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House Republicans push income tax cut plan as state budget deadline approaches

Nicarol Soto, a mother of two from Hazleton, testifies during a state House Republican Policy Committee hearing on June 17, 2024
Borys Krawczeniuk
Nicarol Soto, a mother of two from Hazleton, testifies during a state House Republican Policy Committee hearing on Monday.

Weeks ago, state House and Senate Republicans staked out their ground in the annual battle over a new state budget.

They started pushing a 9% income tax cut and the elimination of a tax on electricity. The Senate actually approved both early last month, but the House hasn’t voted.

With the deadline for a new budget June 30, House Republicans brought the push Monday to Hazle Township.

At a Republican Policy Committee hearing, Republican state legislators such as Rep. Dane Watro said the choice on the tax cuts is easy because citizens know how to spend tax dollars more wisely than government.

“If this bill runs on the floor, it'll pass with flying colors, maybe even veto proof in the House of Representatives as well,” Watro, R-116, Kline Township, Schuylkill County, said.

Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, hasn’t said specifically how he feels about the proposed Republican tax cuts. He’s only said he’s happy Republican leaders acknowledge the state must invest in its future. Shapiro wants to spend about $3 billion more next year, much of it on education, which Republicans criticize as too extravagant.

Eight Senate Democrats, including state Sen. Marty Flynn, joined 28 Republicans in voting for the cuts, but cutting taxes means cutting revenues. Republicans haven’t said what spending they would cut to balance the budget.

After the hearing, policy committee chairman Joshua Kail from Beaver County talked Monday about finding “efficiencies” in existing spending.

“And we had hearings about this a couple of weeks ago, where we could literally be saving billions of dollars if we were just following the money and where it was going and making sure it was going to the right places as it relates to our welfare programs and things like that,” Kail said. “So there's all kinds of places where we could save, and that's not even cutting services.”

He was not more specific. The state has never cut the income tax.

Hazleton mother of two Nicarol Soto told the committee she struggles to pay her bills and thinks Harrisburg should spend more time worrying about people like her. The government should ensure those in the middle class can provide for their families, she said.

“It's not fair that I have to deprive my son of ... a good, you know, life … So I think that ... this bill is a good start," Soto said. "And we need to go from there. And we need to prioritize what's good for the citizens.”

Borys joins WVIA News from The Scranton Times-Tribune, where he served as an investigative reporter and covered a wide range of political stories. His work has been recognized with numerous national and state journalism awards from the Inland Press Association, Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors, Society of Professional Journalists and Pennsylvania Newsmedia Association.

You can email Borys at boryskrawczeniuk@wvia.org