Many aren’t buying Wolf’s new sales tax plans

    Gov. Tom Wolf intends to borrow from Pennsylvania's Tobacco Settlement Fund to balance the books. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

    Gov. Tom Wolf intends to borrow from Pennsylvania's Tobacco Settlement Fund to balance the books. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

    Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s ambitious $30 billion budget proposal has certainly earned praise since its dizzying details were released Tuesday morning.

    Those in the public education world were particularly encouraged.

    Other parts of Wolf’s plans, though, are already prompting outrage, including those who would be affected by the first-term Democrat’s desire to expand the sales tax to dozens of goods and services that are now exempt.

    People like Han Lee, who’s owned Expert Cleaners in Center City Philadelphia for two decades.

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    From his corner shop on Third Street, Lee said customers already are bringing him fewer items than in the past. Who knows what a 6.6 percent sales tax would do.

    “It’s part of life. It’s clothing, but it can affect the business I think,” said Lee.

    Paula Knudson with the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association said a sales tax on newspapers and magazines would affect free speech.

    “We firmly believe that ideas should not be taxed,” said Knudson.

    While Kathleen Ryan with the Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association is worried about the impact on families if coffins are taxed.

    “It raises the price for the overall funeral for a family that’s already incurring a major expense into the thousands of dollars,” she said.

    Wolf is also notably calling for charges on legal work, amusement parks, candy and cable television.

    That’s just fine with Michael Wood, research director at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

    “People pay all sorts of fees when you buy tickets online. Having a sales tax on that isn’t going to make tickets any cheaper,” he said. “But at the same time, people are going to spend money on concerts and going to the movies anyway.”

    “It seems kind of silly that some of these services haven’t been taxed.”

    The sales tax expansion is part of Wolf’s proposal to raise the statewide sales tax from 6 to 6.6 percent.

    If passed, it’s hoped the additional sales tax revenue would help boost state education funding, cut the corporate tax rate, decrease local property taxes and, in Philadelphia, continue lowering the wage tax.

    The Republican-controlled Legislature must adopt a budget by June 30.

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