Reinette LeJeune // Bucks County Standard
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has unveiled his tax relief proposal as he tours the state along the gubernatorial campaign trail. He is the sole contender seeking the democratic nomination, pitting him against Pennsylvania state Senator Doug Mastriano. Shapiro’s plan calls for the use of surplus state cash and federal pandemic aid to eliminate state taxes on cell phone bills, send payments to car-owning households and expand Pennsylvania’s rent and property tax rebate program.
Under Shapiro’s plan, households could get a $250 payment for each vehicle, paid for by federal pandemic aid. There are an estimated 8 million passenger vehicles in Pennsylvania, meaning the plan would cost around $2 billion – although Shapiro has pointed out that corporate and government vehicles, which are included in the overall vehicle estimation, will not be eligible to receive tax breaks. The elimination of state sales and gross receipts taxes on cell phone bills is estimated to cost $317 million, while his proposal to expand the property tax and rent rebate program will roughly cost $424 million and holds the possibility to expand the number of applications by 60 percent. Shapiro’s campaign has said that the combined cost would be footed by surplus state tax collections.
In their campaigns for Governor, several Republicans have proposed temporarily reducing or eliminating the state’s gas tax as an effort to try to lower gas prices. Shapiro said he believes lowering the state gas tax could have consequences, and might not even lead to lower prices at all, noting that lowering the state gas tax would defund the state police and much needed infrastructure repairs.s Shapiro has said he prefers to send Pennsylvania drivers a cash rebate because there is no guarantee that gas companies will pass state gas tax reductions to consumers in the form of lower prices at the pump. “In states that have actually cut the gas tax, what we’ve seen is that the gas and oil executives, they’ve kept 30% of that savings, meaning they don’t pass that savings on to the consumers,” Shapiro said. “So while they’re working to put money in the pockets of oil and gas executives, I’m working to put money in the pockets of Pennsylvanians who right now are dealing with these high costs.” When asked if he had any plans to address price gouging as attorney general, Shapiro said that his ability to do so was limited because of a constitutional amendment limiting emergency powers that Republicans supported and voters approved last year.
Shapiro’s plan to expand the state’s Property Tax and Rent Rebate program, which helps eligible elderly and disabled Pennsylvanians pay their rent and property taxes, would increase the program’s income threshold to $30,000 for renters and $50,000 for homeowners, and increase the total rebate amount to $1,000, instead of $650. Shapiro is calling on the state legislature to pass these proposals immediately, and said, if elected, he would work to pass these proposals on day one of his administration.