It is nearly October and Pennsylvania is still without a final budget. While there may be an agreement in the works, until a budget is passed and signed, counties, non-profits, schools, hospitals, and many other organizations will continue to struggle to make ends meet without funding.
Over a week ago, Governor Rendell held a press conference to announce his support of a modified version of the “three-caucus” budget proposal (http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2009/09/pennsylvania_house_speaker_kei.html). While details are still emerging, it is expected that the budget will include:
$27.9 billion in spending – this is $400 million less in spending than in the last fiscal year. Without federal stimulus dollars, the budget would be about $2 billion less than last year.
Increased business taxes and cigarette tax rates (and the expansion of the cigarette tax to cigarillos, but still not to cigars and smokeless tobacco—PA is the only state that doesn’t tax these items)
Extension of the sales tax to theater and concert tickets (but not sports)
Table games at casinos
Increased education spending of about $300 million
Leasing of state forest lands for gas drilling (but still no severance tax for extraction of gas—again, PA is the only state that does not have such a tax)
The deal is sounding rather tenuous at this point, so it is far from certain that passage of budget deal is imminent.
The Council has called for advocacy concerning the leasing of state lands and imposing a severance tax (http://pachurchesadvocacy.org/weblog/?p=1260). We would urge you to consider making calls to ask for cigars and smokeless tobacco to be taxed to bring in additional income, and to question why theater and concert tickets are to be taxed, and not sporting events.