With record tax collections, not spending would be ‘irresponsible,’ Wolf says | Tuesday Coffee

The state collected $6.5B in General Fund revenue in April, the most ever for a single month

May 3, 2022 7:06 am

(Getty Images)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

April was another banner month for tax collections in Pennsylvania, according to newly released state data. But as the June 30 deadline to pass a new state budget looms ever closer, Republicans are warning that the Legislature shouldn’t go crazy over spending.

First up, the bottom line: The state collected $6.5 billion in General Fund revenue in April, the Wolf administration said in a Monday statement.

That’s 1.8 billion, or 38.7 percent, over estimate, and it’s also the most tax revenue ever collected in a single month, officials said. Year-to-date General Fund collections total $40.7 billion, which is $4.5 billion, or 12.4 percent, ahead of projections, the administration said.

April looked a lot like March, when the state collected $5.6 billion in general fund revenue, which was $659.1 million, or 13.5 percent, ahead of projections, the Capital-Star previously reported.

With that kind of cash coming over the transom, Gov. Tom Wolf’s office predictably took a victory lap, confidently proclaiming that the commonwealth now has enough in the bank to fund some of the proposals the Democratic administration included in its valedictory budget address back in February.

“After this month’s collections, Pennsylvania’s revenues are so far ahead of estimate that we already have the money in the bank to pay for the historic investment I want to make in K-12 education, as well as the Corporate Net Income Tax cut and reforms I have proposed to bolster Pennsylvania businesses,” Wolf said in the statement his office released.

“My administration has done a lot of work to get the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in a good place financially,” the York County Democrat continued. “It has taken a lot of hard work and a lot of years, but our state government is frankly swimming in cash right now and we need to reinvest it in things that will make Pennsylvanians’ lives better.”

But as we noted last month, having more cash to throw around doesn’t always necessarily make it easier to pass a state budget — even in an election year when everyone wants to go home early to campaign.

Indeed, it can make it harder.

And, right on schedule, enter House Republicans to find the cloud lurking behind this particular fiscal silver lining.

“Last week’s news that the U.S. economy contracted 1.4 percent in the first quarter—putting us directly on the edge of a recession—on top of record inflation, means [Monday’s] revenue numbers necessarily underscore the need to use caution when putting together a fiscally responsible spending plan,” Jason Gottesman, a spokesperson for House Republicans said in a statement.

Gov. Tom Wolf delivers his final budget address to a joint session of the state House and Senate on Tuesday, 2/8/22 (Commonwealth Media Services photo).

Wolf, no stranger to GOP intransigence on budget matters, sounded a defiant note on Monday, arguing that the state’s currently strong collections were based on sound fundamentals, weren’t a one-off, and were buttressed by “data from nationally recognized financial forecasting firms.”

“Frankly, the most irresponsible thing we can do right now is hoard this money when we should use it to help lower costs for Pennsylvanians,” Wolf said.

“I want to make a historic investment in education so local districts have the ability to lower property taxes, and reduce and reform the Corporate Net Income Tax to make Pennsylvania a hub for innovative businesses that will drive further economic growth,” he continued. “I also want to use our state’s federal American Rescue Plan dollars to put money in Pennsylvanians’ pockets right now.”

In a statement, House Democrats backed Wolf up, urging “Republicans holding the majority in both legislative chambers to join us in supporting the governor’s plan for fair and adequate school funding, making our children and the communities that support them the number one investment in this year’s budget.”

You might recall that Republicans banked billions in federal relief money last summer, rather than spend it, much to the chagrin of Democrats, who said the money could be better used on such programs as free child care and paid family leave, instead of languishing in some bank account.

On Monday, Republicans seemed to be about as interested as usual in acts of fiscal derring-do. Which is to say, they weren’t at all.

“The benefits of any surplus dollars and remaining federal funds should be cautiously appropriated to mitigate against a looming economic downturn and related revenue shortfall, especially when the artificial means by which the federal government has propped up the economy are no longer in place,” House GOP spokesperson Gottesman said.

“We are fiduciaries of taxpayer dollars and Pennsylvanians depend on us to use their money wisely and for their benefit,” he continued. “We have the opportunity now to look at what is ahead of us, learn the lessons of the past, and create a sound fiscal plan for the Commonwealth for years to come.”

The House and Senate are both out of session until May 23 — the week after the primary — and then it’s head down into budget season from there.

The final push to midnight on June 30 will be an interesting one for sure.

Hens in cages at an industrial farm (Getty Images/Minnesota Reformer).

Our Stuff.
In a special report, our friends at go deep on the avian flu that’s hobbling farmers across the country, including Pennsylvania.

Labor leaders and state officials gathered in Harrisburg on Monday to remember workers who have lost their lives on the job, and to call on the General Assembly to approve two pieces of legislation that would extend federal workplace safety protections to public-sector employees across the commonwealth. Cassie Miller has the details.

Stagnant wages paired with skyrocketing costs of living are among the issues that require immediate action by local policymakers, two state House candidates said as they joined advocates, citizens and others, at a workers’ rights rally in downtown Lancaster on SundayCorrespondent Lauren Manelius was there.

The U.S. House committee looking into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol sent letters Monday to Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Mo Brooks of Alabama and Ronny Jackson of Texas, asking them to share information about meetings and conversations they had in the days and weeks leading up to the insurrection. Capital-Star Washington Reporter Jennifer Shutt has the story.

The brother of two sisters who were among the 11 killed by the Philadelphia police in the bombing of the MOVE group’s West Philadelphia home in 1985, has demanded city officials release their remains so he can have a proper burial for them, Stephen Williams, of our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune, reports.

On our Commentary Page this morning: From University of Maryland/Baltimore County sociologist Loren Henderson: Here’s what to know about Black moms’ pandemic struggles and strengthsAnd Quentin Young, of our sibling site, Colorado Newslinereflects on the life of Wynn Bruce, the Colorado man who immolated himself on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court last month to protest climate change.

Abortion rights supporters rally at the Pa. State Capitol on Tuesday, 5/21/19, as part of a national day of action (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

In the wake of a leaked U.S. Supreme Court apparently showing the high court will overturn Roe v. WadeGov. Tom Wolf says abortion will remain legal in Pennsylvania, the Inquirer reports.

In Pittsburgh, Mayor Ed Gainey and supporters celebrated the signing of a bill expanding affordable housing in the city, the Post-Gazette reports.

PennLive previews a contested Democratic primary in a central Pennsylvania congressional race.

In Pennsylvania, medical marijuana patients are always viewed as driving under the influence — even if they’re not impaired, the York Daily Record reports.

The Allentown school board has approved a $394 million preliminary budgetWFMZ-TV in Allentown reports.

Here’s some Baaaa-d news for animal lovers: Officials in Wilkes-Barre have evicted a goat from a city property, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

New Jersey Transit buses will make their return to Philadelphia in JuneWHYY-FM reports.

Advocates are pushing for more state funding for services for the disabled and higher wages for workers, WESA-FM reports.

Erie County’s coroner says fentanyl is playing an increasing role in drug deaths in the county, GoErie reports.

PoliticsPA takes a look at the power of the Trump endorsement.

Roll Call delves into the impact of the economy in this year’s midterm elections.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

What Goes On
2 p.m., 17 S. 17th St., Allentown: House Democratic Policy Committee

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-Philadelphia. Admission runs $250 to $5,000.

Gov. Tom Wolf does his usual 8:07 a.m. interview with KDKA-AM this morning. He makes a 10 a.m. stop at Cheyney University.

Heavy Rotation
With the Elephant 6 bands getting some critical reevaluation of late, courtesy of a new book, I’ve found myself thinking about one of my favorite bands from the eclectic collective who helped reshape indie in the late 1990s. From The Apples in Stereo, here’s ‘Seems So.’ I can also tell you firsthand that Apples frontman Robert Schneider is one of the nicest people in pop.


Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
The Carolina Hurricanes pulled out a 5-1 win over the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference playoff series on Monday night. Carolina’s Antti Raanta made 35 saves in his first Stanley Cup Playoff start, reports.

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.