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Pa. budget, corporate tax breaks protested

Pa. Chamber of Business is scene of 1st rally. Capitol is site of much larger rally later.

More than 300 union members rallied in front of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry on Tuesday to deliver a gift: A 12-step program to help corporations "kick their addiction to tax breaks."

Members of Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, crowded the sidewalk in front of the Chamber’s Walnut Street office opposite the state Capitol. Rally-goers packed the sidewalk across the street and spilled into the road.

At one point, protesters moved in to block Walnut Street, forcing drivers to turn around. Capitol Police later made them stay on the sidewalks and the Capitol lawn.

The rally was generally against Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget, which includes cuts to hospitals, universities and K-12 education. Protesters said business tax breaks and other tax loopholes are unfair in light of the proposed cuts.

Chants of "Pay your share!" and "Shame on you!" erupted from the crowd as they heaved their signs toward the Chamber’s glass doors.

A beating bass drum gave a rhythmic backbone to call-and-response chants of "They say cut back; we say fight back!"

"If Walmart’s not going to pay taxes ... then you can’t come back to us and tell us you’re going to eliminate our kids’ kindergarten," Gabe Morgan, state director for SEIU 32BJ, told the crowd through a bull horn.

Morgan said Pennsylvanians are tired of living in a state where 75 percent of corporations pay less in taxes than they do.

Tuesday afternoon, another rally concerning the budget brought one of the largest crowds in more than a decade to the Capitol.

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