Pennsylvania has the 15th-highest state and local tax burden in the country. The state took in $3.9 billion in May, a whopping $1.6 billion more than expected – and is forecasted to have a $3.16 billion revenue surplus this fiscal year.
There is no shortage of tax revenue for Harrisburg to spend, the state is taking a big cut of the earnings of Pennsylvanians. But the editorial board of the Scranton Times-Tribune thinks taxes on Pennsylvania families and businesses should be higher, not lower.
After Republican Gubernatorial candidate, and former Congressman, Lou Barletta committed to Pennsylvanians that he will not raise their taxes if elected, the Times-Tribune published an editorial misleading their readers about the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, and clamoring for tax hikes.
The pledge is a written commitment made to voters that states a candidate or officeholder will oppose any net tax hike. Contrary to the paper’s claim that the pledge would limit Barletta’s ability to pursue tax reform, the pledge allows for any tax reform that is revenue-neutral. The pledge is a guardrail that allows lawmakers to pursue tax reform knowing a net tax increase is off the table. Anyone can read the pledge at ATR.org. The Scranton Times chose not to look up the facts.
The Scranton Times is not the first to make inaccurate claims that the pledge prevents tax reform compromises where a change increasing revenues is offset with a corresponding reduction in tax burden elsewhere.
Among numerous examples of revenue-neutral tax deals, just this past legislative session in Florida, the legislature approved a tax reform package that added an online sales tax collection requirement for businesses, which was fully offset by a reduction in the commercial rent tax. This compromise complied with the Taxpayer Protection Pledge commitment that was made by Governor DeSantis and dozens of Pledge Signing state legislators.
On top of false claims about the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, the paper sells out the taxpayers of their own state.
The editorial board claims local property tax hikes can only be mitigated by the state government paying off localities to limit the increases. Surely the local governments and citizens approving property tax increases have some say? Are Pennsylvania mayors unable to reform their governments to cost citizens less?
Furthermore, they ignore great reforms like Truth in Taxation, and strong caps on property tax increases, that have proven effective in limiting property tax growth in other states.
On top of whiffing on property taxes, the editorial board wants Harrisburg to raise Pennsylvania’s gas tax, again. The state gas tax is third-highest in the U.S. behind only California, and Illinois. Increasing this regressive tax on going to work, yet again, would be disastrous. The Times’ editorial board should question what has been happening with all that extra gas tax money if they truly believe roads are “stressed.”
With billions of dollars in excess revenue, and model legislation to follow from states across the U.S., any Pennsylvania elected official should be able sign the Taxpayer Protection and also keep the roads together, and pursue property tax reform, without increasing the overall tax burden.