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Senate Committee Subpoenas Revenue Secretary Browne Over Allentown Tax Info

Revenue Secretary Pat Browne

The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, chaired by Sen. Jarrett Coleman (R-Lehigh/Bucks), today voted to subpoena one of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s cabinet officials – Revenue Secretary Pat Browne – to obtain tax information about the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ).

“The sources of the Allentown NIZ’s revenues, the way it uses the money and the effectiveness of the program seem to be shrouded in mystery,” Coleman said. “It’s hard to determine the value of a program when its financial records remain largely hidden and secretive.”

The subpoena marks the culmination of Coleman’s ongoing efforts to bring transparency and accountability to the Allentown NIZ, which has benefitted from more than $500 million in taxpayer investments during the past decade.

The subpoena calls on Browne and the Department of Revenue to provide the Senate with a comprehensive breakdown of state taxes collected through the Allentown NIZ. Coleman has sought the information to help legislators make policy decisions related to the effectiveness of the Allentown NIZ.

The attempts to obtain the Allentown NIZ tax information began in March 2023, when Coleman on two separate occasions – March 6 and March 29 – made official requests to the Department of Revenue. Browne denied Coleman’s requests.

Coleman introduced Senate Resolution 110 calling on the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to conduct a performance audit of the Allentown NIZ. The Senate unanimously approved the resolution on Dec. 13, 2023, and the LBFC accepted the assignment.

The LBFC made multiple attempts – including on April 15, May 9, June 5 and June 6 – to obtain the Allentown NIZ tax information from the Department of Revenue, but the department refused to provide all of the data requested by the committee.

“The department’s arguments about taxpayer confidentiality are a smokescreen, because no data about individual taxpayers has been requested and confidentiality will be maintained” Coleman said. “The secretary is going to extraordinary lengths to hide this information from legislators and the people we represent. When this much effort is put into preventing people from seeing what’s going on, it casts a cloud of suspicion over the program and the people responsible for properly using the half-billion dollars in tax money. Ultimately, the information included in the subpoena is necessary to determine whether the program is a success or an expensive boondoggle.”

The subpoena gives Browne a deadline of 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 16, to turn over the Allentown NIZ tax information.

One Response

  1. Bravo Senator Coleman! The NIZ was an amendment to the PA Fiscal Code slipped in by former Senator Browne resulting in the enrichment of his developer and consultant contributors. The state is losing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. It should be repealed. The Auditor General needs to look into this as well.

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