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)

Force the Vote

Here’s a bad idea whose time should never come.

State Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Delaware/Philadelphia) will introduce legislation that will make voting compulsory. Meaning if you don’t vote, you’ll be fined.

But some of his colleagues don’t agree.

“It’s a violation of our rights as citizens. The government shouldn’t force us to vote. That’s our choice and by not voting that’s also our choice,” said state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny/Washington).

Don’t vote. It only encourages them.


[Senator Anthony] Williams, a former gubernatorial candidate who has talked of running for Philadelphia mayor, cannot say the same.

In 2011, he was on leave for 31 of 72 Senate session days. He said in an interview that an illness early that year accounted for most of his leaves. He declined to discuss details. In 2012, he was on legislative leave for just six of 53 session days.

This year, Williams took leave for 15 of the Senate’s 50 session days – including five of six in January.

He said much of his leave came after a 5-year-old girl was kidnapped from her West Philadelphia school and brutalized, and he was in his community, organizing marches and raising rewards to find the suspects.

“There are some people who say you should be in Harrisburg all the time. I understand that,” he said. “But I have to make a judgment call sometimes. And I take responsibility for it.”

Senator Williams wants to force you to vote for him (or against him) for a job where one of the job requirements is voting… and he can’t be bothered to do the same.

He should return part of his salary, pro-rated for those days.

Lead by example, Senator.

March 25, 2015 at 10:47 pm Comments (0)

Garbage ads

It appears that Scott Wagner has won a special election for PA Senate as a write-in.

I’d like to preface the rest of this post by confessing that I did not follow this race at all and have spoken to nobody about it.  I couldn’t tell you whether Scott Wagner is the devil or the messiah.  Thankfully, that determination is irrelevant to my point.

The person or people who approved these attack ads (one ; two) need to seriously rethink how they want to run Republican campaigns.

Chiefly, I want to throw a serious red flag over the use of “millionaire” as a pejorative.  Our party ran Mitt frakking Romney for President a mere 16 months ago, and somebody with the memory of a horsefly thought it was a good idea to rag on a guy for being a millionaire?!? Do you think we’ll never run any more rich candidates?

These ads strike me as the type of feeble ads Democrats run against Republicans.  Running ads like these does nothing but reinforce clichéd Democratic themes about Republicans.  You’re cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Look, you want to run ads against a guy, fine. Knock yourselves out.  Just have some self-awareness and perspective when you do so.

March 18, 2014 at 10:28 pm Comments (0)

I have a very short list of chores for the legislature

To say I’m sorely disappointed in a lot of Republican state Senators is putting it mildly.

Almost never should a person attempt a primary challenge on the basis of just one vote, but let’s just say I wouldn’t shed a lot of tears if some of the yes voters happened to lose their primaries.

Apparently some folks haven’t gotten the memo that we’re broke.  And I don’t just mean PA, but the whole United States, federal, state, and local – soup to nuts.

As a whole, the legislature needs to man-up.  Fix the pension system.  Sell the liquor stores.  Don’t expand  entitlements that are going to bankrupt us sooner rather than later.

It’s a short list.  Memorize it.

July 2, 2013 at 11:04 pm Comment (1)

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