Clearfield) died. He served the citizens of his district in the General Assembly from 1974-2012.
UPCOMING…a program on Farmland Leasing and Land Opportunities will take place September 22 at the Chester County Economic Development Center. Details: PA FarmLink 717-705-2121, www.pafarmlink.org