Proposals in Harrisburg Could Mean Higher Sales Tax

What does the proposed state budget mean for you? Sales tax hikes, possibly.

Currently, in the state of Pennsylvania, the sales tax is at 6%. In comparison to other states across the country, this is somewhat of an average rate; not too low, but not too high, and local rates are among some of the lowest in the country for states with a sales tax.

Under Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2015-16 fiscal year budget plan for Pa., this would change. One of the first things in his tax proposal is a .6% increase in the state’s sales tax. On the contrary, he also has plans for local sales taxes in major urban locales, like Philadelphia. The Governor has proposed lowering Philly’s sales tax by the same amount he wants to raise the state sales tax. This would cut the local sales tax, which works in conjunction with that of the state, down from 2% to 1.4%, essentially keeping the rate the same in the City of Brotherly Love.

The governor outlines 45 items which he feels should become taxable by the sales taxes presented in his budget proposal. The most glaring of those items, at least for Temple students, are meal plans, university fees, and textbooks. A comprehensive list of PA state-related and state schools that could be impacted and some yearly numbers of the new taxable goods can be found here.

Temple Update talked to State Sen. Shirley Kitchen, who represents Temple’s district in Harrisburg. She says she’s not too happy about this raised rate for students. She also mentioned that she would bring up the topic of sales tax on textbooks specifically at budget meetings later in the spring on the senate floor.

“…Would increase meal plans by $97.55.”

State Representative and Temple Law School alum, John Taylor, represents Temple’s district neighbor to the east. This encompasses most of the Port Richmond, Bridesburg, and Mayfair sections of Philadelphia. His staff did the math and came up with some numbers regarding what could become newly taxable items.

“The most popular meal plan […] usually costs $1,478,” Rep. Taylor said. “[Gov. Wolf’s proposal] would increase that meal plan by $97.55.”

But, Philadelphia’s city sales tax would work in conjunction with the new 6.6% sales tax, making that $97 increase a $120 increase.

According to the representative’s math, the average amount a student spends on textbooks would cost an additional $83. Add the city sales tax into the equation, and that becomes $100 per year.

Students can be rest assured knowing these numbers are only in effect if the governor signs his budget into action without any changes to its current form. Both State Sen. Kitchen and State Rep. Taylor told Update that will not happen and some major changes will need to be made.

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