Op/Ed: It’s time to overhaul state’s tax code March 20, 2015
Gov. Wolf deserves credit for starting a conversation on taxing
By Kathi Cozzone, Chester County Commissioner
Most Pennsylvanians would agree that our tax code needs some work. I talk to many residents with long-standing complaints: senior citizens having trouble coping with rising school property taxes, small business owners paying the nation’s highest corporate net income (CNI) tax or middle class families who generally feel that the system is built to serve the super-rich at their expense. Gov. Tom Wolf deserves so much credit for starting a conversation about fundamentally improving our tax code with bold ideas that address these concerns like his plan to turbo-charge property tax relief while helping districts lower millage rates or his plan to cut the CNI tax in half while allowing another business tax – the capitol stock and franchise tax – to expire.
Most citizens of the commonwealth are trying to answer the same question, “How would these proposals affect me and my family?” In our area, much of the property tax relief will likely go to lower-wage workers who serve our communities and senior citizens on fixed incomes; many of whom could see their property taxes eliminated altogether. I think those are the right priorities. But that doesn’t mean that the rest of us have nothing to gain. As I mentioned above, our county’s vibrant business community will see significant tax relief. Everyone in Chester County, and the entire state, will benefit from increased school funding and tougher rules for increasing school taxes that will at the very least keep them under control.
Another benefit that many might be overlooking is the cut in the Philadelphia wage tax. I can easily tell by the lack of parking at the Exton train station at 8am, or the virtual parking lot that 202 North or the Schuylkill can become around the same time, that many suburban residents work in Philadelphia and pay that wage tax. The Wolf plan would cut the wage tax for non-city residents 14%. That means more money in the pockets of many Chester Countians to spend right here where they live.
The Wolf plan provides all this tax relief, closes the budget deficit left by his predecessor and makes needed investments in our schools and many other important state priorities, including funding for human services provided by the County. He pays for this with a tax on natural gas extraction that puts Pennsylvania on par with every other gas- or oil-producing state, and small increases in the sales and income taxes of less than a percent in each case (with some expanded application of the sales tax). Both of these increases are less than those advocated by many Republicans and Democrats in the previous legislative session’s tax shifting scheme. It is my hope that the Republicans who control both the State House and State Senate will resist the urge to play politics. We can’t afford blind opposition to the Governor’s ideas or a status quo budget. Let’s work together and accomplish great things for our Commonwealth.