State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Also on the tax menu: banks

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Jun 19, 2014 8:39 PM

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

State lawmakers are considering a number of tax increases to include in the commonwealth budget for the fiscal year beginning in July. One tax policy change in the offing would affect banks.

The state's tax on bank shares was revamped last year. The tax was expanded to apply to more banks, change how the tax was calculated, and reduce the rate of taxation.

The changes were supposed to offset one another, and the combination was expected to yield no significant change in state revenue.

Instead, the changes left the state $30-40 million in the hole. Lawmakers are revisiting the changes to the tax law now to see what's required to recover lost revenue over the past fiscal year.

It's not a good year to have a bunch of lawmakers taking a second look at the levy on your industry.

"When you're looking at, you know, a billion-and-a-half revenue shortfall, I mean, everything's on the table," said Tim Arthun, a lobbyist with the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers. Lawmakers are looking for money. The fear in the industry is that the legislature will come down hard on the banks.

Staffers with top lawmakers and the governor's administration say they're not trying to take a big bite out of the budget deficit by upping the tax burden on bankers. But Drew Crompton, spokesman and chief counsel for Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, said any remedy must do two things: recover lost revenue and revise the tax law so that future revenues keep up with growth estimates.

State Budget Secretary Charles Zogby on Tuesday referred to a "menu" of tax options before the administration and lawmakers. A tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction is being drafted. An increase to the cigarette tax is also being discussed - perhaps with different rates for Philadelphia and the rest of the state.

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