Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the presumptive Democratic nominee for Governor, today called on the state legislature to back his proposed plan to bring relief to Keystone State taxpayers.
Speaking alongside lieutenant governor candidate Austin Davis and state representative Patty Kim in East Pennsboro, Cumberland County, Shapiro talked about the Shapiro-Davis plan to address rising costs and put more money back in the pockets of Pennsylvanians.
“I think we all see it, whether it’s in household goods, the price at the pump or at the grocery store, prices are going up,” he said. “I think we also all recognize that there are global reasons for why prices are going up, things that are happening well beyond the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
The most notable part of the plan was a call to provide every person with a registered car in the Commonwealth a rebate of $250 per car – up to four cars per household. “That’s a gas tax refund that would go to helping people offset the cost of increases at the fuel pump and we should do that right now,” he said.
This differs from a plan proposed by GOP gubernatorial candidate Jake Corman (R-Centre). The current Senate President Pro Tempore, Corman’s Consumer Gas Prices Relief Act would slash the state’s gas tax by one-third through the end of the calendar year. The revenue would be replaced by a mix of federal funds and a bond issue to ensure critical infrastructure projects are not delayed or deferred due to the gas tax cut.
Shapiro noted that “there are some on the other side who have called for either the elimination of the gas tax, slashing it by half or a third, or different plans I’ve heard. Those plans are reckless and irresponsible.”
“We know that the gas tax funds the state police and infrastructure investments. At a time where we should be investing more in infrastructure, now is not a time to be taking money away from investing in infrastructure.”
“I’m not for defunding police. They clearly are. The state police would lose out on millions of dollars if the gas tax is slash, cut or eliminated. That is so reckless.”
When queried about an overall reduction in Pennsylvania’s gas tax, among the highest in the country, Shapiro emphatically stated that his plan would get money to those who qualify immediately. Other plans “would be just giving more profits to oil and gas executives, because they would not be required to pass it on (to consumers).”
“Our plan is legal because ours provides rebate checks directly to Pennsylvanians,” he continued. “Filling up what they’re taking away in gas tax revenue with federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding, that’s illegal. There are court cases on that. Their plan is illegal, it’s unworkable, it profits the oil and gas executives instead of helping the good people of Pennsylvania,” he continued.
Another point called for the elimination of the state cell phone tax. Noting that cell phones have become a necessary utility, he said Pennsylvanians pay an 11 percent sales tax on their cell phones that totals $317 million. “My view is that we should cancel that tax and give all $300-plus million back to Pennsylvanians immediately.
The final part of the plan assists seniors and the disabled who are 18 and older who utilize the Property Tax Rent Rebate program. The program makes available a maximum of $650 to those renters who make below $15,000 and homeowners making below $35,000. “The amount that is allotted under the Property Tax Rent Rebate has not gone up in a couple of decades, yet during that same time, the price of living in your home has increased by 43 percent. We want to increase that to $1,000.”
Davis said that “Pennsylvania is sitting on more than $2 billion in unspent ARP funds that is just stashed away in a bank account right over the river here in Harrisburg that we have to spend by the end 2024. That’s more than enough to cover all the personal passenger vehicles registered in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. We can and must use this money to give families a hand up.”
Kim, running for reelection in the 103rd District that includes East Pennsboro, stated that she supports that Shapiro-Davis plan. “For many families, the rising prices of gas and rent are squeezing them. And now some parents are faced with difficult decisions to pay gas to get to work or pay rent to stay in your home. Many people are too proud to admit that they are struggling and need help. I’m here to make sure their voices are amplified.”
Shapiro concluded, “My view is, people can’t wait until next January. This is a plan that I believe can garner bi-partisan support. And I think the legislature should take it up right now and do their job. Stop talking about helping Pennsylvanians and start doing it.”