HARRISBURG – Lancaster County Senators Ryan P. Aument (R-36) and Scott Martin (R-13) voted against a $2.2 billion revenue package today that would increase the tax burden on local families.
The Senate narrowly passed legislation amending the state’s Tax Code that would reinstate the Gross Receipts Tax on natural gas customers and increase taxes on other utility bills, including phone service and electricity. The bill also included a new natural gas extraction tax and additional taxes on online purchases and fireworks. Additional revenue is also expected from expanded gambling and additional borrowing.
“We need to create an environment in Pennsylvania that encourages families and businesses to relocate here, stay here and prosper here. Creating new taxes on consumers and businesses sends the wrong message and takes us further away from that goal,” Aument said. “We should be exploring new ways to encourage economic growth, entrepreneurship and new job opportunities for state residents, not finding ways to take more money out of the wallets of hardworking state residents.”
“The package that was approved today asks almost all Pennsylvania households to contribute even more money to fund state government, but it is especially bad for families who rely on natural gas to heat their homes and cook their meals,” Martin said. “Virtually every state resident will suffer higher utility bills as a result of this plan. I have deep reservations about balancing the state budget in a way that forces families to completely reconfigure their household budgets just to meet Harrisburg’s spending demands.”
Although the Lancaster County lawmakers voted against the Tax Code bill and other measures dealing with changes to the Administrative Code and the Fiscal Code, they supported passage of two bills to amend the state’s School Code and Human Services Code.
The School Code amendments included a number of provisions Aument has supported previously, including a measure allowing teachers to be furloughed for economic reasons based on performance, rather than seniority. The bill also delays the use of Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement and includes measures to ensure transparency of school district budgets.
“Our schools operate best when we have the very best and brightest teachers in the classroom. The amendments to the School Code ensure our schools continue to employ the best teachers our state has to offer, not simply the teachers who have been around the longest,” Aument said. “Every dollar we invest in the education of our children is important. Today we are one step closer to helping these dollars be put to the best possible use for our students.”
One of the amendments to the Human Services Code would create a pilot program to improve Pennsylvania’s Medicaid system by ensuring coordinated care by utilizing evidence-based medicine in healthcare decision making to lower the costly waste of misdiagnosis and unnecessary surgeries and treatments. The provision mirrors legislation Martin introduced earlier this year. It was estimated that, if implemented statewide, the plan has the potential to save Pennsylvania $4 billion or more in annual Medicaid costs.
All five bills were approved by the Senate and sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. Martin added that many of the problems associated with the state budget could have been avoided if lawmakers hadn’t been asked to cast a vote on state spending before knowing where the revenues would come from.
“All of these serious concerns regarding the revenue package are another reminder that we need to approach the budget process differently in the future. We should always determine how much we have available to spend before we decide how much we are going to spend – not the other way around,” Martin said. “As negotiations continue with the House of Representatives, I remain hopeful that we can find a better way to meet the core functions of government without creating new tax burdens on Pennsylvania families.”
CONTACT: Jake Smeltz (717) 787-4420 (Senator Aument)
Terry Trego (717) 787-6535 (Senator Martin)