The following is an except from an Express-Times editorial:
Wolf has put forth the equivalent of a Marshall Plan to bulk up state’s education system, restructure the tax burden on the middle class, lower business taxes, help the working poor and try to reinvent the state as a place for job investment.
There is nothing piecemeal about Wolf’s approach. Before it is deconstructed by opposition Republicans and special interests, everyone needs to sit back, take a deep breath — and run the numbers. These are, after all, the sum total of campaign ideas endorsed by voters in November; they deserve a robust debate. Yet it’s hard to remember any governor who put so much on the table so quickly.
If you look only at the tax increases, the Wolf plan would seem to be a throw-away budget. The personal income tax would go from 3.07 to 3.7 percent. Sales tax, 6 to 6.6 percent. A five percent severance tax on natural gas extraction. A cigar tax.
So what does a freshman governor with a potentially hostile Legislature do with all that money?
He has to give a lot of it back — in ways that convince taxpayers they’re not being gouged, that it will beget better schools and a healthier economy. And that a surge in education and health-care spending won’t just set the stage for bigger deficits and higher taxes down the road.
Who dislikes this budget? The gas-drilling industry. The people who want to ban fracking. Those who want to trade the state liquor monopoly for private stores. And those who cling to the Grover Norquist no-new-tax approach to government, as former Gov. Tom Corbett did — the idea that any new tax is a plague on growth and the average taxpayer.
It’s time to bury that mentality. Wolf proposes to do that in a big way, and he deserves credit for starting the conversation.
“I laid out a plan, and I’m going to fight for it,” Wolf said in Tuesday’s address. “If you don’t agree … please come with your own ideas.”
At the center of Wolf’s plan is the notion that people will go along with tax hikes if they get enough in return — corresponding reductions in school property taxes, coupled with $1 billion in new education spending. Whether this equation adds up — whether Wolf can bring the tax-killing popularity of SB/HB 76 (the Property Tax Independence Act) into a plan to beef up education — is the key to its success or failure with the Legislature.
The plan calls for business tax cuts — nearly halving the corporate net income tax, eliminating the capital stock and franchise tax, trying to close the “Delaware loophole.” These are welcome incentives, along with a tax credit for job creation. One concern is protection for small business owners, for whom a rise in personal income tax would be an added business tax.
Wolf’s plan to bolster state and municipal pension plans is welcome, but it needs a thorough vetting. His calls for redistricting and campaign finance reform are spot-on, and so far his administration is leading by example on ethical issues.
Of course, all this has to be squeezed into a budget that comes with a $2.3 billion deficit.
Will it work? It’s a lot to digest in one day. It deserves a fair hearing.