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Tax-break team, armed teachers, and early polling

Plus, 2020 election rule fights are being rekindled.

A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
June 16, 2022
Rare agreement, election direction, 'purely political,' governor's poll, charter changes, armed teachers, and a Capitol countdown. It's Thursday.

In the heat of budget season, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative Republicans are weighing a major tax cut on Pennsylvania corporations, a point of rare bipartisan agreement between them.

Pennsylvania's 9.99% tax on corporate net income is the second-highest in the country, and while a cut has support on both sides of the aisle, debates continue over how much to trim it and how quickly. 

There are several related bills moving around the Capitol but no clear consensus. The proposals would lower the rate to 7.99% by 2025, down to 6.99% by 2027, or to 5.99% by 2025 with conditions.

Gov. Wolf has his own plan to lower the rate from 7.99% in 2023 to 5.99% in 2027. Legislation introduced by Democrats to advance his plan includes provisions designed to prevent corporations from taking deductions on costs like management fees that lower their overall tax burden.

Matt Smith, president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, opposes those provisions but supports the tax "phase-down." 

Spotlight PA explains the tax, the loophole, the arguments for and against lowering the rate, and the arguments for leaving it alone

THE CONTEXT: The arguments for lowering the levy are familiar: Supporters say Pennsylvania's rate is too high and drives away business. 

And those in favor of keeping the rate where it is reject the premise that breaks for wealthy companies will "trickle down."

State Rep. Sara Innamorato (D., Allegheny) would rather see funds appropriated to small business grants and loan products that would "help our independent businesses and our main streets thrive."

Marc Stier of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, a project of the progressive Keystone Research Center think tank, examined the potential impacts of a state House bill — opposed by Innamorato and a handful of other lawmakers — that would whittle the rate down to 7.99%.

According to Stier's findings, the bill would cost Pennsylvania $600 million in revenue per year once the reduction reaches 7.99%, and only generate roughly 23,000 jobs over 10 years. The study estimated that only 20% of those jobs would go to current Pennsylvania residents. 


"The fact that we were able to get this agreement and get 10 Republicans on board in principle has improved the odds further."

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) predicting a better than 50% chance that the chamber passes gun legislation of some kind this year; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) is offering conditional support
A coffee flight at Javateas Gourmet Coffee Cafe in Ephrata, via @jjglamgirl. There's more coffee at the bottom of this newsletter, too. But first: Send us your pics, use #PAGems on IG, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
LEGAL FRONTS: Officials are bracing for turbulence around Pennsylvania's election laws in the run-up to November, The Inquirer reports, with lawsuits echoing the fights of 2020 and reviving questions about mail voting that many considered settled. Republicans have worked to chip away at the state's expanded mail-voting law since Gov. Wolf vetoed an election code overhaul last year. The usher of that bill, state Rep. Seth Grove (R., York), says he's ready to try again.

STATE LIMITS: A resolution urging the state to abolish drop boxes and no-excuse mail voting before November was passed by Luzerne County Council's GOP majority, the Standard-Speaker reports. Councilor Kendra Radle, who voted "yes," called the measure toothless and "purely political," since the council has no authority over state lawmakers. The body's lone Democrat was the only opposing vote. Other counties have taken aim at mail-ballot drop boxes, too, some removing them on their own.

EARLY POLLING: The first governor's race poll of the general election is out and has Democrat Josh Shapiro with a slim four-point lead over Republican nominee Doug Mastriano. In the race for U.S. Senate, Democrat John Fetterman is nine points ahead of Republican Mehmet Oz. The polling of likely midterm voters in Pennsylvania was conducted by Suffolk University and the USA TODAY network.

CHARTER RULES: With accountability-focused charter school rules set to take effect, PennLive reports state GOP lawmakers are mounting a last-ditch (and possibly symbolic) push to keep that from happening. Among the sticking points: a requirement that charter schools offer comparable health benefits to those of their authorizing school district. Gov. Wolf's office said the GOP-led effort is too late to work.

GUN CLASS: GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano plans to introduce legislation in his role as state senator that would allow school employees to be armed on campus. ABC27 reports Mastriano, who serves on the Senate Education Committee, says the move would enhance school safety, but opponents and skeptics abound. One Pa. school district tried this before. WHYY explains why the policy fell apart.

SPEND SHIFT: The state university system is considering changing how it splits hundreds of millions of dollars in annual funding, the goal being to better support first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students, the Post-Gazette reports. Enrollment and retention are front of mind.

WASTE NOT: Every year, college students in the Lehigh Valley move out and leave "staggering heaps" of stuff behind, The Morning Call reports. Local universities are finding new ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle

TICK TOCK: Activists have delivered a six-foot-long clock to the state Capitol, a ticking reminder that scientists say dramatic steps must be taken by 2030 to avoid a climate change catastrophe, per StateImpact.

BIG BREAK: Health-care giant UPMC broke ground this week on a new, $1.5 billon hospital project in Pittsburgh, calling it the largest such project going in Pennsylvania and the largest in city history, via TribLIVE.

MAP MORPH: What would Pennsylvania look like if you put it through one of those distorting AI-image machines that turns non sequiturs into visuals? Probably like this actual map of "Pensilvania," circa 1755. 

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.

This week's theme: Coffee
Yesterday's answer: Macchiato

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Susan N.-Z., Starr B., Mark C., Elaine C., Irene R., Judith D., Brandie K., Alice B., Don H., Kim C., Barbara F., Susan D., Suzanne S., Karen W., Al M., Doris T., Ronnee G., Mike B., Mary D., Lynne E., Dwayne W., Dan W., Elizabeth W., Susan R., Jude M., Patricia M., James B., David W., Kimberly B., Scott R., Nancy S., George S., Kimberly S., Dianne K., Bill S., Vicki U., Christine K., John A., Wendy A., Jim A., Alice B., John H., John W., Daniel M., Kimberly D., Tala S., and Sharon P.
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