Pennsylvania lawmakers created the Independent Fiscal Office five years ago to provide number-crunching with no spin, but it isn’t getting the last word in the state budget debate.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has vigorously disputed the IFO finding that the governor’s spending plan would stick even the poorest Pennsylvanians with a tax increase.
Republicans already opposed to the governor’s myriad tax proposals were vindicated by the study, while Democrats parsed the report’s various findings and suggested its agreements with the administration are more significant than its disagreements.
“Their conclusion really was that the tax package that Wolf has proposed would represent a more progressive tax system. In other words, lower-income taxpayers would not shoulder as heavy a burden as higher-income tax payers,” said Miriam Fox, Democrats’ executive director of the House Appropriations Committee.
“Every study is debatable,” she added about the IFO report. “There should always be discussion and, yes, they’re helpful in adding their voice to that discussion.”
Mike Stoll, spokesman for the Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee, said he trusts the IFO.
“You look at the criticism that the administration’s suggested on some of these reports — it is much more politically motivated,” Stoll said.
Wolf staffers say they’re not picking a political fight. They point to specific problems they have with some of the IFO’s assumptions — including the estimated impact of a tax on natural gas drillers and the money that would come from closing a corporate tax loophole.
This is not the first time the governor’s office has differed from the IFO. The Wolf administration has pegged the state’s deficit at $2.3 billion. The IFO, counting leftover funds from past budget years, has said the gap is actually $1.6 billion.