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Rep. Dwight Evans calls for referendum on Pennsylvania education funding

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks

Put it directly to "John Q. Pennsylvania."

That’s State Rep. Dwight Evans’ idea for escaping the political loggerheads seen over state education funding.

Here’s the question that Evans (D-Phila.) wants Pennsylvanians to consider in a non-binding statewide referendum:

In order to raise an additional $1 billion for public education annually, would voters approve of an increase to the state sales tax, personal income tax, business tax or a severance tax on revenue generated by Marcellus Shale drilling?

Any potential funds generated, Evans says, would be directed to be used solely for the purpose of public education. Existing state education funding appropriations, he says, would be "held harmless."

The non-binding referendum would not force lawmakers to act.

Evans says it’s a way for voters to send a clear message to lawmakers, Gov. Corbett and the candidates hoping to replace Corbett in this year’s election.

"The governor gives his budget address on Feb. 4, and he will outline his proposal regarding the spending of state money," said Evans. "Where is the citizen view? We should put the education issue on the ballot and ask the people."

Evans draws inspiration from California voters. In fall of 2012 they approved a measure that raises $6 billion for education annually by increasing sales and income taxes on the wealthy.

A similar initiative that would have raised an additional billion in annual education revenue failed in Colorado in November.

Evans thinks it could succeed in Pennsylvania.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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