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Pa. lawmaker to address state's taxing issues in speech

March 09, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The introduction of slot machines in 12 locations across the state and the addition of sales tax to food and clothing purchases are among topics state Rep. Patrick E. Fleagle said he'll talk about Thursday to members of the Chambersburg Area Taxpayers Association.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at St. John's United Church of Christ at 1811 Lincoln Way East, Chambersburg, Pa., and is open to the public.

Carl Barton, taxpayers association president, said the members will question Fleagle on the effects of tax reform recently passed and proposed by Gov. Ed Rendell and state lawmakers.

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"We're interested in what we get for our taxes, how school taxes are spent and about property tax reform," Barton said.

He said the members are also interested in the legislators' position on caps on medical malpractice suits.

Fleagle, R-Franklin, said if slot machines are introduced they would generate $1 billion and greatly reduce property taxes.

"However, sentiment among my constituents has been overwhelmingly against any expansion of gambling in Pennsylvania," he said.

It the sales tax reform goes through, property taxes would be eliminated within three years, he said.

Dropping the state's 6 percent sales tax to 4 percent and adding sales taxes on food, clothing and services, which are now exempt, is the second major proposal under consideration in the legislature, Fleagle said.

The owner of an average assessed property in the Waynesboro area pays $1,000 or more a year in local real estate taxes, Fleagle said.

Raising landfill tipping fees by $5 a ton would pay for Rendell's proposed educational reform, plus bring in millions of new dollars for such environmental programs as Growing Greener, which provides money for parks, open space projects and cleaning up hazardous sites, he said.

Lloyd Hamberger, borough manager for Waynesboro, said last week that any added landfill tipping fees will have to be passed on to customers.

Fleagle said the tipping fees were raised by $4 a ton last year.

Pennsylvania's state income tax was raised to 3.07 percent from 2.8 percent to get the state out of its deficit, he said.

"My goal was to pare it back down to 2.8 percent as soon as possible, but we had to keep it like it is this year because of the deficit," he said.

At 3.07 percent, a family whose annual income is $50,000 pays an additional $135 a year in state income tax.

Fleagle hopes the income tax can be dropped back to 2.8 percent for the 2004-05 fiscal year which begins July 1 if the state's budget is back in the black.

"We'll have to cut some spending, too," he said

The budget has to be passed by June 30.

"We have a lot of work to do, and a lot of things could change," he said.

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