Many local football fans have watched their favorite NFL team make numerous trades and acquisitions over the past two weeks. Some of those trades leave fans scratching their heads and wondering what the front office is doing to help the team get to the Super Bowl.
Two weeks ago, I heard a similar reaction from local residents to Governor Wolf’s trade offer to give Pennsylvanians permanent increases in state income and sales taxes in exchange for a temporary reduction in school property taxes—a raw deal for taxpayers.
Over the last several days, his administration tried to tie their property tax “relief” proposal to a plan that was developed over the course of the last several years by over 80 grassroots taxpayer groups across Pennsylvania – Senate Bill and House Bill 76.
The broad bipartisan coalition of individuals that crafted Senate Bill and House Bill 76 deserves a lot of credit because they are willing to make a fair trade – eliminate school property taxes in exchange for an increase in income and increase and expansion of sales taxes.
Senate Bill and House Bill 76 raises over $11 billion necessary to eliminate school property taxes by increasing the state’s Personal Income Tax from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent; increasing the state’s Sales and Use Tax from 6 percent to 7 percent and expanding the sales tax base to cover more goods and services.
The governor’s plan raises $3.8 billion, approximately 34 percent of the current statewide school property tax bill, by increasing the state’s Personal Income Tax from 3.07 percent to 3.7 percent; raising the state’s Sales and Use Tax from 6 percent to 6.6 percent and expanding the sales tax base to cover more goods and services.
Senate Bill and House Bill 76 will kill off the property tax beast altogether so it can never return. The governor’s plan would allow this monster to survive and continue to devour new local tax revenues year after year.
The people in Berks and Schuylkill Counties have given me a simple mission: completely eliminate the hated school property tax that has funded schools since the 1830s. Maybe it made sense nearly two centuries ago, but we need to find a fairer way to fund public schools and remove the heavy, unfair burden on property owners.
Poll after poll demonstrates that the taxpayers of Pennsylvania are unwilling to support the governor’s concept, which only temporarily reduces property taxes. His budget secretary noted that a current state law will limit the growth of property taxes in the future. Just last year, with this law in place, one-third of Pennsylvania’s school districts raised property taxes above the capped 2.1 percent increase. The nightmare scenario would play out in a matter of years: Increased income taxes, increased sales taxes and again, high school property taxes.
The governor is selling his plan as real relief, but as the taxpayers know, his is a trade where they lose. I don’t see any taxpayers excited to make a trade for high income taxes, high sales taxes and eventually high property taxes.
While I’m pleased to see the issue of property tax reform finally getting the attention it deserves, we need to ensure that the taxpayers come out on top of this trade through school property tax elimination, not just a temporary reduction.