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Wolf asks for tax increase on Pa.’s top earners


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Yaasmeen Piper
February 4, 2021
Bold budget, seeking answers, resignation fallout, growing foreclosures, another shot, athletic puppies, and Black history reads. It's Thursday.

Amid the pandemic, Gov. Tom Wolf is asking the legislature to significantly boost funding for public schools, legalize recreational cannabis, and approve a major tax increase in one of his boldest budget proposals yet.

But the $40 billion spending plan is most likely dead on arrival, Spotlight PA reports. State Republicans were quick to call the plan the governor formally unveiled Wednesday unrealistic and hurtful to taxpayers.

“The budget he is presenting is completely unsustainable, totally irresponsible, and absolutely crippling to the state’s economy,” said Jake Corman of Centre County, the Senate’s top Republican. “Now is not the time to ask Pennsylvanians to send more of their hard-earned dollars to Harrisburg.”

THE CONTEXT: Wolf's plan to boost public school funding hinges on one big ask: raising the state personal income tax from 3.07% to 4.49%.

That's not to say everyone's taxes would actually go up. The Wolf administration said only the top one-third of earners would pay more, because the proposal expands exemptions and tax forgiveness.

Still, the idea of raising taxes on any Pennsylvanians was quickly dismissed by prominent Republican lawmakers.

“The governor could not have picked a worse time to propose a 46.3% increase in the personal income tax given the struggles Pennsylvanians continue to face during the worst pandemic of our lifetime,” said Sen. Pat Browne (R., Lehigh), who controls the powerful Appropriations Committee.

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"This industry is at the brink of extinction.”

—Tom Tyler, president of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, on bars and taverns struggling to stay afloat amid the pandemic
VACCINE UPDATE: Lawmakers pressed officials for answers about the state's slow vaccine rollout Wednesday, as the health department reported that more than 850,000 people have received at least one dose. For providers, check Spotlight PA's vaccine map and county-by-county listing.
POST IT: Ole Bull State Park coated in snow a year ago today. Thanks, Paul K.Send us your hidden gems (or snow pictures!), use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
FUEL MEET FIRE: The resignation of the state's top election official has emboldened her fiercest GOP critics, even though it was not related to her handling of the closely watched contest, Spotlight PA and Votebeat report. Kathy Boockvar's departure is fueling rhetoric that under her leadership, the election was unlawful, despite judges and federal officials saying otherwise.

SKEPTICAL: Philadelphia's rocky rollout may have increased skepticism about the vaccine among Black residents. According to The Inquirer, the recent Philly Fighting COVID scandal has increased the burden on community leaders and organizations working to increase trust among the Black community.

CHARGED: Chad Michael Salsman, Bradford County's district attorney, has been charged with sexually assaulting women who were his clients when he was a defense attorney, the Associated Press reports. Salsman's attorney said he denies the allegations.

GRIM NUMBERS: A growing number of homeowners in the Philadelphia region are at risk of foreclosure as the pandemic continues its economic toll, WHYY reports. Census data shows about 13% of homeowners in the region are behind on their mortgage with the national foreclosure moratorium on federally backed loans set to expire March 31.

ANOTHER SHOT: Pennsylvania will reopen its marketplace for health insurance later this month through May, the Post-Gazette reports. The special three-month enrollment period was authorized this week by President Joe Biden.

TOP PUPS: This Sunday is an important day for football fans and puppy lovers, alike. This year’s Puppy Bowl XVII features three Pennsylvania pups that are up for adoption. You can meet them here.

READING HISTORY: Pennsylvania’s Black leaders want you to know their history. The York Daily Record spoke with Black educators, diversity advocates, and other leaders about their favorite books that highlight Black history.

'I’M GONNA MAKE YOU LAUGH': From salsa dancing to dressing as a leprechaun, Marisol Rivera is making vaccine shots a little less stressful for some New Jersey residents by making them laugh. “I forgot that I was supposed to be nervous,” said one resident after getting vaccinated. “She’s adorable.”

COME TOGETHER: The CEOs of rival gas station chains Sheetz and Wawa joined forces to support Special Olympics Pennsylvania. They did so by popping balloons filled with cold water over their heads (and also donating $5,000 each).

HOUSE HUNTING: This TV news segment on a Pennsylvania couple being featured on the HGTV show "House Hunters International" combines two of my favorite things: reality TV and local news outlets finding a hometown angle on every story. Yes, I know "House Hunters" is extremely fake. And yes, I'm still going to watch the Pennsylvania couple's episode.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Magnanimous  

Congrats to our daily winners: David I., Craig W., Stephanie S., Neal W., Bruce B., Jill G., Bill C., Ron P., Mary Ellen T., Kim C., Craig E., Beth T., Susan D., Jessica K., Christopher R., John C., George S., Carol D., Irene R., Jarrod B., Dianne K., Patricia R., Joel S., Lance L., David W., Suzanne S., and Anne R.
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