HARRISBURG – Senator Ryan Aument (R-Landisville) today voted against a $1.3 billion legislative revenue package that is intended to fully fund the 2016-17 state budget, which became law on July 12, 2016, without Governor Wolf’s signature.
“After careful consideration, I simply could not support today’s effort to raise more money for government through imposing additional taxes,” said Sen. Aument. “I believe that there are other sources of revenue that would have been more appropriate to consider.”
Under the revenue package considered by the Senate, cigarette taxes were increased by $1 per pack, a new tobacco products tax was levied on smokeless tobacco, roll-you-own tobacco and electronic cigarettes, the state sales and use tax is now applied to digital downloads, the personal income tax will now be imposed on lottery winnings, and the rate of the bank shares tax was increased.
“These new taxes might help state government pay its bills, but they only further harm our Commonwealth’s already challenged economy and will disproportionately hurt Lancaster County’s agriculture industries and farmers,” said Sen. Aument.
Sen. Aument noted that one of the primary reasons that the new revenue was necessary was because spending increased by 4.7 percent over 2015-16 levels, largely due to mandated costs associated with public sector pensions, human services and corrections.
“For too many years lawmakers have lacked the political courage to tackle the difficult, but necessary reforms to finally address the cost-drivers in our budget that are demanding more and more taxpayer monies,” said Sen. Aument. “While today’s vote raises $1.3 billion, these new monies pale in comparison to what will be needed in the years to come without substantive changes to pensions, human services and how we manage our corrections system.”
As an example of uncontrolled mandated increases in spending, Sen. Aument cited the need for $345 million in new contributions to pay for teacher pensions and $140 million more for state employee pensions. The total state government contributions for public pensions now tops $5.8 billion each year.
Sen. Aument also expressed frustration with the process by which the new revenue was derived.
“Pennsylvania has both a spending and revenue problem, and we absolutely have to get better at managing both,” said Sen. Aument. “I believe that the best way to fund government is to have a strong economy, low unemployment and be a state that welcomes entrepreneurs, business and industry. We can naturally grow our way to prosperity by promoting good economic policies, which benefits everyone,” said the Senator.
Additionally, in the development of the new revenue plan, Sen. Aument pointed out that there was little effort to further identify waste, fraud and abuse in state government programs and services, which could have alleviated the necessity to impose as many additional taxes. “Lawmakers should not ask people to pay more until we make every effort to stop cheaters and reclaim the monies they have taken,” said Sen. Aument.
Finally, Sen. Aument suggested that the General Assembly take a serious look at various budget reform proposals that have been introduced, including the use of a biennial budget, a zero-based or performance based budget, and a default budget.
“The fact that the Governor allowed an annual spending plan to become law without the requisite revenue to fully fund it, which violates the state’s constitution, is just another prime example of why we desperately need to change how we budget,” said the Senator.
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