Senate Finance Committee Advances Purely Public Charity Bill

For Immediate Release
2/13/13

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HARRISBURG – The Senate Finance Committee approved today Senate Bill 4, legislation sponsored by Chairman Mike Brubaker (R-36) and intended to further clarify a “purely public charity” in Pennsylvania and ensure these entities are eligible for a property tax exemption.

Senate Bill 4 originates from a state Supreme Court ruling in 2012 – Mesivtah v. Pike County Board of Assessment Appeals – which applied a different standard to determine which entities qualified for an exemption, therefore questioning the eligibility of many charities. To date, purely public charities in the state have been exempt from paying real estate taxes as part of a law approved by the General Assembly (Act 55 of 1997). However, Senate Bill 4, also sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to clearly define a purely public charity and ensure these organizations are eligible for an exemption from paying local property taxes.

“I am pleased to see my colleagues advanced this legislation today, recognizing the need to protect our public charities by simply clarifying their status. It is unfortunate that last year’s court ruling has led to new challenges regarding the charitable status of similar institutions and has created a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the law,” said Brubaker. “Our goal with Senate Bill 4 is simple: To give the Legislature the sole authority to establish criteria for a tax exemption, thereby providing a clear avenue to protecting our charities which serve the interests of our communities throughout this Commonwealth.”

Brubaker emphasized that the renewed urgency for this legislation also stems from the tax exempt statuses for many statewide charitable organizations which have been revoked in recent months, such as Warren Hospital, Warren County YMCA, Habitat for Humanity and others.

Because the measure requires amending the Pennsylvania Constitution, the bill must receive approval in two consecutive legislative sessions and go before the voters in a public referendum.

CONTACT:

Colleen Greer
(717) 787-4420