Wolf’s $29.9 billion budget proposes broad-based Pa. tax hikes

     Gov. Tom Wolf delivers his budget address for the 2015-16 fiscal year to a joint session of the Pennsylvania House and Senate Tuesday in Harrisburg. Behind him are the Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, left, and Lt. Gov. Michael Stack, is at right. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

    Gov. Tom Wolf delivers his budget address for the 2015-16 fiscal year to a joint session of the Pennsylvania House and Senate Tuesday in Harrisburg. Behind him are the Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, left, and Lt. Gov. Michael Stack, is at right. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

    Gov. Tom Wolf is calling for a bevy of tax increases in an effort to generate additional funding for education, property tax relief, and economic development programs in what his administration is calling a $29.9 billion Pennsylvania budget proposal.

     

    Wolf is proposing a 20 percent hike in the personal income tax, with a wider exemption for lower-income families. He’s calling for a 10 percent bump in the state sales tax that keeps exemptions on clothes, food, and prescriptions, but strikes exemptions on items such as candy and recreation. Those changes would pay for school property tax relief for poorer, highly taxed areas and about a quarter-million seniors, the administration says.

    Those tax changes come in addition to a proposed 5 percent severance tax on natural gas drillers and a corporate net income tax cut in half over two years, while implementing changes to stop businesses from escaping state taxes. The plan would also increase state taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

    “Yes, our plan in full does raise broad-based taxes,” said Budget Secretary Randy Albright on Tuesday. “We do it within a range that’s already been advocated by members on both sides of the aisle.”

    Albright said the plan amounts to $4.6 billion in new taxes, but comes to $2.5 billion when accounting for tax relief.

    Wolf is proposing a $1 billion boost in education funding within a year as he seeks to restore cuts to higher education over two years. He is calling for more oversight of charter and cyber-charter schools. His plan would replenish programs for business financing and green energy investments.

    The budget calls for additional state troopers, building on recent increases to bring the complement to its highest level in a decade.

    The governor also wants to modernize the state’s wine and spirits stores. Greater profits there will help pay the debt service on a bond, said Wolf who wants to borrow $3 billion to help shore up the state’s public pension funds.

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