Taxes

Pennsylvania's Ugly Budget Fight Gets Personal And Regional

Sep 18, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The feel-good bipartisan spirit that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf tried to instill last year in Pennsylvania's Capitol is gone, stomped to bits in an increasingly ugly budget stalemate.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said he thinks fully legalizing medical and recreational marijuana could solve the state's growing budget problems.

hhm8 / Flickr

City leaders in McKeesport traced $1.4 million in unpaid taxes to a company that did business there over multiple years.

A tax collection audit firm discovered the loss, but declined to name the company responsible. In a statement Wednesday, Philadelphia-based eCollect Plus said the company is publicly traded and not local.

A partner at eCollect Plus, Michael Hill, said “a multitude” of other companies also owe unpaid taxes to McKeesport. It’s common for municipal tax revenues to go missing, usually due to inadvertent errors in tax reporting, according to Hill.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Nearly seven months after Pittsburgh City Council voted to create a fund for affordable housing and neighborhood rehabilitation, it’s still not clear where the money will come from.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The Republican majority leaders of Pennsylvania’s House and Senate say they’re determined to put together a budget without raising taxes.

That means making up this year’s $1.5 billion shortfall, plus accounting for a roughly $3 billion structural deficit.

To get it done, the final plan is likely to involve significant borrowing.

One option under consideration would involve using an asset as collateral to get a loan, which would be paid off over 25 years or so.

Zeevveez / Flickr

A contentious bill to prohibit municipalities from taxing or banning plastic bags has passed the legislature, and now faces a potential veto at the hands of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.

Several manufacturers of the plastic used for disposable shopping bags are based around Pennsylvania, and employ over a thousand people. The Republican sponsors of the bill say that’s the main reason they’re supporting it.

Jay LaPrete / AP

Time is running out for the millions of Pennsylvania eligible for a delinquent tax amnesty program being offered by the state.

The state legislature created the program as part of the 2016-17 budget with the expectation of collecting an additional $100 million in back taxes.  That’s on top of the roughly $600 million in back taxes collected each year by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.

Under the program, the state will waive the 5 percent penalty and half of the interest.

Kevin McCorry / WHYY

A telecom technician by trade, Schuylkill County homeowner Ron Boltz is not your typical suit-and-tie Harrisburg lobbyist.

Niven Sabherwal / 90.5 WESA

When attorney Joe Froetschel commutes to work on his bicycle, he thinks about how the city operations work and where the money comes from. As he rides through Oakland,  he notices hospitals like UPMC and University of Pittsburgh buildings that dot the neighborhood. He's also surrounded by churches and charities and the Carnegie museums.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Though Pennsylvania’s revenues are lagging to meet the $31.5 billion budget, Gov. Tom Wolf said seven months is plenty of time to make up the difference. 

The state Department of Revenue has taken in $262 million less than anticipated since July, a deficit of about 2.4 percent.

“If that (negative five-month trend) continues and the big months are also down 2 percent, that’s a real problem,” Wolf said. 

WITF

The city of Harrisburg's near-bankruptcy led to Pennsylvania's first and only local government takeover, the ousting of a seven-term mayor and his pending criminal trial - and aggressive, expensive parking enforcement in the state capit

If it's Friday in politics, there's the potential for a news dump.

This post was updated at 5:10 PM

Hillary and Bill Clinton paid $3.2 million in federal income tax last year, a rate of 34.2 percent. Their 2015 return was released today by the Clinton campaign, almost five months after they signed it for filing.

The Clintons overpaid the Treasury and got a refund of more than $1 million.

Mark Moz / Flickr

Rent abatement, housing renovations and new affordable housing construction projects could be on the agenda if City Council approves a tax increase worth an estimated $10 million.

S&P Report Shows Good And Bad News For PA Finances

Jul 22, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

After Pennsylvania went two days without a revenue plan last week, Standard and Poor’s Global Ratings put its credit on its “CreditWatch" list.

Inclusion on the list signifies a state in danger of an imminent credit downgrade.

The commonwealth made it off the list this week, after the budget was balanced.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh remains on a fairly solid financial footing, according to a new report from the city controller's office, adding about $16 million to its coffers in 2015.

But Controller Michael Lamb said obligatory spending -- such as pensions, employee benefits and long-term debt -- still accounts for almost half of the city's yearly budget.

“It’s hard to make ends meet and do the things you need to do as a city when 46 percent of your budget is taken right out on those three items,” Lamb said.

George Yost Coffin / Wikimedia Commons

As Pennsylvania’s government faces a budget deficit of well more than $1 billion in the next fiscal year, one legislator is teaming up with a Harrisburg think tank to call for changes to income tax rates.

According to state Sen. Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia) and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, the three proposals hashed out Monday would close the state’s “structural” budget deficit by shifting the income tax burden from low- and middle-income residents to the wealthiest Pennsylvanians.

Do High Taxes Play A Part In Keystone Exodus?

Feb 18, 2016
401 (K) / flickr

Last year, Pennsylvania lost one person to another state every 12.5 minutes as cited by the Commonwealth Foundation. According to a recent Gallup Poll state taxes play a contributing role in residents desire to leave the state they’re living in. However, can you blame taxes on the governor? We’ll ask Nathan Benefield, vice president of policy analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation.

PA Budget Scaffolding Is Set, But Swaying

Nov 11, 2015
Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

Legislative aides are beginning to hammer out the details of a state budget, now that top lawmakers and the governor have agreed on the general shape of the plan.  

The sprawling, tentative package includes a 1.25 percent hike in the state sales tax, a reduction in state retirement benefits for future hires and some kind of change to the state liquor stores.

The deal promises to be unwieldy.

United Way Expands Free Tax Prep Program

Jan 26, 2015

Free tax preparation services are now available for income-eligible taxpayers in eight southwestern Pennsylvania counties this tax season, thanks to the United Way of Allegheny County’s Money In Your Pocket Coalition.

Households earning up to $53,000 a year can get free, in-person assistance with 2014 tax returns from one of more than 300 IRS-certified volunteers. Taxpayers with $60,000 or less in annual income can take advantage of a free online tax preparation service.

Report: PA’s Taxes Among the Most Regressive

Jan 14, 2015

A new report finds Pennsylvania remains on a list of the “Terrible 10” — states with the most regressive tax policies.

The non-partisan Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy finds that the poorest residents pay nearly three times what the wealthy pay in taxes as a share of income. Middle-income earners pay twice as much as the richest residents.

State tax revenues for the first quarter of the fiscal year are up…slightly.

The Revenue Department reports that for the first three months of FY 2014-15, the state pulled in $6.6 billion— just $500,000 above expectations, or 0.007 percent. General fund collections in September totaled $2.6 billion, $11 million more than projected.  

Councilwoman Wants Inquiry Into Real Estate Deals

Aug 7, 2014

Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak is asking Mayor Bill Peduto to look into the sale of an apartment complex. She said how the sale happened could lead to a loss of tax revenue to the city.  

The Cork Factory Lofts in the Strip District were recently sold to GMH Capital Partners for an undisclosed sum. But instead of buying the converted lofts outright, GMH purchased the two companies that previously owned the converted lofts and associated properties. The sale included three buildings.

Pennsylvania tax collections last month fell short by about $108 million, or five and a half percent.

The report wasn’t unexpected, but still came as unwelcome news for state lawmakers facing a budget deficit of more than $1 billion. Less than a month remains to hammer out a spending plan for the next fiscal year.

Republicans, who control the General Assembly, still aren’t sure how they’ll bridge the gap.

Three months until the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year, Pennsylvania’s revenue collections are 0.5  percent short of estimates.

The Department of Revenue reports  through the first nine months of FY 13-14 it has collected  $20.5 billion — $96.3 million behind approximations — but spokeswoman Elizabeth Brassell said that number “disguises the fiscal reality.”

401(K) 2013 / Flickr

With less than a week until the healthcare enrollment deadline, and tax season underway, Judith Herron, a CPA with Markovitz-Dugan and Associates in Green Tree explains how the Affordable Care Act will impact filing.

How will the Affordable care Act impact individuals?

Policy and research groups from Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio have joined forces to urge their states’ governors to adopt a common severance tax rate for companies drilling for gas and oil in the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations.

A local organization is making tax season a little easier for residents.

United Way of Allegheny County (UWAC) is providing free tax preparation service to low-and-moderate income individuals, families, and seniors.

Individuals who make less than $20,000, and households with an income of less than $40,000 are eligible for the Money in Your Pocket Coalition (MYPC). They also have a self-assistance tool to help families that make a little more.

The United Way of Allegheny County is looking for more than 200 volunteers for this year’s Free Tax Preparation Campaign.

Last year, 149 volunteers helped prepare more than 5,800 tax returns for low-income families and individuals, getting $10 million in refunds.

Angela Reynolds, director of programs for financially struggling adults and families for the United, said no prior tax experience is necessary to volunteer.

PA's Tourism Businesses Want Change in Hotel Room Taxes

Aug 2, 2013

Pennsylvania’s tourism businesses want to see a change in the way counties tax hotel room stays and how they use the revenue.

The president of the Pennsylvania Association of Travel and Tourism told state lawmakers at a recent hearing the tax has gone too far afield from its original purpose to generate money to promote tourism.

Rob Fulton said some counties have been too quick to use the funds for other tangential expenses.

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