Local lawmakers feeling relief after the budget gets funded

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Governor Tom Wolf signed a $1.3 billion revenue package Wednesday after it was approved by the state legislature.

Wolf, in a statement before the private signing in his office, said the package includes sustainable, recurring revenue that makes significant progress toward reducing Pennsylvania’s structural deficit. Republican State Representative Sue Helm says compromise played a big part in this year’s negotiations.

“We worked with the governor,” said Helm, “And he worked with us this time, it was really good.”

Approval of the revenue package, the final piece of the new state budget, avoids another lengthy impasse. It passed the state House by a vote of 116-75 and the state Senate by a 28-22 vote.  State Representative Patty Kim said that no one wanted a repeat of last years budget battle. 

“A lot of school districts and help organizations were effected,” said Kim, “No one in the House or Senate, wanted that to happen again.”

The package borrows $200 million from a surplus in a state medical malpractice insurance fund, counts on $100 million from pending legislation to legalize internet gaming, and allows tax delinquents to pay back taxes without penalty to generate another $100 million.

It increases the tax on cigarettes from $1.60 to $2.60 per pack, imposes a 55-cents-per-ounce tax on roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco, and sets a 40 percent tax on the wholesale price of electronic cigarettes.  State Representative Stephen Bloom said that we still need to be more effective financial stewards going forward.

“We can’t keep putting the burden on taxpayers,” said Bloom, “We have to find non-tax revenue and lower our spending,”

The state sales tax will be extended to the download of digital videos, books, games, music, and applications.

State Senator Rob Teplitz says, although he didn’t agree with everything in the funding plan, this year’s efforts were different than 2015.

“You could generally feel a more productive tone,” said Teplitz, “It was a more positive tone.”

 

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