Excuse me if I don't jump up and down at the news that Gov. Ed Rendell's budget secretary says there is enough revenue coming in from casinos to begin offering property tax cuts in 2008 or 2009.
We've heard these promises before.
In 2002, Rendell, candidate for governor, promised to cut everyone's property taxes by 30 percent standing on his head.
In his first year in office, Rendell developed amnesia about property taxes. Instead, he increased the state income tax by 10 percent.
In 2004, Rendell promised property tax relief when he signed Act 72 into law. It didn't happen.
In 2005, Rendell developed amnesia again, but he did impose the $52-a-year payroll tax on just about every worker in the state.
In 2006, Rendell promised property tax relief when he signed Act 1 into law. Act 1 would have raised the income tax in return for lowering property taxes. Voters didn't buy into the tax-shift scheme. Another failed attempt at tax relief.
Here we are at the end of 2007 — five years into Rendell's term — and not one penny from gambling has been returned to Pennsylvania residents as property tax cuts.
The Legislature, which has House Bill 1275 (the School Property Tax Elimination Act of 2007) before it, failed to act on it before adjourning for its 32-day Christmas vacation.
Now we have a prediction from Rendell's budget chief that some homeowners will see property tax cuts at the end of 2008 or sometime in 2009 because gambling revenues have reached the minimum level to trigger tax cuts.
The operative word here is minimal. The state's six operating slot parlors have kicked in $506 million so far into a fund set up for property tax relief. The fund needs to reach $570 million by April in order for the state to begin distributing money to homeowners.
But Rendell promised $1 billion in tax relief when he signed the bill bringing casino gambling to Pennsylvania.
It will take several more years to reach that level. And we're talking about a few hundred dollars in tax reduction. So if you pay $3,000 in property taxes each year, you might get back $300. In the meantime, there's nothing to prevent your local school district from raising property taxes by hundreds of dollars ... year after year.
So pardon me if I don't do a jig. The promise of property tax cuts through gambling revenues is a mirage.
The only way to reform Pennsylvania's antiquated property tax system for funding public education is total elimination, which is what House Bill 1275 proposes.
Only 44 legislators (mostly Republicans) in the 203-member House of Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors of HB 1275 so far.
If you live in any of the following Southeastern Pennsylvania counties, you might want to ask these legislators why they won't support the elimination of property taxes. None of the following are listed as co-sponsors of House Bill 1275:
BERKS COUNTY — David Kessler (D-130); Doug Reichley (R-134); Tim Seip (D-125)
BUCKS COUNTY — Paul I. Clymer (R-145); Gene DiGirolamo (R-18); John T. Galloway (D-140); Chris King (D-142); Anthony J. Melio (D-141); Bernie O’Neill (R-29); Scott A. Petri (R-178); Marguerite Quinn (R-143); Katharine M. Watson (R-144)
CHESTER COUNTY — Thomas Killion (R-168); Duane Milne (R-167); Chris Ross (R-158); Carole Rubley (R-157
DELAWARE COUNTY — William F. Adolph Jr. (R-165); Mario J. Civera Jr. (R-26); Robert C. Donatucci (D-185); Thomas H. Killion (R-168); Thaddeus Kirkland (D-9); Bryan R. Lentz (D-161); Nicholas A. Micozzie (R-163); Ron Raymond (R-162); Greg Vitali (D-166); Ronald G. Waters (D-191)
MONTGOMERY COUNTY — Lawrence Curry (D-154); Michael Gerber (D-148); Robert Godshall (R-53); Kate Harper (R-61); George Kenney Jr. (R-170); Daylin Leach (D-149); Kathy Manderino (D-194); Jay Moyer (R-70); Thomas Murt (R-152); Josh Shapiro (D-153); Rick Taylor (D-151); Mike Vereb (R-150)
For more information about HB 1275, visit the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition Web site at http://ptcc.us
If you want to see genuine property tax relief in Pennsylvania, you have to pressure your state legislators (especially the Democrats) to support House Bill 1275.