Gov. Tom Wolf is picking the wrong time to propose a spending plan partially built on one of the largest income tax increases in state history.

Wolf’s latest budget, announced this week, calls for a significant boost in school funding. That budget line, however, would be backed up with approximately $2 billion drawn from a 46 percent increase in the personal income tax — from 3.07 percent to 4.49 percent.

At a time when tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians are still out of work and hundreds of businesses have closed or are still struggling to keep their head above water, the timing could not be worse. 

There are some parts of Wolf’s budget plan that make sense. His renewed call for an increase in the minimum wage would benefit thousands of Pennsylvania workers. The move is long overdue.

Wolf is not wrong that schools need to be better funded. They do. Many are drowning and the exodus of students to outside cyber schools is costing districts hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

“The inequity in our system of school funding is among the worst in the country, if not the worst,” said Mark DiRocco, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and former superintendent at Lewisburg. He called Wolf’s spending plan an “ambitious effort” to solve the problem “in one fell swoop.”

The issue is the timing. Perhaps Wolf knows this plan isn’t going anywhere right now, partly because of the pandemic and partly because Republicans still control both chambers in Harrisburg. Maybe Wolf wants the idea out there to revisit when things do turn the corner.

Pennsylvanians are hurting, some argue due to Gov. Wolf’s shutdowns and mitigation efforts over the past year to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These measures proposed by the governor would be devastating to middle-class Pennsylvanians who are already struggling financially, as well as many small businesses that pay the (personal income tax),” State Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver said. “These two demographics have suffered tremendously throughout this pandemic, and these additional financial burdens would only worsen that suffering.”

His call for the tax increase also comes at a time when smaller municipalities — borough and city councils, township supervisors and even counties — were able to sign off on budgets without increasing taxes. Those elected officials understood where the state is right now financially and designed reasonably frugal budgets to get by.

Gov. Wolf should follow suit.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.

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