Philadelphia lawmakers urge return to Harrisburg to finalize state budget, offer solutions to fix recurring revenue gap

PHILADELPHIA, July 18 – Members of the Philadelphia Delegation in the state House of Representatives today urged Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, to call the House back to Harrisburg to wrap up the 2017-18 state budget.

"The main spending bill was passed on June 30, on a bipartisan basis, and it became law on July 10. So now we have to pay for that budget. And we need recurring, sustainable revenue to do it. Another year of mostly using gimmicks, what I refer to as 'smoke and mirrors,' will put us at risk of more credit downgrades, which just cost Pennsylvania taxpayers more. Unfortunately, Republican leaders shut down the House without finishing the job," said delegation chair Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Phila./Delaware.

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 have 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.

The state Senate is in session this week, but as of today, Turzai has not scheduled any House session days.