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

by Ian Karbal, The star of Pennsylvania’s capital
May 7, 2024

Some Democrats in the Pennsylvania Senate are expressing disgust after a Republican proposal to cut taxes totaling about $3 billion a year was introduced and passed within 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 Minority Chairman on Appropriations Senator Vincent Hughes (D-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.

Erika Clayton-Wrightpress spokesman Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) saw no problem with this 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 his criticism Governor Josh Shapiro budget proposal, GOP lawmakers expressed particular dissatisfaction with proposed future budget withdrawals from the state’s rainy day fund.

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 will keep these cuts very focused on ordinary, working people in Pennsylvania. But the process is important. This can’t be something that can just be done in 24 hours.

Two corrections submitted by Senator Art Haywood (D-Montgomery) aimed at cutting taxes specifically for lower-income Pennsylvanians were rejected.

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 increase education funding. In February, a Commonwealth Court judge ruled that Pennsylvania’s school system was unconstitutionally underfunded. Shapiro’s proposed budget includes an increase 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.”

The star of Pennsylvania’s capital is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. The Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. If you have any questions, please contact editor Kim Lyons: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow the Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook AND Twitter.

Get in Touch


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Latest Posts