State Reps. Demand Budget Deal

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Philadelphia’s state Representatives joined forces to urge House Speaker Mike Turzai to go back into session to finalize the state budget. Photo by Wendell Douglas

By Eldon Graham

Members of the Philadelphia Delegation came together in the Liberty View Ballroom on the second floor of the Independence Visitor Center to urge Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, to call the House back to Harrisburg to wrap up the 2017-18 state budget.

State Representatives include Reps. Maria Donatucci, Donna Bullock, Mike Driscoll, Joanna McClinton, Chris Rabb, Kevin Boyle, Mike O’Brien, Brian Sims and Jordan Harris, all of whom were there to voice their commitment to finalizing a budget deal.

The legislators outlined three major solutions to Pennsylvania’s revenue gap that should receive votes in the full House:

A severance tax on natural gas drilling companies: “Pennsylvania has already given away more than $2 billion in potential revenue by writing the natural gas law to favor the industry and shortchanging Pennsylvania residents. We simply want a severance tax comparable to the one every other natural gas-producing state in the nation has already put in place,” said Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Phila.

Closing corporate tax loopholes: “Without closing the so-called Delaware loophole here in Pennsylvania, we lose hundreds of millions in revenues each year by allowing large corporations to avoid state taxes using loopholes not available to small businesses or you and your family,” said Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-Phila./Montgomery.

Raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage: “Higher pay earned by workers means more revenues for the state – without the need for a tax increase. And it means less money spent in the state and communities for assistance programs,” said Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Phila./Delaware.

Rep. Brian Sims, D-Phila., said, “A major reason I and so many of us voted for the spending bill was the increases for education: $100 million more for basic education, $25 million more for special education, $25 million more for Pre-K Counts and $5 million more for Head Start. Now we need Republican leaders to bring back the House so we can make sure those education increases are paid for with sustainable revenue sources.”

Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., also cited education as a reason to finish the budget. Rabb said continued delay on the budget will affect Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities – Temple, Lincoln, Penn State and Pitt – since their state funding hasn’t been passed yet.

“Withholding funding would mean these institutions would receive between 5 to 7 percent in cuts within their budgets. This could lead to program cuts, higher tuition costs and preventing low-income students from being able to attend these colleges,” Rabb said.

With the state Senate in session this week, legislators are left wondering why they are back home and not in session at this time. As of today, Speaker Turzai has not scheduled any House session days.


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