Russ Diamond, the founder of PACleanSweep and one of the leaders of the reform movement in Pennsylvania, is urging voters to cast a NO vote on the Act 1 referendum awaiting them on the May 15 ballot.
Below is an interesting perspective on Act 1 by Diamond, who became famous for leading the fight against the July 2005 Legislative payjacking. PACleanSweep also helped defeat some of the incumbent legislators who voted for the pay raise. Diamond launched an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2006 as an independent.
Here's Diamond's message to Pennsylvania voters on Act 1:
"At the primary election on May 15, Pennsylvania voters will be given the opportunity to voice their opinion of the results of the legislature's Special Session on property taxes held in 2006. PACleanSweep is recommending a resounding "no" vote and defeat of this referendum across the Commonwealth.
The exact wording of the referendum will vary from school district to school district, but the general theme will be to ask if taxpayers would like to exchange an increase in income tax for a reduction in property tax.
If the Act 1 referendum is approved, some taxpayers will win and some taxpayers will lose, but the majority of losers would be working families, renters and small businesses. Property taxes would not be reduced on rental or business properties and any tax rebates for other properties would not be keyed to property or assessment value. On average, a two-income home owning household in Pennsylvania would experience an overall tax increase.
Pitting taxpayer against taxpayer by asking them to figure out the complicated formulae hidden behind this referendum and having them vote to increase their neighbors' taxes appears to be a determined effort by General Assembly to pass the buck on school property taxes once again while claiming to have "done something about it" during a volatile post-pay raise election year.
Article III, Section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution states: "The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth."
"The Act 1 referenda are the latest result of the legislature playing Pontius Pilate on property taxes for nearly forty years," said Russ Diamond, PACleanSweep chair. "Despite a clear Constitutional responsibility for maintaining and supporting the public education system, lawmakers continue to wash their hands of the issue by passing the tough decisions to others. Defeating Act 1 in every school district in the Commonwealth will put that responsibility squarely back where it belongs."
Placing such referenda on odd-year primary ballots is a tried and true method of winnowing down voter participation to only those likely to show up at such elections - mostly older Pennsylvanians and political insiders - who just happen to be the most likely to gain if these referenda are approved. This lends even more credence to the theory that the General Assembly is attempting to shirk its responsibilities.
"I believe that strategy might backfire this time," added Diamond. "I've heard from many older Pennsylvanians who - since the pay raise - are no longer willing to accept legislative tip-toeing around this issue. Despite the possibility that they might gain a few dollars overall, they'll be voting no on this referendum in an attempt to force the legislature to actually solve the property tax problem once and for all. What Pennsylvanians demand and deserve is tax relief, not a tax shell game and the neighbor versus neighbor feuds that go along with it."
Pennsylvanians are reminded that all voters - not just Republicans and Democrats - are eligible to vote on these referenda in school districts where they appear on the primary election ballot. Alerting neighbors, coworkers, family and friends about the referendum issue is the best way to pressure the legislature to live up to its Constitutional duty."
PACleanSweep has developed a downloadable PDF handout advocating a 'no' vote for citizens to print at home and distribute at their local polling places. It can be downloaded at http://www.pacleansweep.com/act1.pdf and the Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view and print the file.
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