Revenue Secretary touches on aspects of proposed budget

STATE COLLEGE – Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed $29.4 billion 2014-2015 budget was the topic of a presentation on Thursday hosted by the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County.

Pennsylvania Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser covered several aspects of Corbett’s proposed budget.

Meuser said first and foremost, Corbett wants a “financially sound budget” without raising taxes.

He added that under Corbett’s watch, unemployment has fallen to 6.4 percent and we now have the highest number of jobs since 2007.

Meuser said he expects revenue to rise in the coming years, however the bulk of it will have to be used to address the pension crisis which he called “unsustainable.”

The secretary touched on funding for education and infrastructure, as well as creating a “sound, safe and pro-growth energy policy” for Pennsylvania.

Meuser acknowledged that some believe that Corbett’s proposal is a cut in education funding because they look at the federal stimulus money added to the budget during the recession, which is no longer available to the commonwealth.

Meuser said education funding increases by 3.3 percent under Corbett’s proposed budget.

“Government spending for education has never been higher,” Meuser said.

Meuser also talked about the transportation bill, which will invest an additional $2.4 billion into the state’s roads, bridges, rail lines and transit systems.

“The problem in Pennsylvania is we have more state roads then New York and New England combined,” Meuser said.

By the fifth year of the plan, the transportation package will invest an additional $1.3 billion annually for state roads and bridges; $480 million to $495 million annually for public transportation; $237 million annually for local roads and bridges; $144 million annually in a multi-modal fund; $30 million annually for dirt, gravel and low-volume roadways; and $86 million annually for Pennsylvania Turnpike expansion projects.

Partial funding for the new transportation package is being derived from the elimination of the flat 12-cent gas tax and modernizing an outdated transportation financing structure through the uncapping of the wholesale Oil Company Franchise Tax, as well as increasing some drivers license fees.

Meuser said the investment in transportation infrastructure will create thousands of jobs over the course of many years.

He tied in tax reform with job growth and energy policy.

“Pennsylvania has the second highest corporate income tax in the country. We need to lower the taxes and broaden the base to attract growth,” he said.

Meuser said that in addition, the Corbett administration wants to remove roadblocks that are in place that prevent growth in the private sector.

He also spoke of his efforts to improve the department of revenue.

“We have improved customer service and the appeals process, increased efficiencies and reduced operational overhead by 15 percent,” he said.