Wolf plays the old game of hiking taxes while calling them "fees"
Did you catch this in Gov. Wolf's new budget?
Fee hikes dominated budget talks Monday as the head of Pennsylvania’s environmental watchdog agency defended a modest budget hike that would bring more regulators onto the state payroll.
But Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee told Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell that the proposed fee increases, for dumping in landfills and drilling for natural gas, are just a stealth tax hike.
Wolf is not exactly an ardent follower of Grover Norquist, so he's probably unaware of the core argument that when you cannot go elsewhere for a given service, a hike in a rate or cost you must pay to the government to do a given thing is not a "fee" hike, it's a tax hike. If you want to drill for natural gas, you don't have a choice between paying the Commonwealth the "fee" or paying an alternate, private entity. The Commonwealth is not the Post Office here, and there is no Fedex or UPS. That makes this "fee" hike a tax hike, pure and simple.
Unfortunately, Republicans aren't doing the greatest job of clarifying how this is so. See Rep. Clint Owlett here:
“Even increasing fees, that’s passed on to the constituents I serve and we all serve across the commonwealth,” Rep. Clint Owlett, R-Tioga, said. “So they all feel that as much as a tax.”
No, it's not that they FEEL it as much as a tax, Clint. It's that it IS a tax.
Wolf knows this, he's just being cute with his rhetoric here. But no one should buy what he's selling. These things are tax hikes.