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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: September 22, 2017 10:20 AM
From: Senator Kim L. Ward and Sen. Wayne D. Fontana
To: All Senate members
Subject: Enabling Local Option for Property Tax Elimination
We are introducing a Constitutional amendment to allow the General Assembly to adopt legislation that would grant any local government in Pennsylvania with local voter approval, the option to eliminate property taxes and choose from alternative taxing options to make up for the loss revenues.

While we originally supported Senate Bill 76 because of its goal to eliminate school property taxes throughout the Commonwealth, the legislation ultimately proved to be problematic for our constituents. It became clear the bill will alleviate tax burdens for some people in some parts of the state while creating much larger overall tax burdens for most taxpayers in areas like ours. A tax shift is only a tax shift for those who don’t end up paying more. For everyone else, it’s a tax hike. Senate Bill 76 will be just that for the majority of the people we represent.

While no one likes property taxes, the idea of Harrisburg doling out almost all education funding sets up the very real potential that school districts like those in our districts would have seen the tax dollars of its residents shipped to other districts in the state without any local say. Furthermore, Senate Bill 76 would reward school districts who have not kept spending and tax increases in check over the years by guaranteeing them the amount of funding they currently spend and regardless of how much of that has been driven by their own decisions.

We recognize the struggle of people who live in school districts in some parts of Pennsylvania that have not been responsive enough to the ability of their residents to pay escalating property taxes. Therefore, we should enable those residents to do something about it by giving them to power to eliminate any and all property taxes in their communities if they are willing to pay higher income and sales taxes.

First though, we have to amend our state Constitution through statewide voter approval before the General Assembly can even begin to explore the best ways to locally empower taxpayers with freedom to decide what is best for them. Our bill will be a joint resolution proposing to amend the Constitution enabling legislation that would ultimately permit any local government, with voter approval, to eliminate the taxes they collect on all real property and replace the lost revenue with the enactment or increase of any of the following taxing options to be levied only within that political subdivision: personal income tax, sales and use tax, or any tax authorized under the Local Tax Enabling Act.

If ultimately approved, this Constitutional amendment will allow the General Assembly to enable property tax elimination in areas that believe it is needed but hold harmless the taxpayers and school districts in parts of the state that don’t think paying more in income and sales taxes is the best answer for them.

Introduced as SB976