A surprise vote on a $3 billion tax cut kicks off budget negotiations in Harrisburg with a bang

Some Democrats in the Pennsylvania Senate express disgust after Republicans unveiled tax cuts totaling about $3 billion a year, and passed in about 24 hours. The bill passed the Senate with a 36-14 vote.

The bill will reduce the personal income tax rate from 3.07% to 2.8% and abolish the electricity tax. Is estimated the tax cuts would reduce revenues by about $3 billion a year.

Republicans were able to act so quickly – despite provisions requiring bills to be read three times before adoption – thanks to a procedural maneuver. The tax cuts were introduced Monday at a Senate Rules Committee meeting in the form of an amendment to a bill that was originally intended to create a tax credit for paramedics. This act has already been read twice.

“The bill goes through the system in how many 24 hours?” Senate Appropriations Chairman Sen. Vincent Hughes (R-Philadelphia) said in an interview. “This has a huge impact on the state budget. “It needs to be part of the overall budget negotiations, given that we have a court order that sets funding for our public education system.”

The bill was passed by the Hughes committee on party lines on Tuesday before it went to the floor.

Erica Clayton-Wright, spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), sees no problem with the process.

“They had almost 24 to 48 hours to review the bill. How much time did they need,” Clayton-Wright told the Capital-Star. “These are Pennsylvania’s money people. So if our intention is for the money to go back to the people who gave it to us, it really shouldn’t take long to check it.”

Senator Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Indiana) said at a press conference Tuesday that the state’s rainy day fund is proof that the state can absorb the tax cuts.

“I’m tired of hearing that we need to use this money to invest in other things,” Pittman said. “If you want to use some of that rainy day fund for investment, let’s invest in taxpayers.”

In their criticism of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget proposal, GOP lawmakers expressed particular dissatisfaction with proposed future budget withdrawals from the state’s rainy day fund.

Budget Secretary Monson defends Shapiro’s plan to spend some of Pennsylvania’s surplus

While eight Democrats voted in favor of the bill along with every Republican, Hughes noted that remaining Democrats in the Senate are not necessarily opposed to the tax cuts, but want time to consider them as a broader part of budget negotiations.

“There is no intention to rule out tax cuts,” Hughes said. “Senate Democrat priorities would make these cuts very focused on ordinary, working people in Pennsylvania. But the process is critical. This can’t be something that can just be done in 24 hours.

Two amendments proposed by Sen. Art Haywood (D-Montgomery) to cut taxes specifically for lower-income Pennsylvanians were defeated.

Hughes and other Democrats opposing the bill on the ballot noted that the tax cut proposal would be presented while the Legislature has a mandate to boost education funding. In February, a Commonwealth Court judge ruled that Pennsylvania’s school system was unconstitutionally underfunded. Shapiro’s proposed budget includes an boost in education funding of more than $1 billion.

The tax cut bill is unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. The opening salvo in budget negotiations is more likely.

“If you remember the budget speech, the governor said, ‘Well, what’s your plan?’ Ward said at Tuesday’s news conference. – Well, that’s our plan. Our plan is to give money back to Pennsylvania families and businesses that have paid taxes.”

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