The burden of Pennsylvania taxes
It’s great to make the top half of a list.
If you’re talking about public school test scores or high net income, that’s the place to be. Even on a more frivolous topic, you get a little thrill seeing your name at the head of the class.
Pennsylvania, for instance, is right up at the top when it comes to the number of colleges. It is just as prolific when it comes to hospitals. You like snacks? More pretzels are made and eaten in the Keystone State than anywhere else in the union.
But there are other honor rolls that come with less honor.
In 2019, for example, U.S. News and World Report ranked all 50 states. Pennsylvania came in at No. 40. The state where environmentalist Rachel Carson was born was 38th for natural environment. Infrastructure was 44th, which is hard to argue was unfair considering Fern Hollow Bridge collapsed three years later.
A new ranking from the Independent Fiscal Office puts sobering data on the table.
The IFO was created in 2010. It is, as its name suggests, unbeholden to party or branch of government. It offers dispassionate review of monetary information, just like the Government Accountability Office does at the federal level.
A new IFO report says Pennsylvanians shoulder a greater tax burden than other states. Specifically, the state comes in at 21st when it comes to the crushing weight on taxpayers’ backs.
It is always great to see these things highlighted and spelled out in an easy-to-read document, but let’s be honest. It’s not a surprise.
Every Pennsylvanian knows that the taxes paid are a heavy load.
We realize it every time we go to the fuel pump, where we pay more in gas taxes than any state but California and Illinois, according to the American Petroleum Institute. It is driven home hard on education and the continuing calls to find a way to fund it other than property taxes.
The state does acknowledge that food and clothing are important enough to isolate them from sales tax. And part of the tax is borne by the vices that make life fun for people who enjoy things like slot machines and table games.
Taxes are necessary in a civil society. We want roads and schools and safe drinking water. Taxes are the way that happens.
But we need government to recognize the load they are asking the people to pull — and to realize when that load is heavier than it needs to be.
And maybe they can be among the first to step up to do something about it. History says there’s probably a list of responsive governments and that Pennsylvania probably doesn’t rank that highly.
― From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review/AP.