It has been a taxing year in Harrisburg. State legislators and Gov. Robert P. Casey have been locked in a bitter and prolonged battle over how to close Pennsylvania's $3.5 billion budget gap. In the end, reluctant lawmakers capitulated and gave the governor what he wanted -- including a whopping $2.8 billion tax increase. As a result, 100,000 state workers who haven't been paid in a month will receive overdue pay checks this Friday.
But Pennsylvania's citizens will pay a heavy price for this compromise. The personal income tax rate will soar nearly 50 percent this year. Gasoline will rise 8 cents a gallon, cigarettes 13 cents a pack. Sales taxes will extend to cable television, lawn care, long distance phone calls and computer services. Businesses got clobbered with a 10.5 percent net income tax.
Yet Governor Casey still had to cut $47 million from welfare and the local courts to make projected revenues equal expenditures. Seniors were especially hard hit. They will pay more for prescription drugs and for bus, train and Shared Ride travel. Local schools, meanwhile, fared better, gaining seven percent more in state aid.