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Schools could use more funding but not by raising taxes

On the surface, the budget proposal unveiled Wednesday by Gov. Tom Wolf seems noble enough — raise taxes on people who can “afford” it in order to provide more funding for schools.

And while you’ll hear no argument from us that schools could use more funding, the ends of doing so do not justify the means of raising the state income tax on many in the middle class, as Wolf is proposing to do.

As the pandemic slogs toward its one-year anniversary next month — at least here in Pennsylvania — we are only now beginning to comprehend the economic devastation the shutdowns of most businesses for at least some time and some businesses still to this day has wrought.

Yes, Pennsylvania seems to be on the long road to recovery. Yes, the end of the pandemic seems to be in sight as the vaccination effort slowly but surely unfolds. But the day the last COVID restriction is lifted won’t signify an immediate return to where our economy was before all this began.

It will likely take years for that to happen, acknowledging that many small business owners had to watch their life’s work vanish forever without there being anything they could do to stop it from happening — all while their big-box and national chain competitors could not only remain open but take their customers as well.

The last thing these people need is a tax increase.

The governor will tell you that for some, his proposal would mean a tax cut. And for more people on the upper end of the low-pay scale, that will be true. More people would find themselves beneath the umbrella of being exempt from paying a state income tax at all.

But almost all of the people who own small businesses, and therefore provide employment to many local people, will not fall into that category.

Does it really help anyone if they don’t have to pay state income tax anymore, but because their boss got a tax hike, they lose their job because their boss can’t afford to pay them anymore?

Throughout the pandemic, the governor has unilaterally chosen winners and losers when it comes to which businesses can stay open and which ones can’t. He has arbitrarily put restrictions on small businesses that don’t apply to the Targets and Home Depots of the world despite those establishments selling the same items. He has torpedoed the bar and restaurant business time and again, as if COVID-19 was created by a cook or server.

Because of these unilateral mandates, many have gone under, never to open again. And for those who have somehow persevered, kept their businesses profitable — or at least operational — and have been able to carve out a living despite all the challenges of recent months, their “reward” in the governor’s eyes is a tax hike because they can “afford” it.

That’s unconscionable.

Could our schools use more funding? Yes. Should our teachers have to spend their own money on school supplies? No. But reaching into the pockets of the drivers of our local economy to do it, especially after they’ve managed to survive the most challenging economic crisis since the Great Depression, is wrong.

There is enough bloated government spending on enough other things that could be diverted to our schools. One place to start could be how charter school funding hamstrings public school districts across the commonwealth.

We don’t need to and shouldn’t rob Peter’s Print Shop to pay for pencils for Paul, the civics teacher, and his students.

Thankfully, many in the state legislature seem to get this. Why doesn’t Gov. Wolf?

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