By Rep. Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz)
Recently I have heard from numerous constituents about the status of reforming or eliminating school property taxes.
In the present 2017-18 legislative session, no comprehensive property tax legislation has yet been introduced in either the House or the Senate.
In May 2016, I was part of a strong bipartisan majority in the House that voted to pass House Bill 504, a comprehensive property tax reform measure that would provide $4.9 billion in property tax relief statewide and contains strong mechanisms to prevent school boards from hiking taxes back up in the future.
The legislation is a dollar-for-dollar tax shift measure that would dramatically cut property taxes for ALL Pennsylvania property owners, not just a select few. The measure, House Bill 504, also has a built-in mechanism to ensure the tax cuts would stay in place and suppress school district property tax increases in the future.
The Senate, however, never brought House Bill 504 up for a vote.
Instead, the Senate held a vote on Senate Bill 76, the Property Tax Independence Act, which would shift the burden of funding our schools from solely on property owners to all Pennsylvanians with minor increases in the sales and income tax. However, it fell one vote short of passing, with Lt. Gov. Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia) casting the deciding vote.
We rarely read in the news about the lives that are destroyed by a regressive tax that has the power to leave someone homeless. Sheriff’s sales of foreclosures all over Pennsylvania are filled with the lives and dreams of those whose homes have been ripped away due to school district tax foreclosures. This nightmare is especially growing among the elderly and those on fixed incomes. Despite having paid off their mortgages long ago, the insatiable appetite of school district spending is always looming to leave them destitute.
According to a Jan. 26 article in cityandstatepa.com, the grassroots proponents of property tax elimination indicate their plan moving forward is to first pursue elimination legislation in the Senate, where the last vote tally was the closest.
Be assured, as my voting record indicates, I am committed to reforming Pennsylvania’s onerous school property tax system.