Governor’s Budget Plan Would Increase Local Tax Burden

Information provided by Rep. David Millard

The House Appropriations Committee last week launched a website which provides information on how the Commonwealth’s taxpayers in each school district would fare under Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed property tax shift plan. If fully implemented, the governor’s plan would raise $8 billion in new taxes by 2016-17, but put only $3.6 billion toward property tax relief. The website shows that taxpayers in approximately 400 of the state’s 500 districts would pay more in personal income and sales taxes than they would receive in property tax relief.

The plan, as proposed, would negatively impact every taxpayer in Columbia and Montour counties. The following is the estimated net impact in the area’s school districts.

•    Benton Area School District: $179,776 in additional taxes.
•    Berwick Area School District: $825,471 in additional taxes.
•    Bloomsburg Area School District: $3,118,377 in additional taxes.
•    Central Columbia School District: $3,732,331 in additional taxes.
*    Danville Area School District: $6,377,761 in additional taxes.
•    Millville Area School District: $812,686 in additional taxes.
•    Southern Columbia Area School District: $2,499,332 in additional taxes.

Chamber President Fred Gaffney participated in a conference call with chambers from across Pennsylvania last week to continue the discussion of Gov. Wolf’s budget proposals. Among the concerns are audacious tax increases and revenue projections in the face of weak economic growth, and the lack of any reform to the public pension systems. A policy statement on the Governor’s plan is being developed.

Chamber Board Supports Natural Gas Pipeline Expansion

Two natural gas pipeline projects that would traverse the area are being planned. These projects would likely benefit the local economy during construction phases and provide long-term opportunities for businesses and residents to utilize Pennsylvania’s natural gas resources. This Tuesday, the Chamber Board passed a resolution supporting the expansion of the gas pipeline infrastructure in Pennsylvania.

The Williams Atlantic Sunrise project would increase the pipeline capacity of the Transco system, which transports natural gas throughout the eastern United States. This project would include the construction of a new pipeline which would run north and south through Columbia County with a new compressor facility somewhere in the northern half of the county. Information about the project is available at www.atlanticsunriseexpansion.com.

UGI’s Sunbury Pipeline project would construct a 35-mile pipeline from the existing Transco pipeline in Lycoming County to Shamokin Dam, through Montour County. The project would allow for the conversion of the former coal-fired Sunbury Generation plant to a natural gas-fueled facility. There is also the possibility that capacity could be increased in that pipeline for use by other customers. Information on this project is available at www.sunburypipeline.com.

The Joint Governmental Affairs Committee of the Chamber and Visitors Bureau reviewed both projects and recommended the attached resolution supporting the expansion of the natural gas pipeline transmission and distribution infrastructure in Pennsylvania to maximize the potential benefits for the region.

Budget Proposal Doesn’t Offer Real Solutions for Pension Crisis

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Last Tuesday, March 3, Gov. Tom Wolf gave his first budget address before a joint session of the General Assembly. The plan calls for nearly $34 billion in total spending for the 2015-16 fiscal year, an increase of 16 percent over the current year’s spending.

Most concerning to the PA Chamber is that the budget plan fails to offer any real solutions for addressing a $50 billion and growing pension crisis that will place enormous financial burdens on every Pennsylvania taxpayer if nothing is done. In a press release issued the same day as the budget address, PA Chamber President Gene Barr warned that pension obligations will grow by $1 billion over the next three years alone and stressed the urgency for substantive pension reform in order to protect the Commonwealth’s economic stability and competitiveness.

In order to fund billions in additional spending, Governor Wolf is calling for increases in many employer taxes – including increases in the sales and personal income tax rates and expanding the sales tax base to many additional goods and all professional services. And while the PA Chamber applauds the governor’s efforts to reduce Pennsylvania’s Corporate Net Income Tax rate – which at 9.99 percent is the highest in the nation – there are concerns about his call to institute unitary combined reporting which would create a more confusing, unpredictable and costly tax climate for job creators.

Lastly, the PA Chamber has already voiced opposition to Governor Wolf’s plan to institute another tax on the natural gas industry. Replacing the current impact tax with the governor’s proposed five percent severance tax would take money that’s currently being directed to local communities and put it into the General Fund for Harrisburg to spend. Furthermore, a higher tax on Pennsylvania’s fastest-growing industry would have a direct negative impact on core and ancillary jobs and would harm our state’s competitive advantage in the shale play.

The Columbia Montour Chamber will be working closely with the PA Chamber to address concerns with the Governor’s proposals and is also attempting to schedule a local budget briefing with a representative of the Wolf Administration for members.

Member Spotlight

GordnerCoombs

The original Gordner Insurance Agency was founded by Glenn Gordner, former mayor of Millville, in 1956. When he passed away in 1989, Donna Coombs, the current owner, purchased the agency. In 2007, she incorporated the agency as GordnerCoombs Insurance Inc. and recommitted to providing quality insurance service and products.
GordnerCoombs Insurance prides themselves on being a name you can trust for most insurance needs.  They service and sell all lines of insurance, except health. This includes auto and home, business, and life insurance. GordnerCoombs is an independent insurance agency that primarily represents Erie Insurance as well as Millville Mutual, Progressive, American Bankers, and J C Taylor.

GordnerCoombs cares about their clients and community. They are actively involved with the United Way of Columbia County and the United Way Women’s Leadership Council. They also support the Little Fishing Creek Area Swimming Pool and the Millville Community Fire Co. This year marks their fourth sponsoring a team for Jorge’s Walk to Defeat ALS at the Bloomsburg Town Park on May 16th.  To date, their team has raised over $7,000 to defeat ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in memory of a former staff member and Bloomsburg resident, Vera Hoffman, who succumbed to ALS in 2010.

Contact GordnerCoombs at (570) 458-6015 or visit www.gordnerinsurance.com for more information.

The subject of each month’s Member Spotlight is selected from attendees of Chamber events.

Dine to Donate to United Way of Columbia County

Local restaurants are stepping up to support their community by contributing a portion of sales to the United Way of Columbia County. Each restaurant will contribute 10-15% of meals (excluding alcohol) purchased at their establishments on various dates through March 11; no coupon is needed to participate.

Upcoming events include:

Place: Turkey Hill Brewing Company
Date: Sunday, March 8
Time: 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Place: The Links
Date: Wednesday, March 11
Time: 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Special Finale Fundraiser: Basket raffle and silent auction with dozens of items valued at over $3,000 for all tastes in honor of John Thomas’ impending retirement after 30 years as the chief executive officer of the United Way of Columbia County. Auction and raffle winners announced promptly at 8 p.m. (winners do not need to be present to win). All proceeds from both fundraisers benefit the United Way and its 15 member agencies that serve more than 39,000 children and adults who live in Columbia County.