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House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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House of Representatives
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: August 11, 2014 09:03 AM
From: Representative John A. Lawrence
To: All House members
Subject: Significant Property Tax Relief for Low Income Seniors via Cigarette Tax
Dear Colleagues –

In the near future, I will introduce legislation proposing an 80 cents per pack cigarette tax to fund significant school property tax relief for low-income seniors. Utilizing the existing Property Tax Rent Rebate program infrastructure, seniors 65 and older with an annual income of $35,000 or less and residing outside a city of the first class would be eligible for substantial additional property tax relief. The tax would be assessed in 66 of the 67 counties of Pennsylvania; all except those containing a city of the first class.

Under this legislation, approximately $382 million would be collected from the new cigarette tax. Using 2012 numbers (the most recent available,) this would be enough to provide eligible seniors with an approximate 82% total reduction in property taxes. Thus, a senior with a $3500 tax bill would receive a total refund of $2870. (This number includes both the new cigarette tax money and the existing PTRR program funded via the lottery.)

Personally, I would prefer to see a broad based approach to tackle the property tax issue for all Pennsylvanians. However, until that time comes, I am advancing this proposal in an attempt to provide relief directly to low income seniors.

On July 2, 2014, the House passed legislation enacting a $2/pack cigarette tax to fund Philadelphia schools by a vote of 119-80. Advocates for this proposal point to a funding crisis in the School District of Philadelphia. In my view, there is another statewide crisis that gets significantly less attention – seniors being evicted from their life-long homes by a tax that does not take into account their ability to pay. I encourage your support for this initiative and ask for your cosponsorship.