Too much and not enough, says Pa. GOP of Wolf tax plan

     Lebanon County residents L.J. Brouillette, 10, and Samantha Brouillette, 8, hold signs as Pennsylvania Rep. Fred Keller, R-Union, speaks against the proposed sales and income tax increases in the Wolf budget plan. (Mary Wilson/WHYY)

    Lebanon County residents L.J. Brouillette, 10, and Samantha Brouillette, 8, hold signs as Pennsylvania Rep. Fred Keller, R-Union, speaks against the proposed sales and income tax increases in the Wolf budget plan. (Mary Wilson/WHYY)

    Taxes loomed large during the first day of Pennsylvania legislative hearings on Governor Tom Wolf’s budget proposal.

    Wolf wants to dole out property tax relief – a move supported among Republicans, who control both chambers of the state Legislature. But the GOP is voicing opposition to that and another major part of the plan: higher sales and income taxes.

    “I don’t believe that the plan was well thought out,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Adolph, R-Delaware. “I think it was to get everybody’s attention – which it did – and I think an awful lot of work has to go into this.”

    Many Republicans are saying that Wolf’s property tax relief plan, which borrows from GOP-backed proposals, doesn’t go far enough. They want to see school property taxes completely erased from the state’s tax code.

    “Why was the decision made to stay in the gray area of reduction?” said Rep. Gary Day, R-Lehigh. “Why not go and eliminate school property taxes?”

    Democrats, citing a 2013 study by the Independent Fiscal Office, have said such a move would cost much more than GOP lawmakers suggest.

    Eileen McNulty, acting secretary of the Department of Revenue, said property tax reduction – instead of elimination – would allow the state to do other things that cost money, such as reducing business taxes, increasing education funding, and closing a large deficit.

    “We’d love to eliminate property taxes if that were possible,” said McNulty, “but you can’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.”

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