Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: Democrats promise to raise your taxes

Every month the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue puts out a press release bragging how much money the state collects from you and me.

The numbers are staggering. The limitless ways state government has found to tax Pennsylvania residents is remarkable.

The state collected $2.5 billion in General Fund revenue in September alone, according to the Department of Revenue. And that was $76.5 million, or 3.2 percent, more than anticipated.

Since the new fiscal year began on July 1, Pennsylvania has managed to relieve residents of $5.8 billion, which is $55.7 million, or 1 percent, above estimate.

Here's a recap (provided by the Department of Revenue)of how many different ways the state can tax and how much money it removes from the economy:

Sales Tax receipts totaled $706.8 million for September, which was $12 million above estimate. Sales Tax collections year-to-date total $2.2 billion.

Personal Income Tax (PIT) revenue in September was $939.8 million, which was $35 million above estimate. This brings year-to-date PIT collections to $2.2 billion, which is $28.9 million, or 1.3 percent, above estimate.

September Corporation Tax revenue of $573.2 million was $28.2 million above estimate. Year-to-date Corporation Tax collections total $725.4 million, which is $49.4 million, or 7.3 percent, above estimate.

Other General Fund revenue figures for the month included $59.6 million in Inheritance Tax, which was $3 million below estimate. This brings the year-to-date total to $181.1 million, which is $14.6 million below estimate. (I'm guessing not enough people are dying in Pennsylvania to suit the tax collector.)

Realty Transfer Tax was $52.3 million for September, bringing the total to $164.3 million for the year, which is $3.6 million less than anticipated.

Other General Fund revenue including the Cigarette, Malt Beverage and Liquor Tax totaled $124.6 million for the month, or $5.3 million above estimate, and brings the year-to-date total to $319.5 million, which is $4.9 million below estimate.

In addition to the General Fund collections, the Motor License Fund received $208.3 million for the month, $7.7 million above estimate. Fiscal year-to-date collections for the fund total $653.5 million, which is $10.7 million, or 1.6 percent, below estimate.

No wonder we need tens of thousands of state workers. How else can you keep track of all the money the government takes in?

If you think you're not paying enough in taxes, licenses fees and other tolls, you should definitely vote for Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell on Nov. 7.

In a speech last week, Rendell would not rule out increases in the income tax or sales tax or a combination of those taxes, even though Pennsylvania ended the last fiscal year with nearly $1 billion in surplus. That means the state collected $1 billion more in taxes than it needed to fund state government. The government is good at taking your money. Giving it
back is another story.

I'm not sure if it's overconfidence or pure chutzpah, but a lot of Democratic candidates are saying they are willing to raise taxes or eliminate existing tax breaks if elected.

Lois Murphy, who is challenging Republican Jim Gerlach in the 6th Congressional District promises to repeal the tax cuts Congress approved in 2001 and 2003. Ed Rendell never met a tax hike he didn't like. Bob Casey, the Democrat for U.S. Senate trying to unseat Republican Rick Santorum, also supports the repeal of existing tax cuts.

If Democrats regain control of the House, Charles Rangel, the ultra-liberal from New York would end up chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Rangel said last week he would not rule out scrapping any of President Bush's tax cuts in the quest to curtail the alternative minimum tax while balancing the budget. "If we spend billions to bring equity, we have to find some place to do it," Rangel said at a news conference. Rengel said a variety of tax increase would be "on the table."
Here's what rolling back the Bush tax cuts would mean:

Pennsylvania's married couples would face an average of $2,726 more per year in taxes.

Pennsylvania's families with children would face an average of $2,084 more per year in taxes.

Rolling back the tax cuts would mean the average family of four with two children, that today has a $50,000 annual income, would see a 132 percent higher tax bill.

If the Democrats regain power in Harrisburg or Washington, hold on to your wallets.

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at
tphyrillas@pottsmerc.com