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Pennsylvania

In poll, many Pennsylvanians predict taxes will rise under Wolf

| Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvanians expect to see a boost in education funding, but they also believe sales and income taxes will rise because of the election of Democrat Tom Wolf as governor, according to a survey.

Only 42 percent believe that the business climate is improving, according to the survey by Robert Morris University Polling Institute, which is sponsored by Trib Total Media, while a majority think a gas extraction tax is on the way.

Many of the poll results were influenced by November's general election between Wolf and Republican incumbent Tom Corbett, said Philip Harold, professor of political science at Robert Morris.

“More money for education was a theme of the campaign, and that's clearly created an expectation,” Harold said, with 67 percent of survey respondents saying education will receive more funding.

Wolf has been pushing a 5 percent tax on the gas extracted from shale, claiming it could generate more than $1 billion for education funding and help ease the budget crisis, though critics said those expectations are inflated.

Wolf will face a Republican majority in both the House and Senate, along with a $2 billion budget deficit.

Republican House Speaker-designate Mike Turzai of Marshall on Friday said education funding has been increasing and is now at more than $25 billion, with $10.5 billion coming from the state and the rest from local sources.

Turzai disagreed with the expectation of higher sales and income taxes along with the view of the business climate.

“I cannot believe that is an appropriate poll,” Turzai said. “We grew our majority from 111 to 119; we gained eight seats,” Turzai said. “We have been talking about fiscal responsibility and holding the line on taxes, and that message has resonated.”

He noted that unemployment is at 5.4 percent in Pennsylvania, below the national average of 5.8 percent.

Impact fees generated by shale gas drilling are, “essentially a 3 percent extraction tax,” Turzai said.

As for imposing a severance tax, “These issues are open to discussion, but we have to be cognizant that we can't do anything that will stop the development of natural gas in Pennsylvania, because it is such an important key to our economy,” he said.

Much of the polling results fell along party lines. For example, 87 percent of Republicans said sales or income taxes will rise, while 50.6 percent of Democrats predicted they will.

Nearly one-half of those polled support legalizing online gaming to raise money for the state. No legislation is pending to allow online gaming, but the idea is being floated, said state Rep. Mauree Gingrich, R-Lebanon County, chairwoman of the House Committee on Gaming Oversight.

“Discussion is occurring as a result of the consumer support and the commonwealth's budget revenue challenges,” she said.

“While convenience is a key element, the persistent challenge of gambling addiction and abuse may well be magnified since the ability to ‘police' the gaming process will be completely different and more complex.”

The poll sampled opinions of 507 Pennsylvania residents between Nov. 24 and Dec. 5, along with an identical poll of 1,004 people nationally. The Pennsylvania numbers have an error margin of 4.5 percentage points. The national survey has a margin of error of 3 points.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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