Last updated: February 05. 2014 9:53AM - 2188 Views
By Bill O’Boyle boboyle@civitasmedia.com

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WILKES-BARRE — Local Democratic state legislators criticized Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed $29.4 billion fiscal plan and labeled it “an election year budget.”

The GOP-controlled House and Senate will begin budget hearings next week. By law, the legislature must complete a budget by June 30.

State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski said Corbett is “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” adding millions to education, while taking away from other areas.

“The shell game has been officially announced,” Pashinski said. “Still no extraction tax on gas, no discussion of closing loopholes and refusal to expand Medicaid which would create 35,000 to 40,000 jobs. The governor makes it appear like things are going well, that things are great — and they are not.”

Pashinski said Corbett has given more than $2 billion in tax breaks to corporations.

“But did we get jobs? No. And we’re the Saudi Arabia in gas production,” he said.

Job creation issue

State Sen. John Yudichak and others said the state ranks a dismal 48th in the nation in job creation and Corbett’s proposed 2014-15 budget ignored initiatives to improve that ranking.

“This budget again ignores initiatives that would create jobs and put struggling local families back to work,” he said.

Yudichak said Corbett’s cuts to K-12 education over the last three years and higher education have significantly stunted job growth and put the state’s education systems at a crossroads.

“This proposed budget continues to mask bigger problems created by the debilitating cuts in the last three budgets and punts millions of dollars in budgetary obligations to future, non-gubernatorial-election-year budgets,” he said.

Corbett’s budget, Yudichak said, also misses another opportunity to ensure that natural-gas drilling companies are paying their fair share by enacting a reasonable severance tax on the Marcellus Shale industry. Yudichak said he has offered a proposal that would have generated nearly $875 million through this year.

Property tax reform

State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, said he was disappointed the governor did not join with him and many others in a meaningful effort to enact real property tax reform.

“Pennsylvania homeowners, specifically those in the northeast, are struggling under our archaic property tax system,” Mullery said. “Our friends and neighbors are at risk of losing their homes. Leadership from the governor is needed and that need is immediate.”

The governor’s proposal would fail to restore deep cuts he made to public education, leave Pennsylvania trailing in economic development and put the commonwealth on shaky fiscal ground, said Rep. Phyllis Mundy, D-Kingston.

“Three years after cutting public education by $1 billion, which resulted in the loss of 20,000 education jobs, the governor is offering schools an additional $340 million, including $240 million though a new unproven block grant program,” Mundy said. “It’s too little and too late to undo the negative impact of his cuts to education.”

Mundy noted Pennsylvania cut business taxes by $1.2 billion during Corbett’s first three years in office while leaving numerous revenue sources on the table.

Mundy said:

• A 5 percent severance tax on natural gas drillers would generate $334 million.

• Closing the Delaware Loophole by enacting combined reporting would generate $165 million.

• Capping the sales tax vendor discount at $250 a month would generate $44 million.

• Rolling back the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax rate to 2.89 percent for 2014 would generate $866 million.

“Sadly, the governor’s giveaways to big businesses have done very little to help average Pennsylvanians,” Mundy said. “This is an election-year budget proposal. It asks us to just get Gov. Corbett past this year’s election challenge. Future governors will deal with the fallout.”

Sources questioned

State Rep. Mike Carroll said he’s concerned the governor’s support of additional education funding relies on questionable sources, including transfers, and dubious sources that have not been clearly identified.

He said he was also disappointed with the absence of a plan to solve the state’s public employee pension crisis.

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