How Wolf’s tax plan would affect homeowners differently

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Gov. Tom Wolf names Auditor General Eugene DePasquale head of municipal pension task force

Gov. Tom Wolf has picked state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to head a task force on municipal pensions.

The municipal pension issue recently caused a clash between several Democratic mayors and Democratic state lawmakers.

In a letter to DePasquale, Wolf said he wants the task force to “make recommendations that address the unfunded accrued liability of Pennsylvania’s municipal pension plans and place those plans on a sound financial footing for the long term, while at the same time maintaining retirement security for municipal employees without imposing undue risk on them.”

Wolf offered specific ideas for the task force to consider:

Eliminate needless administrative expenses by consolidating municipal plans into the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System (PMRS) and prohibiting state assistance to municipal plans from being used for administrative expenses.

If any municipal plans are to remain outside of PMRS, professionalize investment decision-making by setting mandatory qualification standards for municipal pension fund investment managers.

Please also consider requiring municipalities with distressed pension plans to take reasonable steps to reduce costs and increase revenue dedicated to reducing unfunded pension liabilities. To reduce costs, municipalities with distressed plans might be required to refrain from providing benefit enhancements to existing or future employees as long as their plans remain in distressed status.  Municipalities could choose from a number of options for increasing revenue dedicated to reducing unfunded liabilities.  Those options include securitizing revenue streams from municipally owned water and sewer systems and issuing pension obligation bonds if it is financially prudent to do so.

DePasquale, a Democrat and former state representative from York County, has predicted that a Pennsylvania municipality will have a Detroit-like bankruptcy without a statewide fix for municipal pension costs.

Full news release and letter after the jump:

Continue reading “Gov. Tom Wolf names Auditor General Eugene DePasquale head of municipal pension task force” »

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What would and would not be covered by Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed sales tax expansion

Expanding the state sales and use tax is part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget.

Exemptions would remain for:

•grocery store food; most clothing and footwear; prescription drugs and orthopedic equipment; gasoline and motor fuels; physician and dental services; hospital services; tuition (college, vocational training and instruction); residential utilities, including land-line phone, electricity, fuel oil and natural gas; water and sewage services; trade-in value; liquor or malt beverages purchased from bars and restaurants; agricultural purchases by farmers; and most purchases by miners, manufacturers and processors, governmental units, purely public charities, mass transit agencies and common carriers.

Exemptions would be eliminated for:
•candy and gum; personal hygiene products; newspapers and magazines; non-prescription drugs; textbooks; higher education meal plans and fees other than tuition; catalogs and direct mail advertising; cable television; motion picture tickets; performing arts tickets (generally, school and nonprofit events are exempt); spectator sports tickets (generally, school and nonprofit sports events are exempt); admissions to museums, historical sites and similar institutions; amusement and recreation services; recreational vehicle parks and recreational camps; travel arrangement services; waste collection; dry cleaning and laundry services; personal care services; social assistance services; sightseeing and towing transportation; financial investment services; real estate agent and broker services; other professional services; employment services; home health care services; ambulatory health care services; nursing and residential care services; death care services; caskets and burial vaults; construction of memorials; flags; other personal services; airline catering; race horses; uniform commercial code filing fees; investment metal bullion and investment coins.

Personal use of the following services would be subject to the sales tax, but business-to-business purchases will remain exempt:
Legal services other than family and criminal law; accounting services; specialized design services; scientific research and development services; advertising services; administrative and support services; architectural, engineering and related services; services to buildings and dwellings; scientific, environmental and technical consulting services; information services; and custom programming, design and data processing.

Source: List provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue

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What’s covered by Pennsylvania’s personal income tax



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New website: Rep. Perry a ‘Dirty Air Villain’

U.S. Rep Scott Perry

U.S. Rep Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, in an official portrait.

Note: This post has been updated to include a statement by Rep. Scott Perry and some clarifications by a spokeswoman for the group.

Congressman Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, is considered a “Dirty Air Villain” by new website WhoVotesDirty.com.

Put together by NRDC Action Fund — a national group to promote legislation that “jump-starts the clean energy economy, reduces pollution, and sustains vibrant communities for all Americans” — tracks how members of Congress, including senators, have voted on legislation with the “greatest impact or potential to impact clean air and climate policy.”

Perry has a 100 percent negative rating across 19 tracked votes on the website.

That percentage ranking is based on how often a member voted “the wrong way” on climate and clean air legislation and amendments tracked by the website, said Melissa Harrison, the communications director for the NRDC Action Fund. There will be a varying number of votes for each member based on how many votes they made and how long they’ve been voting.
Continue reading “New website: Rep. Perry a ‘Dirty Air Villain’” »

Posted in Energy, National, Pat Toomey, Scott Perry, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate | Leave a comment

Americans for Prosperity sends mailers against Wolf’s budget

Americans for Prosperity – Pennsylvania sent mailers to people living in certain lawmakers’ districts, urging them to oppose Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal.

In a news release Tuesday, the group said it targeted the districts of 15 lawmakers, including three from York County: state Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township; state Rep. Kate Klunk, R-Hanover; and state Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township. The mailers say Wolf isn’t fixing the state’s $50 billion public pension deficit and that his budget would raise income taxes by 20 percent.

Wolf’s press secretary, Jeff Sheridan, called Americans for Prosperity a “right-wing fringe group” and said the mailers are misleading. He said the mailers ignore the property tax reduction the governor is proposing and the governor’s pension funding proposals.

Sheridan said it’s estimated Wolf’s plan will save $1.3 billion over five years and more than $10 billion over a longer time period. Sheridan said Wolf’s plan addresses the unfunded pension liability.

Jason High, Wagner’s chief of staff, said people are welcome to call Wagner’s office. But High said Wagner “has been pretty clear about his position on spending and taxes. …We do not have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem.”

 

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April Fools Day news release targets Sen. Wagner

This post, originally posted April 1, 2015, was updated April 2, 2015, to include comments from Keystone Progress:
According to Keystone Progress, children across Pennsylvania are big fans of state Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, for his stances on education funding.

Wagner was the target of ribbing by the progressive group when they announced the formation of Kids Against Education, “a statewide coalition of kids from across Pennsylvania … to support the radical education budget position of state legislators like Senator Scott Wagner.”

The news release had quotes from “spokeskid” Matilda Wormwood, lifted from Roald Dahl’s “Matilda,” and Kevin McCallister, who shares a name with the character of “Home Alone” movie fame. Continue reading “April Fools Day news release targets Sen. Wagner” »

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The numbers behind our tax analysis

You can check out the numbers here.

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Wolf’s severance tax proposal sets floor on price of natural gas

We did a story back in February looking at what needs to happen for Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed extraction tax to generate more than $1 billion a year.

In short, production needs to increase and prices need to rise.

In his proposed legislation, Wolf is trying to take out some of the uncertainty by setting a floor for the price of natural gas for tax purpose. Continue reading “Wolf’s severance tax proposal sets floor on price of natural gas” »

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Gov. Tom Wolf expects natural gas production to increase in Pennsylvania by this much

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