Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Navigating the property tax maze

Pennsylvania lawmakers are stumbling over each other this week to deal with the property tax issue that many legislators and Gov. Ed Rendell claimed was solved in June 2006 when Rendell signed Act 1 into law.

There's a lot of bills floating around and it's easy to get confused.

In fact, confusion is the rule in Harrisburg as lawmakers who ignored property tax relief for years pretend they're the taxpayers' best friend.

Here are key differences between the major plans being offered by House Democrats and House Republicans.

The main plan supported by Democrats, House Bill 1600, would REDUCE property taxes for some Pennsylvania homeowners temporarily in exchange for a permanent hike in the state sales tax and income tax. The bill does not restrict school districts from raising property taxes. (In other words, you might as well turn over the deed to your home to your local school district today.)

The main Republican plan is House Bill 1275. It would ELIMINATE school property taxes in exchange for an expanded sales tax on clothing, some food items and professional services. It would ELIMINATE property taxes for ALL Pennsylvania homeowners. Separately, House Republicans are also pushing for a REDUCTION in the state income tax.

If you want a temporary lowering of property taxes for some, but want to pay more in sales tax and income tax, HB 1600, sponsored by Rep. David Levdansky, the chairman of the House Finance Committee, is for you.

If you want to STOP PAYING SCHOOL PROPERTY TAXES in return for an expanded sales tax, HB 1275, sponsored by Rep. Sam Rohrer, is for you.

Here's some comments on the competing plans from the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition:
HB 1600: This is the worthless Levdansky/Scavello bill that will raise the sales tax and state income tax to finance a rebate of approximately an average $414. If you don't remember the details, the explanation is here:

HB 1489: This is the DeWeese bill that is also known as "HB 1600 Lite." It does not raise the state income tax like HB 1600 but raises the sales tax by 0.5% to finance a small homestead rebate of approximately an average $205. Otherwise the provisions are identical to HB 1600. Reportedly, the governor told the democratic caucus last week that this is the only bill he wants to see approved by the House.

Both of these bills are dangerous pieces of legislation that work on the same principle as the Act 1 tax shift referendum that was so soundly rejected by the voters last May. They permanently raise taxes for a small, temporary rebate that will quickly be eaten away by relentlessly rising property taxes. They do nothing to control costs, address equity for underfunded schools or to solve the education finance crisis. They are WORTHLESS SCAMS that are meant to deceive us unto believing that the politicians have given us property tax "relief" and can be jammed down our throats without any chance for us to reject them. They are simply a PERMANENT TAX INCREASE and must be rejected.

HB 93: This one has slipped under the radar but will still be an issue. The bill provides for the implementation of special tax provisions FOR FIRST-CLASS CITIES ONLY that allow for the refund or forgiveness of property tax liability for certain low-income, disabled, or senior citizens. This is simply more pandering for votes and will take money from property tax relief for other areas of the state.


Call or e-mail your representative NOW to DEMAND that they support HB 1275, the School Property Tax Elimination Act, and that they REJECT HB 1600 and HB 1489. Tell them that your vote for them in 2008 will depend on their support of HB 1275.

Ignore any mealy-mouthed excuses that they may offer. Contact information for your representative is available here:

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