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Reader Poll: How Should Pennsylvania Fill the Budget Gap?

Harrisburg-Capitol-steps2Pennsylvania’s spending plan is now law, but how Pennsylvania will raise the money to pay for it is still under negotiation.  

According to the latest reports, there is still an $800 million gap between the revenue package and spending package.  

So we want to know, how should Pennsylvania fill the budget gap?


How should Pennsylvania fill the budget gap?

  • Video gaming terminals (50%)
  • Severance tax (32%)
  • Mini casinos (12%)
  • Expanded liquor privatization (6%)
  • Expanded sales tax (0%)
  • Borrowing (0%)

Total Voters: 38,085

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92 Responses

  1. The big picture is missed here. Ok say the gas tax and the VLT plan goes through and budget is made this year, what are they going to do next year or the year after that? If they don’t learn how to balance a budget like they are SUPPOSED TO they will continue to scramble. There are definite ramifications to all the suggestions that will not cure the problem! Implement the VLTs and I guarantee that the casinos that paid over $50M for the license and over HALF of the total slot revenue will lay people off, raise the gas tax and the general public is handed the difference. The only way to solve this issue is to actually balance the budget and cut spending.

  2. Please vote for the VGT’s small business needs a boost since stores are now selling beer & liquor.

      1. It is truly disappointing that our reps do not represent us… and it seems that some of the most obvious, healthiest for the long term options are not presented. Why can we not eliminate the turnpike commission, and the toll collecting expense, roll it into PENNDOT, eliminating the patronage, management, and pension expense, and simply add two cents on the fuels tax?
        Why can we not eliminate the state store system, and eliminate the patronage, salary, and pension expense that burdens us with, and simply collect the tax on alcoholic beverages?
        A severance tax on gas is a no brainer, and most of us are not against it.
        How about working toward modifying the Davis Bacon wage act, and developing more realistic “prevailing wage” rates? Currently, they are based on union rates only, not an average of what most people in the areas actually earn.
        How about requiring our reps to turn in actual receipts for their “per diems”, which they take to the max whether it is justified or not. Maybe reduce the car allowance that our reps get, which rivals many peoples monthly rent? But most, it would be nice if our “reps” actually applied themselves to doing their jobs efficiently, instead of this partisan CRAP!

        1. A tac on gas is a direct tax on the tac payer. You think the gas company not going to pass the cost along? I say this will all do respect.

  3. The correct answer is cut spending which is not given as a choice , so i did not vote for any of the given choices

  4. WOW!! The casino industry really pulled this one out. As of yesterday the vote was 45/45 VGT and Severance. Today magically mini casino’s now hold the lead………..I wonder how that happened? PAID OFF MUCH?

  5. Why is every answer about raising more money? This is a biased poll that omitted the most obvious answer: CUT SPENDING!

  6. So can someone tell me when expanding gambling became a republican issue. I thought this was the party of christian conservatives.

  7. Severance tax on natural gas. The lawmakers cannot raise any other taxes because those tax raises are needed for property tax reform, if the will is there.

    1. Wolf promised the teachers unions big bucks for raises and more money for education. Guess what? The gas companies shut down production and went to tax friendly states! Here’s a clue: cut spending!!! All politicians need to stop promising carve outs to special interest groups with the people’s hard earned money they pay in taxes.

  8. How much money do state employees pay for their benefits? If they are not paying anything then they need to just like the rest of corporate america

      1. They pay more for their benefits than the Legislators do and they pay more into the pension fund than the Commonwealth pays in.

    1. They should be paying just like everyone else. I know it sucks, but that’s the way it is.

    2. Employees pay 5% of their salaries. Legislators pay much much less and have better benefits

      1. I wish i only had to put 5% into my retirement to get a juicy retirement benefit like they do. I put 25% into my 401K and max out a roth ira outside of that to come close to their return. But hey I didn’t sell my soul to a union or politician to get my retirement…that’s the true benefit. i sleep well at night.

  9. Vote VGT’s all the way! What do we have to lose, and do we really think the casino’s are going to pack up and leave! I’M ASHAMED OF OUR STATE LAWMAKERS who are NOT doing what’s right for PA! Take the number of liquor licenses, and count the employees they have per license, and I’d bet it totals more that all the employees the 12 casino’s have. It’s more jobs, more revenue, more entertaining for people to gamble in their local vfw’s, fire halls, or taverns, some people just don’t like to travel! What’s wrong with you people, it’s like found money! People that have a gambling problem will gamble reguardless and the legal\illegal skill machines that PLCB will neither confirm nor deny they’re legal are out there anyway…why not regulate them! It’s a shame. I’d like to see an investigation into the bank accounts of the senate and if they’ve grown since fighting VGT’s. The House is willing to do the right thing, why won’t the senate! #payoff# Whatever, no wonder people are leaving our state in rapid fashion. Thanks for listening!

    1. I agree well said. Our state is so messed up. Couple months ago had a state employee try and fine me for not having cigarette resell license in my bar and I clearly had my license displayed. So much disorganization and wasted money. Its frustrating knowing our hard earned money is wasted so. Our fine state wouldn’t be broke if it was run like a real business!!!!$$$!


    2. Our lawmakers IN PITTSBURGH have forgotten it is WE THE PEOPLE NOT WE THE CORPORATIONS!

      1. Our DEMOCRATIC PITTSBURGH polititians are out of touch! IT IS WE THE PEOPLE NOT WE THE CORPORATIONS! Get off the corporate payrolls and help the small businesses out . Close the budget gap with VGT AND LEARN TO MAKE A BUDGET AND LIVE WITH IT! They are democrat in name only! Anoher reason for house and senate term limits!

  10. As a small business operator who owns several taverns I feel that VGT’s along with spending cuts is the best thing to close the budget deficit. Keep in mind that the state receives no real revenue on the thousands of illegal games in the taverns now. Why not legitimatize and bring it our from the shadows—the state police have better things to do other than trying to confiscate illegal machines. The local Fire halls will really see a benefit as well as VFW’s. This is not an expansion of gambling–we are systemizing it and Everyone benefits. Someone mentioned Illinois and their credit rating…The VGT revenue is fine there and it does what it is earmarked for –which is roads and schools. The overall revenue in Illinois has gone up over a billion dollars despite what the casinos are crying about. They are a mess because of pension obligations like a lot of states plus bloated government jobs and other welfare programs that expand yearly. Please think of my employees (100+) when you consider your vote. We need VGT’s to survive.

    1. the machines are already in the taverns illegally.why not get about 250million a yr for the state and legalize them that way they don’t have to tax.

      1. Because la familia controls them now so sssh! Don’t screw up a good thing for us or we will have you raided. We have cops in the family now.

  11. Putting vgt’s under lottery control is a bad idea. That means the state counts the $, not us. The plan only works if we attach the new scheme to the casinos where we can count the money and give the taxpayers their honest, fair share. Heh. Heh. Heh. The casino model has worked well under mafia supervision and our collections have been diminishing over time. Maybe the state should just turn the whole lottery system over to us for better supervision. You just can’t trust those government employees.

  12. This poll is flawed:
    1. It will take a combination of new taxes (shale gas and close sales tax loopholes) to close the revenue gap.
    2. Why isn’t “cut spending” in there? Why not a poll on how to cut spending?

    1. Agree cutting expenditures should be a choice. Govt can’t fund everything. Must stick to the basics.

  13. There are plenty of theories and heresy about VGT’s. The facts don’t lie. VGT’s provide millions of dollars in revenue in the states they are legal, provide jobs, aid and assist Volunteer Fire companies and Veterans organizations. They do not cannibalize casino or gaming revenue, there are plenty of cold hard facts to prove this. I have done due diligence, research, google searches, read articles and posts on state gaming commission websites. It is high time we support our PA Small businesses and choose our Main street over billionaire casino owners. The vast majority of Tavern and Club owners are yearning and speaking out for VGT’s. It is time to listen to the people.

      1. Illinois stopped payments on lottery winners multiple times due to budget impasse. Think that had a bigger effect on them than the VGTs.

        1. Seniors losing property tax relief or prescription drug programs or transportation services is far worse.

  14. Also think about how much your pie in the sky figures that your so called geniuses said you were going to make on the small games of chance for bars. All the money the state has invested in that in there about $190 million off so whoever is making these figures of where the state is going to make 300 $400 million a year off of this has to stop. Be honest about it and maybe more people will believe you the most the state will make is 80 million a year. People that play slot machines go to a casino so they can get perks they are not going to get any perks playing a VGT …. therefore leave it alone and go find the money somewhere else that make sense (sales tax, budget cuts, Dead weight in the government …)

    1. Also…the state’s Dept. of Revenue has even admitted that revenue would be a net LOSS in the first year. Mainly because of the impact to the state’s Lottery Fund. And we all know how much the Gov. needs the revenue. He has been neutral on VGTs. So I take DOR at its word that this will fail to bring in the revenue. It will be another tavern gaming situation. Where the state actually LOST money.

      1. The reason small games failed is because certain Senators did not want it, so when push came to shove they passed a bill that made no sense. Most business-minded bar owners knew that it made no sense & would not do it. That is why the state is not making money.

        1. I agree with you on the failure of small games. The State was greedy. But as a small tavern owner I could use the revenue from the VGTS but the state needs to make it fait

  15. If any of you think that VGT’s is the answer you are so far off there will be so much saturation you will be lucky if you make $400 a week and you’ll take up a very large space to put these gigantic machines in your location. Yes there are a lot of companies telling you you’re going to make millions of dollars in your business is going to be booming they are just salesman trying to get paid just like when you go to buy a car they try to push you on the biggest thing so they can get a bigger cut wake up it’s not good…

    1. There is over saturation of food and liquor establishments. Yet I still make money. It’s all about marketing and running a well established business, being proactive in the growth of my business. Yes, if you throw them in a dark room and never acknowledge their presence, you won’t make a dime.

    2. You don’t know Jack. ..Jack. Taverns not going to get rich, but will definitely help with the ever increasing cost of running a business,taxes, inspections, insurance, utilities water testing and most of all less people going out to drink.

      1. Also if you don’t want to take up space don’t get any machines. ….but if it passes you will. You won’t want to miss out on extra income. More tavern’s will go for this. Like Danette said other small games bill not worth it to most establishments.

  16. VGTs are a bad idea. They will not provide the millions promised. They will cut into lottery revenue and property tax relief from the casinos. Even the Department of Revenue believes that VGTs will actually be a net LOSS in revenue the first year…because it will eat away at other gaming revenues folks rely on. Again…there will be a huge hit to the Lottery Fund with VGTs — which means less money for senior programs. Plus — do we want slots on every corner in every community? In Applebees or Red Robin? In every strip mall? We have a heavy, heavy regulated casino industry…those guys can’t even move a piece of furniture without the gaming board’s approval. They get hit with $100,000 fines if they have even one underage gambler in their casino. How the heck are you regulate 40,000 slot machines in hole-in-the wall places in, say, Swatara Township? A severance tax is far more reasonable.

  17. Why wasn’t “reduce spending” an option? Cutting the number of legislators would be a good startt

    1. Part-time lawmakers, PA had them once and they voted themselves to become fulltime!!Put that referendum on the ballot!!

  18. The gas severance tax in Texas is 7.5%. They’re hiring a hundred new workers a month to work in the field. Don’t but the “gas drillers will leave if the state taxes the gas”

  19. Throw in the horsesh-t from a certain doctor who regularly posts to this web page and you could make all ER visits free in PA.

  20. They could shovel in all the horsesh-t put out by GOP legislators. Since there would still be an excess amount, they could bag it and sell in State Stores to guarantee a perpetual State budget surplus.

  21. Tax Marcellus shale gas and get rid of all state owned cars and just pay mileage is a lot cheaper than the up keep and of the state cars.

    1. Paul Engelkemier
      You did not ask/offer enough options. Mayby raise taxes and include not-for-profits like nearly all of them including the PGA, WPGA, NFL MLB, Mega-churches, and most other not-for profits. The 501 c 3 status is now a farce and they are killing people and companies that pay taxes. I run a small corporation, employ people and pay taxes and I am president of a small not for profit (less than $25,000 income per year). Not a single person in our not for profit gets paid. We are not the mega groups hiding behind the 501-c-3 status but many are, like big big hospitalsn qnd colleges. Let them pay a fair share. I agree in taxing gas extraction. In my last reading, PA is the cheapest state in the USA for gas companies.

  22. Gambling and video terminals are a tax on the poor and middle class, who can’t afford it.

    Oil/gas has the money.

    1. Agreed David but also add politicians in there. I’d like to receive half of their pension and benefits. How bout they fix that first

  23. Vendor based gaming legislation to benefit small businesses has been before the legislature for decades. It’s time for our politicians to act on this sensible bill that has bipartisan support. Representative Mark Mustio and Representative Paul Costa crossed the aisle to develop language similar to the very successful VGT bill in Illinois. Lets get this done!!

    1. Lou,
      If the VGT bill was that very successful in Illinois then why is their credit rating at 0 ? We must face facts that there will be no balanced budget in any state PA or ILL without first dealing with State Pensions.

      1. You obviously are mixing apples and other types of apples my friend, Illinois VGT’s are a huge success!

    2. I agree. So many things have happened that affects our liquor license. We need something to build the value back up, so that we can get back what we paid for them. Some example of revenue loss is more license being sold, new licenses being created, beer distributors selling 6 pks, and gas stations able to sell beer and wine. We need the VGTS for our losses and to stay in bisiness

      1. So true the beer distributors have got many concessions over the last few years. Sunday sales, 12 pack sales, now 6 pack and single sales. It is time for the bars to get someting in return for the govenerns 700.00 price hike.

  24. How about revising the fiscal code to close the Allentown “NIZ” which is pouring $81 million a year of state revenues into the hands of the crony capitalist friend of a state senator?

  25. There’s alwAys the legalization of recreational marijuana. I know many dont want to hear it, but just look at the MILLIONS of dollars Colorado has received in taxes.
    Legalize it, tax it like cigarettes or gas, and we’d never have pot holes in our roads again… not to mention the money for just about anything else.

  26. Apparently Jordan you are not a Tavern owner this is a bad deal for all bar owners !! Right now we have legal machines in PA skill games and make 40% and you want bar owners to go all the way down to 26% you are crazy. Video Gaming Operators will take their profits back to the states they are from and will also put all vending machine operators/employees out of business and we (TAVERN OWNERS) will go out of business even quicker with only 26%. I have to laugh when the PA tavern association is pushing for this. If any of our Senators would only look at the facts rather then just taking the lobbyist money for a yes vote. FACT Ask yourself how many actual members are there in The PA Tavern Association. I know for a fact that there some counties that doesn’t even have a single member. 14,000 Liquor Licensee’s in PA and they don’t even have 20% actual members in their association. They tell you that it will create jobs YES it will but what they don’t tell you is how many jobs will be lost. At least at this moment and time the money is staying here in our own state where it belongs not made here and taken to another state.

    1. 40% is great, but I’m making 800$ a month. I’d rather take 26% of $35,000 w/ VGTs than 40% of $1,800.

          1. That’s the terminal income from Illinois. Speaking with owners who run similar sized businesses, with similar demographic. You really should expand your horizons, speak with some of those guys.

    2. Hi, Jerry, I read your comments with interest and need to ask you a question. You sound way more like a distributor of the PA Skill Games that is paying no taxes. Most licensees would rather be legal, pay their taxes, and have high-tech machines that net them a ton more money a month without the hassle of paying out themselves to customers and waiting to get paid back from illegal operators of these machines. Many bar owners I know have already dumped these machines. They have a shelf life. Its a tic tac toe game. Bless’em for trying to make money to pay bills but it costs you money in the long run and not worth the violations.
      By the way, I know for a fact you are absolutely off the mark on the Tavern Association. They are supporting LEGAL ways for owners to make money. There are not 14000 mom-and-pops in PA and have not been for many years. Know your facts. PA Skill is only legal in Beaver County. Read the court case. Tell me again who is paying taxes on these machines?

      1. Karma,
        I’m glad for the response from you but, your dodging the question how many actual members does the Pa tavern have ? Your facts maybe right about 14,000 mom and pops licensee’s but there are a total of 14,000 license’s out there. I’m sorry but do not believe you where bar owners dumped these machines illegal pa skill games they are all over PA. First of all Karma do not try and sell me on Video Gaming Terminals PA skills are legal all over PA because the PLCE never appealed the case to a higher court. So that means there is case law.. I have 3 of them and I am paying taxes on the revenue I make

        1. You’d have to call the association to see how many members they have, I don’t know what that has to do this subject? I’m a member and know what they are doing and appreciate their work greatly! I se their advice and progressive liquor code changes to enhance my business, you should prob join so you can know facts. I’ve talked to LCE about skill games and know the facts; do you? If not then I’d suggest you call them ASAP to protect your business and license!!

          1. Karma, Amy,
            Let’s be honest here I do know the facts. As I am sure you know I do. The BLCE has told me directly that they will not pick up ANY PA Skill games or any other skill games because they are with in the law, CONSIDERATION,CHANCE AND REWARD. Now you can not dispute that.. can you.. So again why would any tavern want to receive 26% instead of 40 % and keep the money here where it belongs instead of taking the money out of state

          2. Are you talking to BLCE for real? That’s not what I or many others were told in person. Keep your skill games, who cares? That shouldn’t stop me or any other bar owner from getting real VGT’s! Have you ever seen these machines up close? I have and I want them! Stick with what you have if you want, since you say they are ok then you’ll have no problems doing so! I’m standing with the majority of industry colleagues and going for the gusto. Good luck to you!

    3. Skill games are only fully legal in two counties where courts ruled they’re ok, and there is no way to know which skill games are the ones the court approved. They’re a shaky foundation to build a business on.

      1. Not true Perry Just look up case file on the web. Look up PLCE vs Pace a matic Pa Skill games it tells you the name of the games. And they BLCE is not picking up any skill games because they don’t want anymore machines out on the street they can beat them in court

      2. Does everyone realize that there was talk on the hill about taxing the skill games 54%

  27. Distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies of the PA Senate,

    My name is Ralph Fenner and I am a owner of a company named PFM Business Ventures LLC. My company currently trades under the name Lumpy Magee’s Pub and Grub in Northeast Philadelphia. I am a Desert Shield/Storm veteran who came home, to the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and City of Philadelphia to continue my career, start a business and raise a family.

    The reason for this email is to ask for your consideration during the embattled debates of passing the bill to legalize video gaming terminals in taverns in the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. There are many legitimate businesses in Philadelphia that would benefit from the passing of this bill. Also, if the bill fails or excludes Philadelphia, could be a detriment to the businesses of the constituents in each of your districts. Many of these businesses, like mine, employ individuals who contribute to the revenue of this state through income and property taxes. These employees and owners could lose their livelihood and income if these businesses shutdown. With the current tax structure in Philadelphia consisting of the alcohol tax(10%), state and city sales tax(8 % total) federal and state income taxes and the city soda tax, many of the bar/restaurant businesses are suffering. This bill would help all parties involved. I understand the concerns that many of you have with certain elements of the bill. However, I don’t believe it would be in the best interest of the county, businesses in the county or yourself to exclude countless more businesses from the ability to thrive legally under this bill/law. I continue to live in Philadelphia and run my business out of Philadelphia despite all of the reason why I should leave. I don’t believe, my family, my business, my employees and my customers should be excluded and alienated because of borders. The people that you represent have the capacity to make decisions for themselves. If they(customers or owners) make mistakes, there are laws to straighten out that situation and this bill does account for these scenarios and contingencies.

    Once again, please, consider the businesses that you will be alienating from participation in a program that will benefit all parties involved! I ask that you consider my statements before deciding your vote or modification to the bill.

    Thank you for your consideration and time!!


    Ralph G. Fenner Jr

    1. Thanks Ralph, well said. I have 24 employees and not many people understand how hard it is to keep them working in this business.

  28. Video Gaming Terminals ALL THE WAY! Look at the Legislation, so many people benefit! Small Business Owners, More Jobs generated, Volunteer Fire Companies and Veterans Organizations!!! Come on PA! Do what’s RIGHT!

      1. Jerry,You seem to have the dog in promoting skill games.I’ve been in the tavern business for 43 years and have seen them all.I fondly remember the best years of the early 2000’s when the machines were my “best friend”.I will be retiring soon and won’t reap the benefits very long that VGT’s will bring.The one benefit that I will reap is the appreciation of my license.My belief is that inside of 20 years there will be very few small “mom and pop”operations in the counties on the outskirts of Phila.In Montgomery Co. the average license is selling for just south of $500,000.The big operators and food stores will be the only one’s able to absorb the cost of license and set up for a business.I don’t need to annoy the PLCB with a skill game they don’t like being thrown in their face.Let’s get some needed money for the state budget and a bonus for the little guy.The issue on lottery’s going down I don’t think will happen.If someone only has a couple of dollars and their gambling their not likely to put it in a machine to win a few dollars.The people who play lotteries are trying to get rich or at least win $500.00.My thank’s to the Bucks/Montco tavern owners assoc.of which I’ve been a member for 37 years.They have been fighting and helping on many issues for their members benefits.I can’t understand why every owner would not join and support the only organization in Pa that is working directly for them.

  29. You left out my suggestion of hand-jobs. Put it in. I bet it gets the most votes. 🙂

  • Does the NYC Verdict Make You More or Less Likely to Vote For Trump in 2024?

    • Less Likely (36%)
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    Total Voters: 112

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