PA House Republicans propose a ‘no new taxes’ solution to budget shortfall

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Harrisburg, Pa. -- A plan for how Pennsylvania will pay for everything passed in the state budget is more than two months overdue.

The Senate came up with a solution that includes more taxes but House Republicans have another idea.

The Senate sent the House a $2.2 billion revenue package to close the state's budget gap.

The Senate plan includes a tax on natural gas drilling, gambling expansion, and borrowing more than a billion from the state's settlement with tobacco companies.

After weeks of going through the Senate's plan, House members believe the money could be found elsewhere.

Eighteen House Republicans believe they've found the answer, and the money to resolve Pennsylvania's budget.

Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams) said "the taxpayers budget should not cost one job, compromise one service, or close one agency, it does not call for major tax increase or to borrow one dollar."

Instead, House Republicans are looking at what they call a shadow budget of 400 different accounts currently holding $12 billion in revenue.

Rep. Joe Emrick (R-Northampton) said "34 of these accounts of which we are rededicating taxpayer monies have either been used in the past for this exact same purpose, and thus there is past precedence for what we are doing."

"In addition, 5 other accounts are dormant which have had little to no activity over the last three years," Emrick said.

The result is $2.4 billion of found money that House Republicans believe could balance the state budget.

It's a budget solution that may be too soon to tell for House Democrats.

House Democratic Caucus spokesperson Bill Patton said "these restricted accounts exist for a reason and they are restricted to serve certain purposes. those purposes need to be protected and preserved."

Rep. Dawn Keefer (R-Cumberland/York) said "where it was available in the Treasury's reports, we would see what the lowest that some of these accounts had ever gotten to. Multimodal, for example, was never below a certain amount of money. We made sure in those circumstances where that was available, that we didn't take them below that number."

"We have our doubts. First of all, whether it would be legal, and secondly, whether the numbers really exist that they're talking about," Patton said.

One number everyone can agree on is that Pennsylvania still has a $32 billion budget that falls more than $2 billion  short.

The House and Senate, as well as Democrats and Republicans still disagree how it should be paid.

"We've heard very little details until this afternoon about what's in this plan, so we'll need some time to review it, and see if it really works," Patton said.

"We should not, and are not asking more of our taxpayers," Moul said.


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