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Area legislators react to proposed budget

| Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 3:57 a.m.

An area state legislator said Gov. Tom Corbett was heeding more than 30 House members by rejecting the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare during his budget address.

“The governor announced this decision and honored our wishes, thereby once again preventing hardworking Pennsylvania taxpayers from being put on the hook for a massive spending increase ranging from $1.3 billion to $5.5 billion over the next eight years,” state Rep. George Dunbar, R-Penn Township, posted on his Facebook page on Wednesday,

On Jan. 31, Dunbar, a deputy House majority whip, joined other GOP lawmakers in a call to take action “preventing exorbitant costs from being passed onto our hardworking taxpayers.”

Other area signers of that letter included Reps. Tim Krieger of Delmont and Eli Evankovich of Murrysville.

“Moving forward, the best and only sustainable decision for Pennsylvania's taxpayers, doctors, patients and our total economic future is to continue to reject the implementation of Obamacare in full,” Dunbar said.

Democrats disagree, including Rep. Joseph Markosek, D-Monroeville, minority chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

In an assessment of the governor's budget proposal, Markosek said “no additional health care under Medicaid expansion ... would keep tens of billions of federal funds from flowing into Pennsylvania, generating an economic spinoff associated with new jobs and additional state and local tax revenue.”

Markosek has other problems with the budget as well, saying the governor “is recommending some very comprehensive and questionable policy changes ... that will have a dramatic impact on the Pennsylvania economy.”

Corbett does not propose any increase in income or sales taxes, but would raise the oil company franchise tax to bring in $5 billion for bridges, roads and mass transit.

“When you go to the pump, you have this tax and that tax, and that goes into the $3.65 (per gallon), and you're still going to raise it to the highest prices in the state's history,” said Rep. Ted Harhai, D-Monessen. “If you're taking money out of someone's pocket, it doesn't matter if it's the left or the right, the front or the back. A tax is a tax, and the people feel it.”

Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, is leery about the oil company franchise tax being passed down to consumers at the pump, but is willing to hear more.

“Give me some hard numbers, and show me where this thing is going to work,” Saccone said. “Let them explain it to me simply, so I can re-explain it simply to my constituents.”

McKeesport's state House members think there are other places to find revenue.

“Instead the governor is fighting to end the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax and cut other business taxes that would force more of the burden on to struggling middle-class families,” said Rep. Marc Gergely, D-White Oak.

Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, said the governor could “close the Delaware loophole which allows 85 percent of corporations doing business in the state to pay less income tax than a family earning $36,000.”

Saccone said he isn't willing to march in lockstep with fellow Republican Corbett, but said Democrats need to give more than “their own ideological reasons” to object to Corbett's budget.

“I try to look at the facts and study as hard as I can to sift through what is rhetoric and what is good policy,” Saccone said. “If somebody is right, based on facts, they're right. And if they're wrong, they're wrong.”

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com. The Valley Independent contributed to this story.

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