Bored with property tax reform? Here’s a plan to slash the sales tax to 1.9 percent | Wednesday Morning Coffee

December 11, 2019 7:22 am

State Rep. Russ DIamond, R-Lebanon (Facebook)

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Apparently bored with the Sisyphean exercise that is property tax reform, state Rep. Russ Diamond has set his sights on another, probably even more unachievable goal: Slashing Pennsylvania’s state sales tax, which currently sits at 6 percent down to 1.9 percent.

Now before you go celebrating, thinking that this is going to make everything cheap and result in a big screen in every pot, here’s the inevitable downside: In exchange for a dramatically reduced tax rate, the Lebanon County Republican wants to get rid of every exemption now in current law.

That means everything from food and clothing to accountancy and legal services would be subject to the sales and use tax, effectively giving everyone in the Capitol who isn’t Russ Diamond something to hate about the proposal.

“It’s time we put an end to the sales tax jigsaw puzzle that pits Pennsylvanian against Pennsylvanian and adopt instead a modernized level playing field which acknowledges the realities of our economy and the fact that we’re all in this together,” Diamond wrote in a Tuesday ‘Dear Colleague’ memo that is the surest triumph of optimism over realpolitik that we’ve seen all year.

(Image via Flickr Commons)

In his co-sponsorship memo, Diamond argues that the sales tax has failed to keep up with changing times, noting that “services accounted for less than 40 percent of the overall economy,” when the levy was first enacted in 1954. Services now “account for approximately 70 percent of Pennsylvania’s economy,” he writes.

Diamond has surely been hanging around the building long enough to know that popping the hood on the sales tax results in all manner of wrenches being thrown into the works. Democrats oppose taxing food and clothing because they say it’s an attack on the poor.

Republicans oppose taxing lawyers, accountants and investment advisers, because, well, Senate Approps Chair Pat Browne is at least two of those things. And you don’t want to get him started on tax policy. At least not without packing a lunch or something.

(Image via

Perhaps anticipating those arguments, Diamond points out in his memo that other states also tax groceries.

But one of them is also Alabama, which is like an Island of Misfit Toys for bad legislative ideas. So that should tell you all you need to know.

Diamond also notes that, of the 45 states with a sales tax, 37 of them tax clothing, which includes Washington D.C.

“This effort is aimed at simplifying the system, reducing retailer confusion, recognizing the realities of our economy, and making our Commonwealth more competitive with surrounding states,” Diamond writes  in his memo.

Simple? We’ll look forward to the eventual debate on this one.

Our Stuff.

Associate Editor Cassie Miller watched the Donald Trump rally in Hershey on Tuesday night so you didn’t have to. It went about as you’d expect. Miller also brings you up to speed on the Pa. Society scuttlebutt on 2020 and 2022. Gov. Toomey, anyone?

Here’s as comprehensive a round-up as we were able to muster on how Pennsylvania’s Capitol Hill delegation reacted to the articles of impeachment that were released Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee.

It was a busy day for our Washington Bureau: Reporter Allison Stevens brings you up to date on the White House and Congressional Dems agreeing to a massive trade dealAllison Winter finds U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th District, rightfully rejoicing over a deal extending family leave for federal employees. The Chester County Dem was a major player in the legislation. And Washington Bureau Chief Robin Bravender has the details on U.S. Senate Dems, including Bob Caseycalling for the resignation of White House adviser Stephen Miller.

From our partners at The Philadelphia TribuneMayor Jim Kenney has pushed back the rollout of the city’s Fair Work Week Law. Critics are not amused.

On our Commentary Page, Trib’ columnist Michael Coard explains why he’s standing with embattled Rep. Movita Johnson-HarrellD-Philadelphia, who’s resigning this week after being charged with allegedly embezzling more than $500,000 from a nonprofit she ran.

The Unite the Right rally, Charlottesville, Va., August 20178 (Image via Flickr Commons)

An ex-Philly Navy Yard worker who marched in the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally in 2017 now says he lied about his white nationalist ties, the Inquirer reports.
Pittsburgh City Paper goes inside the Post-Gazette’s increasingly “chaotic” newsroom.
U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th Districtis now a ‘yes’ on impeachment, the Morning Call reports.
As you might expect, PennLive has wall-to-wall coverage of the Trump rally.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny has signed a measure requiring ‘green tune-ups’ for the city’s buildingsWHYY-FM reports.
The PA Post explains how litigation led to a last-minute challenge to the state’s best-selling touchscreen voting machine 
Extending Medicaid after birth could reduce the maternal mortality rate, reports.
Ex-Veep Joe Biden has signaled to aides that he would only serve one term if elected, Politico reports.

What Goes On.
11 a.m, Main Rotunda:
 Rally against a Senate bill that “sets an impossible scenario for closing a state center and removing people from the waiting list.” The legislation affecting the Polk and White Haven centers for people living with intellectual disabilities is sponsored by Sen. John Yudichak, I-Luzerne.

Gov. Tom Wolf 
guests on WITF-FM’s ‘Smart Talk’ broadcast at 9 a.m. At noon, he’ll attend the 30th anniversary of the “Holiday Wish” program. That’s in the atrium of the Keystone Building on North Street, across from the Capitol.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
Sen. John DiSanto, R-Dauphin
, holds 5:30 p.m. reception at The Wharf in Harrisburg. Admission runs $100 to $1,000.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Friends O’the Blog, Daniel Sauder and Angela Jarrett Leopold, both of whom celebrate today. Congratulations and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation.
This one is just kinda fun. It’s ‘Go with You,’ by Joshua Radin.

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Carolina notched its third win in a row, rallying to beat Edmonton 6-3, on Tuesday night.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.