Feb. 19, 2021

By Rep. Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz)
While much of the media and public conversation in Pennsylvania swirls with concern and uncertainty about obtaining the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Wolf on Wednesday used his annual budget address to propose the highest Personal Income Tax hike in Pennsylvania history.

For me, this budget is a non-starter. It not only raises taxes on middle-class Pennsylvanians, small businesses and critical infrastructure, he proposes a minimum wage increase which will adversely effect the service industry, the hardest hit industry during this pandemic.

While my office continues to be inundated with cries for help with unemployment and vaccine roll-out, the Governor pushes recreational marijuana with claims that it would be good for families.– Wolf proposes a nearly $7 billion Personal Income Tax (PIT) increase which will tax struggling working-class families, along with the businesses that once provided them a paycheck.

Think about that, Wolf wants $7 billion, the amount needed to fully fund the constitutional amendment that was passed in 2017 for 100% exclusion of property taxes on one’s homestead or farmstead. If Wolf ever gets this money, I fear school property tax elimination will never happen.

The governor has again proposed a severance tax on natural gas. Before this pandamic, Natural gas prices were at historic low levels, and many gas companies were facing bankruptcy. At the beginning of the pandemic, natural gas in our state was labeled critical infrastructure by Wolf’s own administration. Keep in mind, these businesses make base ingredients for plastics, which are critical for personal protective equipment (PPE), vaccine development and deployment. We shouldn’t be singling out an industry that is critical to our pandemic response.

Recently the General Assembly voted to pass Senate Bill 109. This new law is a comprehensive COVID-19 relief package which will provide relief to small businesses, educational institutions and Pennsylvania families suffering as a result of directives flowing from COVID-19 emergency powers.

It will allocate $145 million in grants for the hard-hit restaurant and hospitality industry; $570 million for rental and utility assistance; and $197 million in funding for educational institutions, such as nonpublic schools, intermediate units, career and technical schools, charters schools for the deaf and blind, approved private schools, community colleges and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

Let’s keep our eye on the ball. Pennsylvania should distribute the COVID vaccines in a fair and equitable fashion and allow our local leadership to address the functions of their communities during this pandemic.