Is Tea Partier’s role in PA Revenue Dept. a conflict of interest on Transportation Bill?
The state and national media have blown up over the past week over Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration hiring former Tea Party activist Ana Puig as legislative liaison for the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, given her past positions and oft-radical statements, which have been widely circulated by our friends at Keystone Politics.
However, given her place in the Revenue Department specifically, the part of the government which collects taxes, it’s fair to wonder whether there’s a conflict of interest going on.
The former “Kitchen Table Patriots” activist took up a mantle specifically within an anti-tax group, and she has been quoted as saying President Obama has a “model for implementation of 21st century Marxism.” This, despite one of the president’s first moves in office being lowering taxes on 95 percent of the national population.
Conveniently for Corbett and Puig, the governor still still claims he has not raised taxes on Pennsylvania’s citizens. (Even if he has.)
That may not be the case if the Transportation Bill—widely known as one of Corbett’s ‘Big Three’—goes through in the fall. The bill itself, given the best chance of passing by PoliticsPA readers, would uncap the Oil Company Franchise Tax, which is “imposed on all taxable liquid fuels and fuels on a cents-per-gallon equivalent basis, and it is remitted by distributors of liquid fuels and fuels,” according to the Department of Revenue.
Corbett Administration spokesperson Kelli Roberts tells Philadelphia Weekly the cap on the tax is artificial. Our current gas tax is 50.7 cents, the fourteenth highest in the nation.
And the cap on the tax has been place since the 80s. Uncapping the tax would, according to right wing news site Media Trackers and State Rep. Stephen Barrar (R-Delaware), make Pennsylvania’s gas tax the highest in the nation.
Roberts disputes this, noting those assessments are too broad. “The cap means that the Oil Company Franchise Tax will only apply on the average price up to $1.25. The Wholesale price of gas reached that point and has exceeded it ever since 2006. Therefore, as the price has gone above that level the tax was not applied. By lifting the cap, we simply allow the tax to apply to the full average wholesale price of gas.”
The tax is on wholesale distributors, she says, not customers.
But according to Media Trackers, “Uncapping the Oil Company Franchise Tax would allow Pennsylvania’s gas and diesel taxes to rocket upwards, making them the highest tax rates in the nation,” being as the wholesale price would “likely” be passed onto consumers at the pump.
Similarly, State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) has been pounding the governor as of late in interviews and in his newsletter, most recently noting that his own efforts “derailed” Corbett’s “gas tax increase.”
That said — and back to our original point — Roberts denies any conflict of interest surrounding Puig’s role in the Revenue Dept., despite the potential of anything passed to be construed as a tax increase.
The Pennsylvania Democratic Party, on the other hand, doesn’t exactly see things as such.
“Tom Corbett has let the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party co-opt his administration,” says PA Dems spokesperson Marc Eisenstein. “First, it was Daryl Metcalfe destroying his agenda, now he is giving in to the Tea Party again by hiring an anti-tax, Tea Party leader to advocate for his transportation bill. It is another sign that Tom Corbett is a failed leader.”
Randy is not part of the Tea Party, though he does enjoy tea parties. Follow him on Twitter: @RandyLoBasso