1.25% Sales Tax Hike to Benefit Philadelphia


The framework is there for a new Pennsylvania budget, months after it should have been passed in mid-summer, but the devil is in the details, especially as it relates to the final increase in the sales tax in Philadelphia. If approved as is, Pennsylvania would have the second highest state sales tax, after California, jumping from 6% to 7.25%.

It is still subject to negotiations, but the options include giving Philadelphia the ability to use some of the new revenue raised by a statewide sales tax increase intended for property tax reductions, and swap them to mitigate the city sales tax hike.

Let me get this straight…

Philadelphia has been mismanaged for decades (by Democrats), to the point that they have a higher sales tax than the entire state to make them a couple of extra bucks for squandering. A point and quarter increase would get them to 9.25%, tied for third nationally as the highest.

This is apparently one tax hike the Democrats don’t like.

So instead, people in the other 66 counties that aren’t nearly as screwed up, kick in a forecasted $2 billion dollars – some of which (who knows how much) then goes BACK to Philly to help them do what? Cut their sales tax rate?

When Philly gets their tax break (really), THEN we get to help pay for schools. But not really. Because every year the PSERS pension benefits increase OBLIGATING school districts to raise property taxes to balance their budgets. (Thanks Tom Ridge and early 2000s Harrisburg!)

So we end up with higher sales taxes and schools still begging for help.

The only sensible idea floated lately was that all new hires would be getting a 401K style program with small employee contributions. You know, just like everyone not in a government job. But even that’s only a baby step. The employees in the state retirement system are still working! So their contribution obligations wouldn’t change, and the whole program is massively underfunded. Even selling the liquor stores probably wouldn’t fill that hole in.

By the way, this new 7.25% tax rate would be second only to California.
Hello tax-free Delaware shopping (for those of us close enough or passing through).

Are these guys for real with this?

November 11, 2015 at 6:12 pm Comments (0)

Budget Deal Reached?

Of course…

The deal would call for raising the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7.25 percent, Corman said. That would create about $2 billion in new revenue, which could cover a major property tax reduction and permit the state to increase basic education funding by $350 million in the current fiscal year. Special education would receive an additional $50 million in funding as well, Corman said.

Wolf’s spokesman, Jeff Sheridan, said Republican leaders had agreed to a larger education package: an additional $50 million more for prekindergarten this year, as well as $300 million combined for basic education, special education, and prekindergarten next year.

I posted on Facebook months ago that some Republicans would cave and “compromise” on a tax hike of “only” $X.

Splitting the difference, then they would turn around and say “see? it could have been much worse, we’re saving you money!”

If this deal is true, that’s going to be the pitch tomorrow or the next day.

November 9, 2015 at 11:22 pm Comments (0)

LOL, Again

My heart really weeps here…

An annual Pennsylvania tradition may take a backseat to state budget negotiations.

Every December, the commonwealth’s top politicians head to New York City to see and be seen at a long weekend of fundraisers, parties, and one swanky gala collectively referred to as Pennsylvania Society. But some are already talking about skipping the trip if the state doesn’t have a budget by the Dec. 12 main event.

“There’s no way we should be going to New York City, and going and celebrating Pennsylvania Society week, unless we have a budget done,” said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny. “I mean I’ve been someone who’s gone there many years, I will not be there unless we have this budget completely resolved.”

“It would look like what it is – out of touch with where Pennsylvanians are,” said Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia. “You’re going to a big old party in New York City and schools are closing.”

They’ve been off for two weeks, completely un-coincidentally around election time. Heaven forbid they take another few days off for Pennsylvania Society.

November 2, 2015 at 4:01 pm Comments (0)

Twenty Seven. Twenty Seven Billion.

In a row.

When the government is shutdown, it does not mean what you think.

Since July, Pennsylvania has spent $27 billion — without a state budget.

Even many insiders didn’t know it.

“It floored me,” said Rep. Chris Dush, R-Jefferson County, who filed a request under the Right-to-Know Law to obtain the information.

The Department of Treasury confirmed the number Tuesday, the 119th day of a budget impasse. The amount is almost comparable to the state operating budget for a year, but it involves state and federal dollars, and special fund expenditures such as Pennsylvania Lottery winnings and property tax relief from state-regulated casinos.

$27 Billion over 119 days is $226 million a day, for 365 days it’s $82.5 billion.

By way of comparison, we spent $86 billion in 2014.

October 28, 2015 at 12:26 pm Comments (0)

House & Senate Caucuses: Broke

The now 119-day state budget impasse has gone on so long that all four legislative caucuses have exhausted their oft-criticized legislative reserves.

With no more financial cushion, the House and Senate Republican and Democratic caucuses have had to identify an alternative funding source to keep the legislative branch open for business for the duration of the impasse.

On Friday, the Senate Republican and Democratic caucuses joined their House Republican colleagues in what some suggest might be an unprecedented move of borrowing money to cover payroll and other costs associated with their operation.

Man, I’m really feeling bad for those guys. It’s almost like they have to budget like real people and real families.

How come I don’t read any stories about the Executive Branch crying poor?

October 27, 2015 at 6:59 pm Comments (0)

Late budget

Hey, Republican legislature…


July 3, 2015 at 4:27 pm Comments (0)

Pa House – Now 120 R to 83 D

Martina White became the city’s second Republican member in the state House on Tuesday night, with a commanding win in a special election for Northeast Philadelphia’s 170th District.

Her victory – by a margin of 14 percent with 97 percent of the vote tallied Tuesday night – prompted Republican celebrations and Democratic recriminations. White defeated Democrat Sarah Del Ricci, who was handpicked for the special election by Lt. Gov. Mike Stack III.

White credited the win – the first pickup by the Republicans of an open General Assembly seat in Philadelphia in 25 years – to the hard work of volunteers, including several unions that endorsed her.

Fun fact, Martina is also 26 years old and overcame a 2 – 1 Democratic registration advantage.


March 24, 2015 at 10:40 pm Comment (1)

On Being a Property Tax Scofflaw

A Pennsylvania legislator wants to change the state Constitution to prevent government agencies from seizing homes for unpaid property taxes.

Rep. Thomas Caltagirone (D-Berks) said property taxes in the state have risen to the point where many citizens can no longer afford to stay in their homes. He said the burden of property taxes fall particularly hard on poor, sick and older citizens.

Wooooohooooaaaaa… all of the sudden we need to put in to our tax system a way to actively encourage people to not pay property taxes?

Property taxes have spiraled out of control in Pennsylvania for a variety of reasons, and there is a serious effort afoot in Harrisburg to eliminate them altogether. Governor Wolf thinks that’s a bridge too far, and has offered, “instead let’s give everyone a property tax break” with the total wink-wink of “we’re gonna get you sooner or later, you suckers taxpaying property owners.”

Now comes along this positively insane idea. “We’re gonna keep taxing you, and you’re not going to pay it, we’ll count on those bozos who do pay it to make up the shortfall.”

I can’t believe this is even an idea.

Get rid of them altogether. Make it up somewhere else, ignoring property taxes scofflaws is just going to make property tax scofflaws.

March 20, 2015 at 7:13 pm Comments (0)

Good Riddance Dave Levdansky

I’ve been meaning to blog about the rematch of Rick Saccone and Dave Levdansky in the 39th House District, but I haven’t had a lot of time. Also, around 10:00 last Tuesday night my soul was replaced by a gaping black void that sucked away my very will to exist. So you could say I mostly haven’t given a **** about anything except somehow forming my own breakaway republic. I’m calling it Fredistan. Email me a resume if you’re interested.

Anyhow, some of you may remember that I blogged extensively about Rick Saccone’s challenge to 13-term State Representative Dave Levdansky. In a nutshell, Levdansky managed to accomplish several feats during his tenure in the House. He established a pro-choice, pro-tax, anti-gun voting record in Harrisburg while convincing everyone back home in the Mon Valley that he was an A-OK Blue Collar Democrat Working Man of the People who Understood the Plight of the Little Guy. Dave has never had an actual job in the private sector, incidentally. Not only did he pull that off for 26 years, he managed to earn a reputation as a petulant classless bully while remaining an unremarkable back-bencher for almost his entire career in the House!.

In 2010, all of that came to an end when Rick Saccone, an actual conservative who has had numerous real jobs, beat him by 151 votes. Once the shock wore off, Dave attempted to get a real job, but had about as much success with that as he did on Election Day. Fortunately for Dave, he had a nice big fat taxpayer-funded pension to live off of so, you know, no pressure. Then, when the redistricting of the Pennsylvania Legislature was thrown out by the court (cue choirs of angels) he decided that that he’d learned his lesson and wanted another shot at his old house seat! HALLELUJAH!

Now, to be sure, we thought Rick was toast this time around. And by “we” I mean “every single human being who had even a passing familiarity with Pennsylvania politics”. True to form, Levdansky backed a challenger against Rick in the primary and engaged in a plethora of dirty tactics during the general election, even going so far as to drag Rick’s son through the mud in an attempt to smear Rick.

Election night 2012 came and went with no clear winner, but by Wednesday morning Rick had an unofficial lead of 36 votes. It has been a tense week, but the final recount concluded this evening and Rick is the confirmed winner with 114 votes. In a presidential election year. With Obama on the top of the ticket. In a 2:1 Democrat district. In the Mon Valley.

So the fat lady has finally sung for Dave Levdansky–a walking, talking, strutting, smirking argument for term limits. Good riddance, Dave Levdansky. Nobody will miss you.

November 13, 2012 at 8:46 pm Comments (0)

Will Sandusky And Corbett Defeat Romney?

The Governor’s mishandling of the Sandusky investigation may doom the GOP

Ohio, Ohio, Ohio. It’s all about Ohio. Win the Buckeye state — win the White House.

Very true, especially for Mitt Romney, since no Republican has won without it.

But the monumental point is being overlooked.

Ohio is only kingmaker by default.  Its 18 electoral votes would not be needed if Romney wins Ohio’s larger neighbor — Pennsylvania and its 20 electors.

That’s not wishful thinking, but eminently achievable. Or at least it was, until two men severely diminished hope for delivering the Keystone State: Jerry Sandusky and Republican Governor Tom Corbett.


Make no mistake. Pennsylvania should have been a lock for the GOP.  The fact that it has not voted Republican for president since 1988 is misleading. When there is a solid candidate, Pennsylvania is always in play, where a small vote swing changes the election result (George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004).  Conversely, bad candidates lose handily (Bush I in ‘92, Dole in ’96, and McCain in 2008). And remember that Ronald Reagan won it twice, and George H.W. Bush in ’88.

In 1994, it became the most Republican state in the country in terms of elected officials, with the GOP claiming both U.S. Senate seats, the governorship, total control of the state legislature, a majority in its congressional delegation, and two of three statewide row offices.

Fast forward to 2010, when GOP Governor Tom Corbett rode to victory with a massive ten-point margin.  Conservative Pat Toomey was elected U.S. Senator, and Republicans gained control of the State House in historic fashion, smashing the Democrats and taking a ten-seat majority.  The State Senate remained solidly Republican — as it has for three decades.

So why is it likely that Romney will lose the Pennsylvania Prize?

Enter Corbett and Sandusky.


The most worthless commodities in politics are endorsements. Party leaders endorsing their own is expected, swaying no one.  And celebrities choosing sides only makes for good cocktail talk.  Romney doesn’t benefit from Clint Eastwood, nor Obama from Bruce Springsteen.

But while endorsements don’t sell, popularity does. And they are distinctively different.

If a leader possesses a bold vision — and the ability to articulate ideas in a common sense, bipartisan way — he will have followers from the entire political spectrum. New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie is the best example, having achieved monumental victories despite both legislative chambers being heavily Democratic.

While no single Republican could swing Jersey to Romney, that feat should have been in the bag in much more Republican Pennsylvania. If Christie could rack up wins in The People’s Republic of New Jersey, gaining immense popularity, how could Corbett not deliver Pennsylvania?

Because he is an MIA governor.

After the first year of his Administration, when virtually nothing was accomplished, Corbett’s own legislators nicknamed him “Christie-lite.” But after the second year, with an even more startling lack of achievements, the nicknames became unprintable.

We’re not talking about a failed extreme right-wing agenda, but common sense ideas Corbett promised but didn’t come close to delivering, despite holding all the cards.

-Was the nation’s largest state-controlled liquor system dismantled — a move overwhelmingly supported by most Pennsylvanians? Nope. Zero action.

-Was any effort made to 1) solve the state’s massive pension crisis, 2)lower the job-killing, corporate net income tax (second-highest in the nation), or 3) reform the nation’s most hostile legal climate? All drive businesses away, but no action was taken. The can was kicked down the road.

-Did state union workers receive a contract in line with private sector employees? No.  Instead, Corbett gave them guaranteed raises, no increases in health care premiums, and eliminated layoffs for economic reasons. At the same time, he raised salaries of his inner circle, aides who apparently couldn’t get by on $135,000.

While his inaction sunk the Governor’s favorable ratings, it was his handling of sexual predator Jerry Sandusky that really put him in the toilet, flushing away whatever attractiveness he had left.

Corbett’s attempt to steal the national limelight at Penn State news conferences by portraying himself as the savior who took down Sandusky rapidly backfired. Instead, his decisions in that case (he was the investigating Attorney General) grew into a firestorm that continues to explode.

No one is buying Corbett’s claims that he didn’t play politics with the Sandusky investigation. A whopping 69 percent of Pennsylvanians don’t view Corbett favorably, making him the nation’s least popular governor.  And a miniscule 17 percent think he handled the Sandusky investigation well.

Why? Maybe because:

-It took three years to get Sandusky off the street. Within the law enforcement community, it’s almost unanimous that Sandusky should have been nailed much, much earlier. Ten cases weren’t needed, as Corbett maintains, but only two or three to make an arrest while continuing to build the case.

-Corbett ordered a narcotics agent to lead a whopping team of two to investigate Sandusky, while scores of agents — including child predator units — prosecuted a political corruption case.

Because of Corbett’s colossal inconsistencies, Republican leaders were forced to abruptly end a legislative session, killing a motion requesting a federal investigation of Corbett’s handling of the case.

As a result, Corbett’s numbers have stayed in the basement. The erosion of his popularity, transcending Party lines, stems from the nagging feeling that Corbett placed politics above the protection of innocent children.


The most far-reaching result of the Governor’s failures will be the political earthquake that never was. If Corbett had been just a fraction of Chris Christie, and had run the Sandusky investigation properly, Mitt Romney wins Pennsylvania hands down.

Instead, because of Corbett’s toxicity, Romney was forced to focus on Ohio, which he will likely lose, and with it, the White House.

But that may be the least of Corbett’s troubles. Kathleen Kane is poised to become the first elected Democratic Attorney General in Pennsylvania history.  Should that occur, the political embarrassment for Corbett would be immense, since he would be seen as the main contributor to a Kane victory.

If elected, Kane promises an intense review of the Sandusky investigation, with no hesitation to charge anyone —including the Governor — should improprieties be uncovered.

And who thought politics wouldn’t be interesting after this election?

As published in Daily County Daily Times:

Philadelphia Magazine:

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau,  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at

, , , , , , , , , , , ,
November 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm Comments (0)

« Older Posts