Monday, August 12, 2013

Taxed to the max

Nobody likes taxes. It doesn't matter if you are a Democrat, Republican or Independent voter.

People in southeastern Pennsylvania, including Delaware County, are struggling with school district property taxes these days. Some can't afford to live here anymore. This problem affects people of all age groups, including senior citizens living on a fixed income and younger families who want to buy homes.

As William Penn School District Superintendent Joseph Bruni said, "We've hit a crisis right now. People are losing their homes."

There is a bill in the state Legislature that would eliminate school district property taxes dubbed the Property Tax Independence Act. The prime sponsor of the bill is state Rep. Jim Cox, R-Berks County. A companion bill was introduced in the state Senate by state Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill County.

The proposal would replace revenues that are currently collected through school district property taxes with other statewide funding sources. For instance, the state sales tax would be raised from 6 percent to 7 percent. The personal income tax would also be raised from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent.

The bills have been referred to their respective finance committees and that is where they remain at this time. However, members of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations are encouraged by the recent surge in co-sponsors. The House version of the bill has about 91 co-sponsors and 102 votes are needed for passage of a bill in the House. The Senate version of the bill has about 22 co-sponsors and 26 votes are needed for passage of a bill in the Senate.

But some of the key players in the House and Senate have not thrown their support behind the bill. That doesn't surprise me. House leadership members argue that the bill has a lot of details that need to be worked out. They also said that while this may be a problem in southeastern Pennsylvania, it's not as serious of an issue in other areas of the state. They also have concerns that they will have to continually raise the sales tax.

Is that a cop out? Maybe?

Or are these Republican leaders in the House and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett afraid they may violate a no-tax-increase pledge that they signed with the Americans for Tax Reform? Are they letting the lobbying group's conservative leader, Grover Norquist, tell them what to do again?

If I was a Republican legislator in the state House up for re-election next year with Corbett at the top of the ticket, I'd run for the hills. He hasn't been able to accomplish any of his top three goals: pension reform, transportation funding or privatization of the state's liquor store system.

Maybe it's time to listen to the people who elected you -- not lobbyists like Grover. Maybe it's time to change priorities a bit and throw property tax reform into the mix.

The Property Tax Independence Act, after all, was crafted by the people -- the people who elected you into office.

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