Reforming Property Taxes: Getting Down to Business in the House
4/4/2012
Realizing the desperate need for property tax reform in Pennsylvania, a few pieces of crucial legislation pertaining to property tax relief have recently been introduced by my colleagues in the House. The reality is that homeowners across the state are often forced from their homes by property taxes that surpass – and outlive – their mortgages. But unlike mortgages, which eventually are paid off, property taxes never go away and tend to increase year after year.

There’s no doubt about it; senior citizens especially dislike property taxes because they unfairly threaten to force them out of the homes they have worked all their lives to pay off. I realize it’s time to relieve the burden that escalating property taxes have on the most vulnerable residents in our district, as well as across the entire Commonwealth.

Unveiled earlier this week, House Bill 1776, commonly known as the Property Tax Independence Act, would eliminate school property and local school nuisance taxes across the Commonwealth and would replace those taxes with funding from a single state source.

Although this legislation would provide the same level of funding for schools across the Commonwealth as they currently receive through school property taxes, the plan would eliminate school property taxes and replace the funds with sources. Specifically, the bill would enhance collections through the state’s personal income tax by raising it from 3.07 percent to 4 percent. It would also generate additional funds by reducing exemptions from the state sales tax and raising the rate from 6 percent to 7 percent.

The plan would apply the 7 percent sales tax to clothing and footwear that cost $50 or more, non-prescription drugs and food items that are not part of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

In addition, it would expand sales tax to include dry cleaning, funeral expenses, amusement parks and other personal and professional services. It would close similar loopholes that currently exempt newspapers, magazines, flags, gum, candy and other goods from the sales tax. This is just part of the list of newly taxed items.

House Bill 1776 currently awaits referral in a standing committee in the House.

Another piece of property tax reform legislation, House Bill 2230, introduced several weeks ago would allow counties, municipalities and school districts to use a variety of alternatives to property taxes including giving counties, municipalities and school districts the ability to levy either a personal income tax (PIT) or earned income tax (EIT) as a replacement for property taxes based on a resident’s ability to pay, or allowing counties to enact, through voter referendum, a 1 percent sales tax.

This bill passed through the House Finance Committee earlier this week and now awaits consideration by the full House.

Property tax reform is an issue I hear about nearly every day from constituents. Many of our district's senior citizens on fixed incomes are finding it more and more difficult to pay their tax bills each year. I believe both pieces of property tax reform bills offer different perspectives toward a commonsense solution aiming to relieve the property tax burden by giving local governments and taxpayers the power to choose alternative funding solutions for our schools.

As one of Montgomery County’s voices in Harrisburg, I'll continue to push for legislation that best serves the citizens in our district. As these crucial pieces of legislation advance through the House, I'll be sure to keep our district informed.

State Representative Marcy Toepel
147th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Lauren Whetzel
lwhetzel@pahousegop.com
717.260.6451
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