Reports & Briefing Papers

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center produces a variety of reports, policy briefs, and other publications on state budget and tax policy, health care policy, education policy, poverty and public welfare, the economy, and several related issues. Below is an archive of all PBPC publications to date.

Browse by Issue: You can also browse PBPC publications by the following issue areas:

Tax and Budget     |     Education     |     Health and Family Security     |     PA Economy     |     Democracy

Harrisburg, Pa. - December 10, 2015 - As of today, the 2015-16 Pennsylvania Budget is still not done. Two different budgets are now before the General Assembly. In a policy brief released today, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) takes an initial look at some of the critical differences between SB 1073 which is supported by the Governor, and large majorities of Senate Republicans and Democrats and House Democrats, and HB 1460, which is supported by almost all House Republicans.

As of December 10, 2015, the 2015-16 Pennsylvania Budget is still not done. Two different budgets are now before the General Assembly. In this brief, we provide an overview of the differences between the two budgets, looking first at critical differences in spending for education and human services, then at the impact of those differences, and finally at some subtleties in how the two budgets organize  and present certain spending choices they have in common and how this affects the bottom line budget numbers

It appears that legislators have decided to raise new, and necessary, revenue by expanding the sales tax base to include more goods and services instead of increasing the sales tax rate. There are good reasons to broaden the base of the sales tax, if it is done in ways that make the tax more equitable. But a broader sales tax is still likely to fall more heavily on low-income families. Legislators can limit the burden on those least able to bear it by coupling the sales tax expansion with a new refundable sales tax credit.

With ongoing negotiations over the state budget focused on property tax cuts, and the State Senate taking up a bill to eliminate property taxes, this briefing paper compares property tax elimination with two more targeted approaches that would reduce, but not eliminate property taxes: the Republican proposal that passed the Pennsylvania House in May (House Bill 504) and Gov. Wolf’s original proposal from March.

We find that property tax elimination would raise taxes on the middle class to give wealthy homeowners and businesses in wealthy communities a tax break. Both targeted approaches would be better for the middle class, but the Wolf proposal would be the best for moderate-income homeowners and would also cut non-residential property taxes the most in lower-income communities, a potential boost to community revitalization.

Gov. Wolf and legislative leaders are currently negotiating over the terms of a plan to cut property taxes which would be financed by an increase in the state sales tax rate from 6% to 7.25%. This brief analyzes the size of the sales tax rate increase by income. It also compares that impact to how much different income groups would pay with an increase in the state personal income tax rate from 3.07% to 3.57%, as proposed by Gov. Wolf in October and rejected by the Republican legislative majority and nine Western Pennsylvania Democrats.

Over the past 48 hours, news report have trickled out about a tentative budget agreement between Republican legislative leaders and the Wolf Administration. Lacking the information for a full analysis, we will instead lay out criteria for evaluating any budget deal; assess what the early information indicates about the likelihood of this tentative budget agreement meeting these criteria; and suggest how the negotiators might improve the budget framework as they further develop its details.

Over the past few years, many other states, similar to Pennsylvania in 2011 and again today, have faced critical choices about whether to raise state revenues, hold firm to “no new taxes” or even cut taxes further. We examine the experience of four other states as well as Pennsylvania. Two of the other states – California and Minnesota – raised taxes to improve their fiscal health and to reinvest in education. The other two states – Kansas and Wisconsin – followed the same path as Pennsylvania under Gov. Corbett, cutting taxes in varying degrees and cutting education spending.

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