Are Pennsylvanians Under Taxed?

Member Group : Commonwealth Foundation

Pennsylvania’s tax burden is high, and growing, relative to the rest of the nation.

• Pennsylvania residents pay, on average, $13,000 per person each year in federal, state, and local taxes.
• In 2008, Pennsylvania had the 11th highest state and local tax burden. Pennsylvania moved from ranking near the middle of the fifty states (24th) in tax burden in 1990 to near the top today.
• Pennsylvania’s state and local tax burden (taxes as a percentage of total income) grew 5% since 1990, according to the Tax Foundation.
• This increased tax burden means that it takes Pennsylvania workers 111 days—nearly one-third of the year—to pay off their federal, state, and local tax bills.
• In a recent poll, 62% of Pennsylvania voters said that state taxes were "too high," only 1% thought they were "too low."
As Pennsylvania’s government spending has grown faster than the income of its residents, lawmakers have found new ways to tax its citizens.
• The state Sales & Use Tax first appeared in 1954 at the rate of 1%, but increased by 500% over the next 14 years to its current rate of 6%.
• Policymakers added the state Personal Income Tax in 1971 at the rate of 2.3%, which has increased 35% since then, to its current rate of 3.07%.
• State government implemented the Inheritance Tax in 1971, which began taxing the estates of the recently deceased.
• In 2002, the state began taxing cell phone usage for the first time under the Gross Receipts Tax and increased the Cigarette Tax by over 300%.
Taxes on families and businesses harm Pennsylvania’s economic growth.
• States with high tax burdens and increasing tax burdens—Pennsylvania ranks among the highest in both categories—have slower economic growth than the U.S. average. States with lower tax burdens and falling tax burdens have much stronger job, income, and population growth.
• Taxes on businesses consume almost 5% of Pennsylvania’s Gross Domestic Product.
• Pennsylvania’s 9.99% corporate income tax ranks as the second highest rate among U.S. states, combined with the federal rate, Pennsylvania’s combined rate is higher than any other industrialized country and every state but Iowa.
For more facts visit

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Spending Tip: Stop Subsidizing Sports Stadiums

Building sports stadiums is a waste of taxpayer dollars and an economic sham. Governor Rendell and the legislature promised $47 million out of taxpayers’ wallets for a soccer stadium in Chester. Delaware County residents will be forced to pitch in another $30 million, leaving team investors with half of the $80 million bill. But this isn’t the first time our tax dollars have subsidized sports teams:

• Taxpayers footed most of the bill for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ new $290 million arena, based on fears the team might leave the city. Later team owner Mario Lemieux admitted his threats to move the team were never serious.
• The Harrisburg Senators secured $500,000 from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to renovate Commerce Bank Park.
• Blair County Ballpark is getting in the game by accepting $1.3 million in taxpayer funds for a new field; in 1997 the Altoona Curve received $10.8 million from state coffers.
• Since 1986, the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program had distributed over $93 million for minor league baseball stadiums.
• Politicians argue athletic stadiums result in economic growth, but research finds only team owners benefit. The number of sports teams in a city has no statistical relationship to changes in employment levels.
For more Spending Tips, read the full report, Government on a Diet: Spending Tips 2009, or visit

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Get Involved

Stay informed and become a Citizen Activist:

• About 1,000 people attended the "Harrisburg Tea Party" on March 7 to protest over-spending and over-taxing. Click here for pictures and videos.
• Similar events are being planned in the next few weeks, many on Tax Day, April 15. Click here for Pennsylvania Events.
• Stay informed through your cell phone – text message the word ‘Tax’ to 25827.
• Become a 10-Minute Citizen. Get info on how to contact your lawmakers, media, and be an active citizen by clicking here.

Visit to:
• Learn the facts about Pennsylvania’s fiscal mismanagement.
• Email your legislators.
• Send a video message to the Governor.
• Sign an e-petition to Gov. Rendell and the Legislature to eliminate waste and cut taxes.
• Receive a bumper sticker bearing the rallying cry Please, No More Taxes!
• Enter a video contest that offers a fun and rewarding way to raise awareness of Pennsylvania’s punishing tax burden. The first-prize video will earn $2,500, while second and third-prize winners will receive $1,000 and $500, respectively. The deadline to enter is April 5th, and winners will be announced on Tax Day, April 15th. Full contest details are available at
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