Pa. Senate rejects bill to kill school property tax by 1 vote

Pa. Senate rejects bill to kill school property tax by 1 vote

Reposted from The Mercury:

The Pennsylvania Senate narrowly rejected a measure Monday night to eliminate billions of dollars in school property taxes statewide by replacing the money with increases in state tax rates on sales and income, although the legislation could re-emerge with more support.

The preliminary vote tied, but was recorded as 24-25 after Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, a Democrat, cast a vote against it to break the deadlock.

The vote split both parties, and both party’s majority leaders opposed it, but it could re-emerge since one co-sponsor was absent and a newly elected candidate from a suburban Pittsburgh district was to take office later this week. Both are likely to vote in favor of Senate Bill 76.

Still, the future of the bill is in doubt beyond the Senate. Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday that he opposes it, while a similar bill failed in the House two years ago, 138 to 59.

During more than an hour of debate, proponents promoted the move as modernizing the tax code and public school funding by ridding the state of a tax that doesn’t reflect one’s ability to pay and puts the fixed-income elderly at risk of being forced out of their homes.

“This is a unique, quantum change in the way we look at Pennsylvania,” said Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria. “If you have the ability to pay, then you should pay. But it should not be on the property tax, which is there whether you’re making a million dollars or you’re a widow on a fixed-income making $15,000.”

Opponents, however, said it would put unfair restraints on school boards and grant unwarranted tax breaks to major commercial enterprises, such as owners of casinos and skyscrapers, and translate into a tax increase in many areas.

“This is just too big a giveaway,” said Sen. Robert Tomlinson, R-Bucks.

The legislation would have imposed a multibillion-dollar state takeover of public school funding from school boards and a monumental change in state taxation. The Legislature’s Independent Fiscal Office projects total school property tax collections, including existing state rebates, will exceed $14 billion next year.

The legislation, however, arrived on the Senate floor without any independent assessment of how much the proposed tax changes would net. It was not clear that the 91-page legislation could raise the precise amount of school property taxes to be collected by districts next year, or even that it was required to raise that amount before taking effect.

Nationally, about four in five states use the property tax to help fund schools.

The measure would have ended the collection of school property taxes from millions of Pennsylvania households and businesses starting July 1, except to pay off about $25 billion in school debts.

The bill also would have delivered a significant new constraint to the ability of school districts to raise taxes in the future. The state’s allotment would get an inflationary increase every year, and districts wanting to spend above that would have had to win voter approval to increase local income or wage taxes.

Starting Jan. 1, the personal income tax rate would rise from 3.07 percent to 4.95 percent while more types of food, clothing and shoes would be exposed to a new, higher tax on sales — 7 percent, up from 6 percent.

The sales tax also would be applied to a wider range of services that are currently exempt. Renters would immediately pay higher sales taxes, with no guarantee that their rent would come down proportionally or even immediately.

Many more items and services currently exempt from the state sales tax also would have been taxed, including day care, movie tickets, trash pickup, diapers and caskets, prompting one opponent to say that it would tax from “the cradle to the grave.”

Proponents say Pennsylvania taxpayers, especially senior citizens, are losing their homes because of the state’s onerous property tax system.

A number of high-profile organizations opposed SB 76, including the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the NAACP and a range of education advocacy organizations, food charities and trade associations.

4 thoughts on “Pa. Senate rejects bill to kill school property tax by 1 vote

  1. Newspapers keep reporting that food and clothing will be taxed .Any food item that is on the WIC program is exempt and clothing items under $50 are exempt. Newcome,Bowman,and Norris and friends love this !They can keep TAXING Octorara School District senior citizens out of their homes !

    • The school districts the schools and the teachers all keep stressing bullying involving other students. It’s time they practice what they preach and quit bullying senior citizen and low income residents with their ever increasing tyranny of School Property Taxes. It is claimed that Octorara School District is the poorest in Chester county and the highest taxed.. Their is something wrong with that Picture.

      To make matters worse School Taxes Go up Property Values go down. Just take a look at the Property tax situation in Monroe County PA. There are home owners there that are paying more on their yearly Property taxes then they are on the mortgage each year. Needless to say their are a lot of empty properties.

      Granted the whole problem can’t be blamed on the School Board. some of the funding problem needs to be blamed on the State legislature in Harrisburg. Who keep passing unfunded mandates and expects and requires the School Districts to fund them. Because I guess the legislatures are to cowardly to to take the blame for funding the unfunded mandates. They leave that part of the job to Non paid School Board members. Who are then forced to raise their neighbors Property Taxes to fund the unfunded mandates. Then the legislatures can they say look what we did we passed. such and such legislation.
      Well it’s time the legislatures start doing their job as the State Constitution requires. Article III (B) Section 14 state as follows:
      “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.” There is currently legislation in Harrisburg that would serve the purpose of getting Pennsylvania in compliance with the Pennsylvania Constitution funding requirement and would adequately fund public education. and would end the forced sheriff sale of thousands of property Tax, delinquent properties. Go to website ptcc.us to learn more about this legislation bill HB/76 and SB/76 then call your State rep or Senator and demand passage time is of the essence. .

  2. I think it is enough to say many of us are disappointed by the rejection of this bill, even though the Governor was sure to veto it and there was clearly no way to override a veto. Taken in this light one could argue this was a very BIG waste of time. Let’s not forget that all of the time wasted on this known to fail bill, was time that could and should have been spent passing a budget. This is especially true since the fragile agreement seems to be going down the tubes as well, also over the issue of property taxes versus sales tax. There is enough blame to go around for failure to reach agreement on a budget at this point, but it is unfair to characterize the school Superintendent and board members as loving to tax seniors out of their homes. That’s not accurate or fair. Let’s keep in mind that seniors losing their homes to taxes didn’t just start happening in the last 10 years. Property taxes have put an unfair burden on seniors for decades. At least the current version of the budget deal would call for a voter referendum before property taxes could be increase. Let’s encourage our representatives to do their job and pass the budget.

    • Almost as much of a waste of time as someone hopping on a school board ballot 3 weeks before the election even though he had no chance of getting elected? That BIG of a waste of time?

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