Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Gov. Wolf Fears Property Tax Discord Has Derailed Tentative Budget Framework

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Gov. Wolf Fears Property Tax Discord Has Derailed Tentative Budget Framework

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG - Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican leaders acknowledged Monday that they have not reached agreement on how the state should lower local property taxes under a framework intended to end Pennsylvania's five-monthlong budget impasse.

They differed on another point, as well: Whether the property tax disagreement has derailed the entirety of the budget talks.

Speaking Monday at a luncheon near the Capitol, Mr. Wolf said the framework appears to be in "deep peril." He cited votes Republicans prepared or held on proposals that conflict with the framework, and said GOP leaders had told him they could not muster the votes "to deliver on property tax relief."

"In other words, the framework was not going to become a budget," Mr. Wolf said. "I deeply regret this. We had within our grasp a budget framework that would have been transformational for Pennsylvania."

Not long after the governor's remarks, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, told reporters that he does not have the votes to distribute property-tax relief according to a formula supported by Mr. Wolf, which Mr. Corman said would deliver "a disproportionate share of the property tax money to Philadelphia."

Under the framework, money for the reductions would come from raising the statewide sales tax from 6 percent to 7.25 percent. (Allegheny County has an additional 1 percent sales tax.)

With the budget already long past overdue, Mr. Corman said he concluded that the issue of property-tax reductions should be set aside. He said that when he told Mr. Wolf this, the governor did not express disagreement.

"I think we're close," Mr. Corman said. "But that's me. If he thinks it's in peril, I can't speak to that. But we're trying our best."

On Monday night, the Senate took up a proposal designed to eliminate school district property taxes by raising the sales and personal income taxes, a plan Mr. Wolf cited as one that he opposed. Members tied 24-24 on a preliminary vote on the proposal, and Lt. Gov. Mike Stack broke the tie by voting no.

Steve Miskin, a spokesman for House Republicans, said the tone of Mr. Wolf's remarks at the lunchtime event was "hugely perplexing. …

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