Nearing the 100-day mark in a budget impasse and coming on the heels of the veto of a stopgap budget measure, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is facing harsh criticism for his continued support of a budget proposal that would raise taxes by $5 billion statewide.
The Erie-based Manufacturer & Business Association (MBA) has come out strongly against Wolf's budget plan, which in addition to large tax increases would see a marked increase in state spending.
“For starters, it would be horrendous,” Angela Zaydon, government relations representative for the MBA recently told Pennsylvania Business Daily. “The consumer spending, we believe, is also going to go down, which also then will affect businesses -- especially retailers, but all businesses.”
Wolf’s plan, while reducing property taxes on middle-income families, relies on broad-based tax increases. This impact on consumer spending is coupled with increased taxes on businesses, which the MBA projects may lead to large-scale layoffs across the commonwealth.
Zaydon said rhetoric supporting Wolf's budget is misleading as well.
“It is being touted as more money for education," Zaydon said. "The problem with that statement is we don’t think it is going toward what most people believe it is.
"When you say education, they think pupils, school buildings, school books, things of that nature," Zaydon said. "When you actually break it down, much of it is going to pay pensions, teacher salaries, union dues, things of that nature. While it is under the education auspice, it is really not what people think of education.”
Also lost in the issue is the fact that with an increased tax base and spending, the pinch will be felt somewhere, Zaydon said.
“Government needs to learn to live within their means as well," Zaydon said. "It is not free money. It is taxpayer money. It is business money. It is manufacturing money. It is not theirs just to spend."
Another issue for the MBA is Wolf's proposed natural-gas drilling tax, or severance tax, which the association has said is an arbitrary measure that is only being proposed because of the commercial value of natural gas and its importance to the commonwealth’s economy.
“If tomorrow, let’s just say cosmetology was really big, and they were coming in and hairdressers were going up all over the place and it was a great booming business -- should we tax it just because they are doing good?” Zaydon said. “It just doesn’t make any sense if we just single out one thing. Tomorrow, it could be auto dealers.”
The MBA is advocating for the need to make the right decision and not the most convenient one. Despite the specter of a continued budget impasse, Zaydon said a rushed solution is a bad idea.
"What we don’t want to see is something done in haste, where they say, ‘Oh my God, we are three of four months into this budget debacle, we should do something!’ and that something is the wrong thing," Zaydon said.