Empty pantries. Unfilled medications. Depleted savings. I recently poured over hundreds of comments like these from my constituents regarding the issue concerning them most: the growing toll inflation takes on their survival.
Of the roughly 650 people who responded to my poll, 92 percent said they are worse off today than they were last year. Another 95 percent said they feel the pain of inflation at the gas pump and the grocery store. Many told me the cost to fill their tank has tripled, while electric bills and food purchases have risen by hundreds of dollars each month.
Others say they’ve dipped into savings and delayed retirement just to handle the worsening economic situation. Parents forgo new clothing and school supplies as their children embark on another academic year, elderly and disabled residents on fixed incomes fret over property tax hikes, small business owners watch sales plummet and income halved, while others consider fleeing Pennsylvania altogether.
This widespread suffering weighs on my mind every day and the responsibility I bear to fix it grows heavier by the minute. I wish I could say the same for my colleagues across the aisle, spurred on by a feckless gubernatorial administration only interested in throwing money at our problems in hopes they’ll just disappear.
Ordinary Pennsylvanians know this tactic only makes things worse. There’s no such thing as free money, especially when it’s our hard-earned dollars the state is using to appease Gov. Tom Wolf’s progressive allies. It’s the same pattern we see at the congressional level, where President Joe Biden just signed the Inflation Reduction Act – a misnomer, at best, to distract from the billions in handouts it awards to green energy.
Even the nonpartisan Congressional Office of the Budget admits the legislation will increase taxes on the middle class – those making under $400,000 annually – by $20 billion over the next decade. This, on top of the $410 million carbon tax the Wolf administration is fighting tooth and nail to impose on electricity ratepayers through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
A bipartisan mix of lawmakers opposes RGGI because it could nearly quadruple energy costs by 2030 with virtually zero reduction in carbon emissions. It threatens tens of thousands of jobs and punishes millions of residents unable to afford greener options, like electric heat pumps and solar panels.
My constituents tell me their electricity bills have already inflated by hundreds of dollars each month, leaving them with difficult choices to make about which bills get paid. If the Senate Republicans’ legal challenge to stop RGGI once and for all fails, these costs will skyrocket even more.
But Wolf’s policies don’t exist in a vacuum. Rather, the Biden administration’s ruinous strategies amplify the struggle we all face just to drive to work and keep our lights on. From restrictive gas drilling regulations to the billions in aid we funnel to Ukraine to defeat a war against Russia, we swear we aren’t fighting, both Democratic leaders believe the middle class should fund their self-serving ambitions.
That’s why I sponsored Senate Bill 813 to temporarily institute a gas tax holiday that would shave 15 cents off the price per gallon for six months. The legislation also implements registration fees for electric and hybrid vehicles to offset the lost revenue from the tax cut to maintain funding for roads and bridges.
We know, however, that energy is just one facet of this spiraling economic crisis. Local governments often lean on property taxes to fill widening budget gaps, a strategy that hits residents surviving on fixed incomes the hardest. With more than 2.2 million seniors living in Pennsylvania, this hardship isn’t limited to my district alone.
Eliminating property taxes for residents 65 and older could benefit as many as 176,000 seniors currently living below the poverty line. Legislation I introduced last year would extend this relief to elderly residents who’ve lived in Pennsylvania for ten years or longer and make less than $40,000 annually.
Our seniors have spent decades working and contributing taxes to our state. They shouldn’t fear losing their homes because of the inflationary spiral that’s wreaking havoc on our lives.
I’m not the only one taking action to quell this disaster. My Republican colleagues and I have likewise championed legislation to lower taxes on businesses, which will translate into wage growth and economic prosperity.
We’ve dismissed the governor’s proposals to increase personal income taxes, collect higher fees from oil and gas operators and drain our state’s savings account. We’ve sued to block his onerous regulations meant to punish industry and raise prices for all. We’ve asked voters to step in and tell us where they stand on our most fundamental issues, rather than letting the administration dictate to us what they think is best.
In that vein, I’ll conclude with just a handful of the hundreds of comments I’ve received from my constituents about the hardships they face. Don’t just take my word for it:
“I have to watch every penny and try to budget even further in the event that inflation gets worse so my family will still be able to afford to pay bills, buy food, and gasoline so I can get to work. It’s scary and frustrating. ”
“HARD decisions have to be made. Pay health insurance or the utility bills? HAVE to go to work, HAVE to use gas, how is anyone coming out ahead? We were barely making even BEFORE inflation hit.”
“I don’t fill my tank up all the way. I put enough in to get me 2 to 3 days. I can’t afford my co-pays to go to [the] doctor. Even when I work 30 hours OT in 2 weeks.”
“We are on SS and it is almost impossible to make our money take us till the next month. With all the bills going higher, but our checks do not get any higher. We have to make choices if we should pay rent, or go to the doctor and pay the copays, or pay the bills, or get medication, or eat, or use the gas to do any of the above.”
“We have several kids [and] it’s very hard to even have all the essentials now. It is very hard to have food for all my kids all the time. And gas is so expensive to even go to work. Basically working to pay for gas and food. No money for anything else.”
“Inflation has caused me to put my business up for sale due to a drastic drop in sales. Only form of income so barely getting buy and hoping for the best.”
“All of our utilities are behind or in shut off status. We have been late on our house payment the last few months. We basically go to work and back home because we are trying to conserve what gas we have. Everything has gone up, but our wages.”
“Barely keeping our head above water. Depending on the outcome of the midterms, we may have to leave the country. Things are completely out of control.”
“We can’t save for a new house due to everything else increasing. My husband drives a truck and his fuel prices have almost tripled! We need your help!”
“The prices of everything are so high we have to sacrifice a lot of things just to eat and provide electric in my household. Whoever reads this please help!”