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Outdated rules blunt impact of Pa. tax forgiveness

Plus, abortion and the race for Pa. Supreme Court.

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Thursday, October 26, 2023
In today's edition: Missed tax relief, abortions increase, wedge issue, officer recharged, MLB scrutiny, where's my money?, and Phillies cope. 

It has been 20 years since state lawmakers last updated income limits for a tax forgiveness program for low-income Pennsylvanians, a gap that has left out thousands of people who might otherwise qualify for the relief.

As incomes rise with inflation-linked wage increases, fewer people qualify under guidelines last updated in 2003, when the cap for a married couple with two children was set at $32,000, equal to almost $51,700 today.

It is the longest stretch of time without an update to the income threshold since tax forgiveness became law here in 1974.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Thousands miss out on low-income tax forgiveness program due to outdated income limits.

THE CONTEXT: Pennsylvania has a flat income tax, meaning someone making $50,000 per year who doesn’t qualify for tax forgiveness pays the same tax rate as someone earning 10 times as much. 

That has resulted in one of the most regressive tax systems in the U.S., with low-income residents the hardest hit by state and local levies. The bottom 20% of Pennsylvania taxpayers pay roughly twice as much of their income in state and local taxes as the top 1%, according to one analysis.

And fewer people are qualifying for tax forgiveness to lessen that burden. Between 2004 and 2019, the number of people who received tax forgiveness fell by almost 20% statewide. Then the pandemic hit.

“These stagnant income amounts are leaving out a number of individuals and families who need all the help they can get,” wrote state Rep. Dan Miller (D., Allegheny), who wants to tie the income threshold to inflation.


"President Trump called me this morning to express his great appreciation for our effort to file an amicus brief in the Texas case."

Newly elected speaker of the U.S. House Mike Johnson (R., La.) in a 2020 email to colleagues as he led a push to overturn election results in Pennsylvania and three other pivotal battleground states
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Neshaminy Creek in Bucks County's Core Creek Park, via Yoma U. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A creek surrounded by trees with colorful fall leaves.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.ABORTION DATA: The New York Times (paywall) reports the number of legal abortions in the U.S. rose slightly in the year after Roe v. Wade was ended. Interstate travel, court challenges and injunctions against heightened restrictions, and the rise of telemedicine abortion are among the factors. Pennsylvania providers are expanding telehealth options as state laws impede expansions of brick-and-mortar clinics here.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.KEY ISSUE: Pennsylvania's Supreme Court election on Nov. 7 is being looked to as a test of whether the overturning of Roe v. Wade is motivating voters like it did in the midterms almost one year ago. HuffPost reports abortion is the leading line of attack in the campaign between Democrat Daniel McCaffery and Republican Carolyn Carluccio, drawing big interest and money on both sides of the issue.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.CASE CONTINUED: Former Philly police officer Mark Dial is once again charged with murder and other counts in the August shooting death of 27-year-old Eddie Irizarry. Weeks after the charges were dismissed against Dial, also 27, NBC10 reports a different judge on Wednesday morning said she agreed with prosecutors that there remain “sufficient questions of fact” that need to be determined by a jury.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.MLB ANTITRUST: Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry wants the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a challenge to Major League Baseball's antitrust exemption, saying the league unfairly eliminated the Williamsport Crosscutters and State College Spikes as minor league affiliates. The original lawsuit, now cosigned by Henry and 16 other attorneys general, argues MLB’s cuts improperly restricted competition.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.UPPING PRESSURE: With $642 million in state funding still stuck in limbo, the leaders of Lincoln, Penn State, Pitt, and Temple Universities have sent a letter to legislative leaders urging a release of the funds as the surrounding political stalemate stretches well into the fall semester, PennLive reports. The letter says the holdup is having an impact and that further delay will inevitably require "more difficult decisions."

FOULWEATHER PHANS: Phillies fans are taking Tuesday's season-ending loss as well as you'd expect, meaning not at all. The city now has the longest Game 7 losing streak in MLB/NBA/NHL history, per @OptaSTATS.

WINTER WARMUP: This week started out with frost in Pennsylvania and will end with temperatures in or near the 80s. Lehigh Valley Live has forecasts coming within a few degrees of daily records.

VOTER COUNTS: Voter registration for the Nov. 7 election closed Monday, and PoliticsPA has a county-by-county look at where registration totals stand and which major party has the edge.

NEW CHARGES: The Hermitage angler criminally charged in a cheating scandal that "rocked" the world of competitive fishing last year has now been charged with poaching deer, the Sharon Herald reports.

IN MEMORIAM: Bert Winzer, part of a World War II unit that assaulted Nazi-held mountains in Italy before making the first allied incursion into Rome, died in Lehigh County this week, Morning Call (paywall) reports. He was 101.

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