Taxpayers to PA Representatives at Hearing: ‘We Don’t Want More Taxes’
NEW CUMBERLAND – House members of the Pennsylvania Taxpayers’ Caucus received input during a hearing at the Fairview Township Fire Company on Tuesday about how the proposed Senate tax increases would drive businesses from the state and people from their homes if the legislation is signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf.

The hearing was hosted by Rep. Dawn Keefer (R-Dillsburg) and featured members of the state's business community, local small business owners, organizations and constituents. Also in attendance were Reps. Kate Klunk (R-Hanover), Seth Grove (R-Dover), Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York Township), Dan Moul (R-Gettysburg), Cris Dush (R-Brookville) and Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon), all of whom are members of the Pennsylvania Taxpayers’ Caucus.

“One underlying theme - ‘You can’t spend what you don’t have!’ - was common among everyone who testified,” said Phillips-Hill. “The message was loud and clear that Pennsylvania needs to live within its means and balance its budget without tax increases.”

The hearing focused on the impact a severance tax on natural gas drillers and additional taxes on utilities would have on businesses and consumers. The Senate revenue plan includes $405 million in higher or new taxes on gross receipts taxes on natural gas, electric and telecommunications bills.

“These taxes would have a cascading effect on taxpayers,” Dush said. “You’ve got a tax, upon a tax, upon a tax.”

Ryan echoed Dush’s remarks, noting businesses would be forced to leave the state under the heavy burden of over taxation.

“By the time we realize the damage this has done, it will be too late. We will have lost more businesses just like when we lost the steel industry that once thrived in this state,” said Ryan.

Barry Fenicle and his wife, Judy, who are residents of the 92nd District, said consumers can’t afford higher utility costs brought on by higher taxes.

“Businesses can pass on the cost to consumers. But constituents don’t have anyone to pass higher costs onto,” Fenicle said. “How can Pennsylvania fill the budget gap? I have an idea: Find out the revenue first and then figure out what to spend.”

A consumer who has a $100 natural gas bill would have to pay an additional $5.70 because of the new tax. Additionally, the tax on electric bills would increase by about a half-percent to 6.5 percent and the tax on phone bills would increase to 6 percent, up from 1 percent.

In response to Fenicle’s comments, Keefer said she agreed state government must form budgets like how families budget their personal finances, “I see the same thing. If I couldn’t cover my mortgage, I’d cut my cable because that’s a luxury.”

“The days of spending money before we know how much the state will collect in revenue must end,” Moul said. “Consumers don’t decide how much they want to spend on a new car and then figure out how to pay for it. State government shouldn’t do that either. It is not fair to taxpayers and they simply cannot afford it.”

Testimony received during the hearing will guide the representatives as they dive deeper into the Senate tax plan and search for ways to generate revenue without raising taxes.

“In addition to opposing the tax increases, testifiers objected to many aspects of how the Senate plans to spend incoming revenue,” added Klunk. “For instance, tourism dollars are increased but much of it goes to pet projects for individual Senators. We should be promoting our entire state so that Pennsylvania’s number two industry can compete for tourism dollars against states like New York and Michigan.”

“The invaluable testimony from the mouths of those who will be impacted by this egregious taxing plan speaks volumes,” Keefer said. “Every Pennsylvanian would be hit by these taxes. We must now find alternatives to tax increases.”

Founded as a result of the 2015-16 budget impasse, the Taxpayers’ Caucus was created by members of the House and Senate with the single purpose of changing the culture of Harrisburg.

Pennsylvania Taxpayers’ Caucus
Media Contact: Greg Gross