If you chew tobacco, smoke cigars or puff on cigarettes, Gov. Ed Rendell next week will ask you to pay more in taxes.
He will try to raise $150 million in additional revenue by asking for a natural gas extraction tax but will not propose an increase in any broadbased levy such as the personal income tax.
Rendell will ask for a freeze in state government workers' pay or, in the extreme, he may ask for layoffs, although not at the expense of public safety, such as corrections officers and state police.
Rendell will not give his annual budget message until next week, but Thursday, on the heels of a backlash by major unions to the idea of layoffs, Rendell outlined the problems Pennsylvania residents and their government face in a time of recession and how he intends to address the situation.
Unemployment in the state has climbed to ''an unacceptable 7 percent,'' and 194,000 Pennsylvanians signed up for unemployment benefits this month, Rendell said during a teleconference Thursday.
"Wages are down, and savings accounts are shrinking. Families are asking, 'Do we sell the car? Do we walk away from our house?' Our families are looking to the government for answers in this crisis,'' Rendell said.
The problems of a poor economy are compounded by the fact that the present budget is expected to come up $2.3 billion short, he said.
In response, he proposes cutting expenditures to a level 1 percent below the 2002-03 budget.
He plans to freeze wages of nonunion workers and ask for a similar response from union workers.
He also will ask legislators to chip in their $200 million reserve.
He is proposing to eliminate 100 budget line items, such as the Governor's Schools of Excellence, which train young people in the arts or agriculture, and Drug Abuse Resistance Education, a program in which police officers go into classrooms to persuade young people to avoid drugs.
He said they are good programs but can't be maintained in these bad times.
Rendell hopes to raise $100 million by taxing smokeless tobacco and cigars. He also wants to increase the tax on cigarettes by a dime.
He is counting on the federal economic stimulus package for $7.6 billion to help pay for Medicaid and education expenses and infrastructure improvements.
Dave Fillman, executive director of the state workers' American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees union, said not all areas of possible spending cuts, short of layoffs, have been exhausted.
He said state workers already have taken pay freezes and skimped to build up reserves in their health care funds.
Fillman, like the heads of other unions, including Ed McNany, representing corrections officers, and Kathy Jellison of the Service Employees International Union, have suggested spending cuts - short of layoffs.
Rendell said Thursday that he and his staff intend to take a serious look at the suggestions.
Rendell used the word ''pain'' or ''painful'' several times in describing his budget plan, but he said the pain will be felt by everybody, not just a few.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.