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Tax cuts, stadiums on plate in Pa.

January 13, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Tax cut proposals and stadium proposals are likely to come before the Pennsylvania General Assembly during the legislative session beginning next week, according to area legislators.

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At a December budget briefing, Ridge told legislators he'll request tax cuts in the 1999-2000 budget proposal he unveils Feb. 2. Ridge, whose inauguration is Tuesday, has not said which taxes he favors cutting.

"I think the General Assembly is slightly more in favor of a cut in the personal income tax," 90th District State Rep. Pat Fleagle of Waynesboro, Pa., said Monday. The tax is now 2.8 percent, the Republican said.

Democratic Rep. Jeff Coy, of Shippensburg, Pa., whose 89th district includes parts of Franklin and Cumberland counties, said Tuesday he favors an income tax cut to help working families.

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"We're probably talking about one-tenth or two-tenths of a percent" cut, he said.

"You've got to weigh the advantages of cutting business taxes, which create job growth" against cutting income taxes, said State Sen. Terry Punt, R-33rd. He said a one-tenth of a percent cut would mean about $50 to the average taxpayer.

Ridge's $300 million proposal to finance new sports stadiums in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh died last fall in the House, but legislators expect to see it back this spring.

"I understand the concept is being expanded with some proposals for Central Pennsylvania," Punt said.

"Stadium funding is going to be a top priority for the governor, but I want to see what's in the total package for Franklin County," Fleagle said.

"It's always going to be on the front burner as long as Ridge pushes for it," Coy said. "So far, he doesn't have the votes for it," he said.

"I think school vouchers will be revisited," Punt said. He said a voucher proposal to help families pay for private or parochial schools failed two years ago.

Coy said he voted against vouchers last time because the proposal was aimed at major urban areas and didn't include Franklin or Cumberland counties.

Coy said his top priority is funding for public schools and state universities. Last year was the first time in a decade funding to state universities was high enough to stave off a tuition increase, he said.

"We have to make sure our schools have the technology to be on the cutting edge," he said of funding for school districts. More state money could also help districts avoid property tax hikes, Coy said.

Ridge is predicting a 1998-99 budget surplus of $273 million, according to spokesman Tom Charles. In his budget briefing, Ridge said he wants to keep any 1999-2000 budget increase below the 4 percent hike in the current $17 billion budget.

Punt will once again be chairing the Senate Community and Economic Development Committee.

As a member of the Democratic leadership, Coy will serve on both the Rules and Ethics committees.

Fleagle hopes to remain chairman of the Education Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. He said committee assignments will be made next week.

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