:Without question, the Pennsylvania General Assembly faces a real challenge in crafting a responsible state budget, one that protects our most vulnerable residents amidst the worst economic climate since the Great Depression.

My vote on the 2009-10 state budget will be the biggest decision I make as state representative of the 13th Legislative District, and it requires a great deal of consideration and thought. I continue to review the financial data - including our $3.2 billion deficit -- and the competing proposals from Senate Republicans and Gov. Rendell as to how the next budget ought to be designed.

On one side of the debate: A Senate-passed budget proposal that would slash state support to our schools and other important programs. I am seriously concerned that this slash-and-burn approach would merely shift the tax burden to the local level and pressure school districts into raising property taxes to make up for lost revenue. I simply don't believe the state should "relieve" itself of its obligations by placing an even greater burden on its homeowners and local governments.

On the other side: The governor has called for $2 billion in cuts to the budget plus a temporary increase in the personal income tax to fill the state's deficit. With that proposed tax increase, the average resident would pay about $4.67 extra each week, which could be deducted from federally taxable income during tax season. This increase would not burden those who do not have to pay the PIT, such as low-income families and the jobless. Our seniors would be shielded, as well, since retirement and pension income like Social Security is not taxed under the PIT. Even if this tax were to be raised temporarily as proposed, Pennsylvania's PIT would still be the third-lowest in the country.

A tough economy calls for tough decisions in the home and in the workplace. I will do my best to make sure I make the most informed decision possible because that is my responsibility as a representative. My decisions on such an important matter cannot and will not be based on mere party affiliation.

While it is not yet clear how the budget will ultimately look when it comes time for the legislature to vote, one thing is crystal clear to me: My vote will be guided by what I believe is in the best interests of the people of the 13 th Legislative District, not by party lines. Our community deserves that at the very least.

-Tom Houghton

London Grove Township

comments powered by Disqus