HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Governor Tom Wolf is promising something Pennsylvania homeowners have wanted for decades: property tax relief.
So why is it causing such consternation among conservatives?
“Governor Wolf is saying to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania, ‘you send me a dollar in new taxes and I’ll give you fifty cents in so-called tax relief,’ ” Representative Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland) said as he held a dollar bill in one hand and two quarters in the other.
Wolf wants to increase sales (from 6% to 6.6%) and income (from 3.07% to 3.7%) taxes in exchange for the property tax relief. The Commonwealth Foundation says it’s crunched the number and it’ll cost an average family of four $1,400 more under Wolf’s plan than it currently pays.
“He (Wolf) campaigned on giving middle class families tax breaks,” said Matt Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation. “This is going to hit those very families real hard in their pocket books.”
The governor’s team calls CF’s numbers wildly inflated and Wolf insists those making $100,000 or less would pay less in overall taxes under his proposal.
“I’m moving to a place where over 270,000 homeowners are gonna have no property tax at all for the purpose of funding education,” Wolf said Monday morning. “I’m not sure what’s not to like about that?”
But chiropractor Micah Dunn of Hummelstown said he’s terrified of the new tax load he’d be shouldering under Wolf’s budget. Dunn spoke at the CF press conference and said that he has a fledgling business and that he and wife already struggle with tough decisions for their three boys.
“Whether your kid can go to tee ball or even preschool,” Dunn said choking back tears. “We’ve had to make those decisions before, this (tax increase) hits pretty hard.”
Critics call Wolf’s budget a tax-and-spend shell game and say he’s not eliminating property taxes but merely reducing them. They worry that with no controls on school spending, property taxes would creep right back up in a few years when the current money runs out.
“He’s gonna use only part of that money for relief of property tax, just like we heard during the casino scheme,” said Representative Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny). “He’s gonna spend the rest of that money.”
But Wolf says funding schools primarily with property taxes is unfair, and that taxpayers have wanted change for decades and he’s offering it.
He mostly dismisses the conservative critics.
“I know there’s posturing that has to take place in politics around this time, and I understand that, but it seems to me the arguments on the other side are kind of weak,” he said.
The Wolf team also wonders why conservatives have complained for years about the Corporate Net Income Tax and now that Wolf supports reducing it, they’re still complaining.