Thursday, July 14, 2016

This is what compromise looks like

There's an odd word being bandied about in Harrisburg.

Compromise.

Yes, miracles do happen. And it doesn't always take nine months to put them in place.

In other words, our elected representatives signed off Wednesday on a new state budget - nine months before they were able to accomplish that seemingly routine task last year.

The $31 billion spending plan is not what everyone wanted. That's where the compromise part comes in.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf did not get all the spending - nor the tax hikes to pay for it - that he wanted.

But he is getting an additional $200 million in education spending.

Republicans in the House and Senate managed to avoid the dreaded broad-based tax hike, including any increase in the state sales or personal income taxes, as well as again beating back calls for a severance tax on natural gas drilling in the state.

Of course, someone has to pay, and if you're a smoker, the Legislature has just given you another reason to consider kicking the habit.

Yes, tobacco taxes are going up again, this time a dollar a pack. That takes the tax on a pack of cigarettes $1.60 to $2.60, a move expected to raise $430 million. I don't even want to think about what this will mean for the price of a carton of cigarettes. My mind already reels when I'm in line at the Wawa and the person in front of my buys a carton. Pretty soon they will need to take out a mortgage to bankroll their habit.

Electronic cigarettes also are getting hit, along with digital downloads, which will now be subject to the state sales tax. That move will raise antoher $47 million.

A push for online gambling has been delayed in the fall. When it arrives, it will deliver another $100 million.

The move already approved to allow supermarkets to sell wine will bring in another $149 million.

There's a laundry list of other revenue drivers in the budget.

You can check them out here.

Nobody wanted another nine-month standoff.

At the same time, it can probably be said nobody is entirely happy with this spending plan, nor the funding mechanisms.

That's called compromise.

What a concept.

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