Wolf readies plan for Pa. tax, minimum wage hikes

HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania residents will likely hear a proposal for a broad-based tax increase when Gov. Wolf proposes his first budget next week.

After meeting with business leaders Tuesday, Wolf declined to discuss details of his plan but would not rule out a graduated income tax targeting high-income brackets, a structure he has touted in the past.

"What I talked about was a fairer tax system. I do intend to present that," he said. "This is a chance for a reset. I hope the people of Pennsylvania will be pleased with what I propose."

Despite the projected $2.3 billion deficit, any new tax proposal is virtually certain to meet resistance in the GOP-led legislature. Republicans have made it clear that they will not consider new revenue until the state addresses pension funding.

Asked if he expected a budget battle with the legislature in the months following his address Tuesday, Wolf said he believed he could find common ground with GOP leaders on the need to better fund schools and invest in job creation.

"I hope we can build consensus on a budget based on an overarching agreement on goals," he said.

But Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R., Indiana), said the GOP caucus is focusing on liquor privatization, which he said could bring in $1 billion.

"We are not advocating new or higher taxes," said Miskin. "If revenue is needed, liquor privatization is the way to go."

In his speech, Wolf told the 250 business leaders to expect to hear more on his proposals for a shale gas tax and to increase the minimum wage next week.

"I think an increase to $10.10 makes sense," said Wolf of the wage, citing Wal-Mart's announcement that it would boost its starting salaries to $9 this year and $10 in 2016.

Gene Barr, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, which sponsored the Economic Forecast Summit, said his group does not support a minimum wage hike.

"It's a concern for small business," he said. "We all want people to grow, but don't think government mandating a certain wage is the way."

Wolf also told reporters he would veto the liquor privatization bill that cleared a House committee on Monday and is scheduled for almost certain House passage this week if it "reaches my desk in the current form."


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