Two words you are not hearing in Harrisburg lately as we debate the state budget are “We agree.” As cosponsors of Senate Bill 76, legislation that would eliminate school property taxes, we are here to say, “We agree” with the need for true property tax reform.
Republicans and Democrats have been locked in a three-month debate on how to resolve the state’s fiscal affairs for Fiscal Year 2015-16. Given the difficulty to come up with a final state budget both sides can agree to, it would appear we cannot agree on anything, including pension reform and reforming the state’s liquor system. However, as many editorials have correctly pointed out, several of us on both sides of the aisle continue to advocate for the elimination of school property taxes.
Senate Bill 76 has more cosponsors (24) than any other bill dealing with school property tax reform in the Senate thanks to strong support from Republicans and Democrats—and for good reason. The issue has been put on the forefront by citizen lobbyists from over 80 grassroots taxpayer advocacy groups from all across the state. Over the summer, due to the generous time, talent and resources of many advocates, two billboards were erected in Harrisburg supporting Senate Bill 76. These advocates continue to hold town hall meetings statewide on this key issue. We’ve never witnessed a groundswell of public support for a singular issue as we have with this issue. Our colleagues are starting to take notice.
With school districts all across the state raising property taxes, this is not a regional issue – it’s a pandemic for Pennsylvania taxpayers. While we are still trying to agree on the state’s final budget, we think finding a new system to fund our public schools instead of relying on the regressive property tax would be a great start.
Over the last several months, both sides of the aisle including the governor, acknowledge rising school property taxes continue to plague taxpayers. In their column earlier this year titled “RIP: The School Property Tax,” G. Terry Madonna and Michael L. Young advocated that the elimination of school property taxes would be a win for all:
“Both sides really want the same thing here – a sane tax system in support of a stable revenue source for schools. Realizing that comity of interest is half the journey. Getting rid of the property tax means Wolf wins, the GOP wins – and most important of all, the long-suffering taxpayers of Pennsylvania win.
“It doesn’t get better than that.”
The legislature and the governor could claim credit for ushering in an era of true homeownership in Pennsylvania, but the real victors would be the taxpayers of Pennsylvania. The taxpayers would no longer rent their home from the school district and bear the burden of funding the majority of public education.
As Republicans and Democrats, we continue to strive towards that goal to give the taxpayers what they truly want: real homeownership.
And let’s hope this issue is the tip of the iceberg for future bipartisanship.
Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks)
Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh/Northampton)
Senator Pat Browne (R-Lehigh)
Senator Mario Scavello (R-Monroe/Northampton)
Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks)
Senator John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon)