Rock revives spending limits bill

April 18, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, PA. - Saying it should have the support of freshman legislators who campaigned on reform, state Rep. Todd Rock on Tuesday reintroduced a twice-failed bill that would create spending limits for the commonwealth.

Rock's House Bill 1100 became one-third of what he and colleagues are referring to as the Taxpayer Protection Package, which also could lower the personal income tax, and require that school and municipal tax increases be approved by voters.

"For more than three decades, the commonwealth has endured a series of bipartisan failures to limit the growth of both taxes and spending," Rock said in a morning press conference that was streamed on his Web site.

Each provision in the package is necessary to make true tax reform happen, said Rock, R-Franklin.

Rock's legislation was introduced in the 2005 and 2006 sessions, said state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, who was the previous sponsor.


Metcalfe expressed hope that 2007 would be a successful year for the bill, saying that "reform is in the air."

This time, Metcalfe is sponsoring House Bill 188, the package's component that would require that any local tax increases be approved by voter referendum.

He charged that Act 1 of 2006 - which gives voters a voice at the polls regarding school spending increases but has 10 available ballot exemptions - is tax reform in name only.

"Unlike the (existing) law, which allows for multiple exemptions, the new one would allow for one - that's an emergency of health or safety," Metcalfe said.

State Rep. Tom Quigley, R-Montgomery, introduced House Bill 1092, which would lower the personal income tax from 3.07 percent to 2.8 percent. He said the rate increased under Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.

"This legislation is my way of putting taxpayer dollars where they belong - back into the pockets of Pennsylvania's taxpayers," Quigley said.

Rock has proposed limiting all state government spending based on the current growth of the population and inflation from the previous fiscal year. A caveat would allow the limits to be bypassed if three-quarters of each chamber of the General Assembly declared a state of emergency.

Pennsylvania has no constitutional or statutory mechanisms in place to limit state government's ability to tax and spend, Rock said. In Rendell's proposed $27.3 billion budget for 2007-08, there is more than $3 billion worth of new taxes and fees on everyday consumer purchases, he said.

Rock, who said he wants to be a "leading and effective voice for real reform in state government," expressed confidence that the legislative package would put an end to the "annual taxpayer-sponsored spending spree."

"For far too long, our tax dollars have been viewed by our state and local governments as a never-ending supply of Monopoly money," Rock said.

The trio of legislators said they chose to introduce the Taxpayer Protection Package on tax filing day, which Metcalfe called "the day of the year that reminds us how much our government is taking from us."

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