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AP sources: Wolf to seek more school funding, tax increase

Marc Levy
The Associated Press
FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2020, file photo, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a news conference in Harrisburg, Pa., regarding the counting of ballots in the 2020 general election. Facing a deep, pandemic-inflicted budget deficit, Gov. Wolf will ask lawmakers for billions of dollars funded by higher taxes on Pennsylvania’s huge natural gas industry for workforce development and employment assistance to help the state recover. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf will propose a sweeping new plan to dramatically boost funding for public schools, to be supported by an increase in the state’s personal income tax rate, people briefed on the plan told The Associated Press.

Wolf’s administration has not publicly released details of the plan ahead of Wednesday’s planned budget address, and three people briefed on it spoke on condition of anonymity because they said Wolf administration officials asked them not to reveal what they were told.

Under the plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1, Wolf, a Democrat, will ask the Republican-controlled Legislature for what could approach $2 billion extra for public schools.

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The biggest part of that, $1.35 billion, would be distributed to schools to their primary operations, like teacher salaries and supplies, on top of the $6.8 billion they currently receive.

It’s not yet known if any of that extra funding would go directly to pandemic-related costs.

All of that money would go out through a five-year-old school funding formula designed to iron out inequities in how Pennsylvania funds the poorest public schools.

Schools also would receive another $200 million for special education aid, on top of the $1.2 billion they currently receive, in addition to other sums of money, the people said.

The personal income tax increase would take the rate to 4.49% from 3.07%, but increase the exemption for the lowest earners, the people said.

Under that scenario, the lowest earners would pay less in income tax, while approximately the top one-third of taxpayers would pay more, the people said.

Lawmakers last approved an increase in the tax in 2004.