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Harrisburg – Dec. 10, 2013 – Homeowners and community members today discussed the current property tax system with a bipartisan state Senate panel, focusing on alternatives to better meet the needs of property owners, seniors and school districts.
The state Senate Majority Policy Committee and Democratic Policy Committee hosted a joint roundtable discussion at the Capitol to examine ways to reform the state’s property tax system to provide relief for those facing tax increases.
Senate Majority Policy Committee Chairman Ted Erickson (R-26) said he is pleased both sides are working together to seek a property tax solution.
“Tackling the outdated property tax system in Pennsylvania is an undertaking that requires broad cooperation,” Erickson said. “The calls for change come from every corner of our Commonwealth, and the bipartisan participation today is a key step in the process to make reform a reality.”
Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-18), who chairs the Democratic Policy Committee, said this issue has festered for decades, but she is encouraged by recent bipartisanship within the Senate.
“It’s not a Democratic issue; it’s not a Republican issue. There is plenty of common ground on property tax reform,” said Boscola. “Nearly everyone agrees that Pennsylvania’s property tax system is outdated and unfair. The only real debate is over how to devise a more equitable system.”
One of the new systems proposed – Senate Bill 76 – would shift the property tax burden away from working families and seniors struggling on fixed incomes. The legislation currently has 26 sponsors, 13 Democrats and 13 Republicans.
Sen. David Argall (R-29), prime sponsor of Senate Bill 76, said that having an open dialogue with both the proponents and opponents of the legislation was beneficial in clarifying the issues and building support for the legislation.
“This is easily the number one issue I hear about in the six counties I represent, and I am committed to giving property owners final relief from this crushing and unfair burden,” Argall said. “No one has argued in favor of the status quo; the argument is about how much property tax reform is enough.”
Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center Sharon Ward agreed that school property taxes need to be addressed in some areas of the state, but she said a targeted solution would be more appropriate than a total elimination of the tax. She also called the personal income tax and the sales tax – the ones that would replace property taxes as the funding for school districts in Senate Bill 76 – very volatile, making consistent school budgets difficult to maintain.
Kimberly Skumanick, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, said many of the property owners she hears from support Senate Bill 76.
“Not only is there bipartisan support among Senators, but there’s bipartisan support among voters as well,” Skumanick said. “Homeowners are simply tired of struggling and losing their homes due to property taxes.”
Sen. Judy Schwank (D-11) agreed that meaningful tax reform should be one of Pennsylvania’s top priorities.
“Citizens are fed up with skyrocketing property taxes, and they continue to voice their discontent loud and clear,” Schwank said. “Today’s testimony will be part of our discussion as the Senate continues to deliberate ways to cut or eliminate property taxes. The time to act is now.”
In attendance were Sens. Boscola, Erickson, David Argall (R-29), Lisa Baker (R-20), John Blake(D-22), Jim Brewster (D-45), Pat Browne (R-16), John Eichelberger (R-30), Lawrence Farnese (D-1), Jim Ferlo (D-38), Mike Folmer (R-48), Wayne Fontana (D-42), Richard Kasunic (D-32), Judy Schwank (D-11), Matt Smith (D-37), Tim Solobay (D-46), Elder Vogel (R-47), John Yudichak (D-14) and Rep. Jim Cox (R-129).
Others who took part in the discussion included:
- David Baldinger, spokesperson, PA Coalition of Taxpayer Associations;
- Kimberly Skumanick, president, PA Association of Realtors;
- Jason Horwitz, consultant, Anderson Economic Group;
- Joel Rotz, director of state governmental relations, PA Farm Bureau;
- Sharon Ward, executive director, PA Budget & Policy Center;
- Warren Hudak, member, National Federation of Independent Business;
- Gene Barr, president and CEO, PA Chamber of Business and Industry;
- John Callahan, senior director of government affairs, PA School Boards Association;
- Deborah L. Musselman, director of government affairs, PA NewsMedia Association;
- Jason Skrinak, member, PA Institute of CPAs.
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