Proposed tax break for cops, teachers, nurses gets criticism

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A top Republican state lawmaker is giving a withering assessment of a key element of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget proposal, suggesting Monday that the Democrat’s tax incentive to attract more people into Pennsylvania’s ranks of police officers, nurses and teachers will not pass the GOP-controlled Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman, R-Indiana, called Shapiro’s proposed tax break a “Band-Aid approach” to a much deeper problem of a thin workforce affecting employers across the spectrum, not just schools, hospitals and police departments.

Pittman said a better idea might be cutting state personal income taxes for all employees to encourage more people to work, although Pittman he qualified that by saying the state must first ensure that its “fiscal house is in order.”

“The best way to encourage greater participation in the labor force is to take less out of an individual’s paycheck, make it more attractive to work,” Pittman told a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon Monday.

Shapiro’s proposal effectively asks the rest of the labor force to subsidize a tax break for officers, nurses and teachers, Pittman said.

Pittman said he has not heard any member of the Senate’s Republican caucus offer support for Shapiro’s proposal, which is under consideration by lawmakers with the rest of Shapiro’s $44.4 billion budget proposal for the 2023-24 fiscal year starting July 1.

Under Shapiro’s proposal, newly certified nurses, teachers and officers could receive a three-year tax credit of up to $2,500 a year, a central short-term plank in his effort to address the shortages in Pennsylvania.

Shapiro’s office billed it as his “plans to Rebuild Pennsylvania’s Workforce,” although many new recruits may not fully receive $2,500 because of how much they earn.

That’s because the size of a tax credit depends on how much a newly certified officer, nurse or teacher pays in state income tax, and many of them likely pay well below $2,500.

Pittman confronted Shapiro’s budget secretary, Uri Monson, during an Appropriations Committee hearing on Friday, and asked how many people Monson expected to persuade with the tax credit to become officers, nurses or teachers.

Monson said it was difficult to predict.

“This is a labor market unlike anything most of us have seen, post-pandemic, workers really chasing opportunities,” Monson said. “So we wanted to try a variety of approaches and this was one we think will help people’s pocketbook right away.”

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