Eliminating School Propertytaxes Topic Of Hearing In W-B
WILKES-BARRE — The debate over eliminating school property taxes highlighted a hearing Monday hosted by a group of state House Democrats.
Two advocates of eliminating school property taxes testified before the 10-member House Democratic Policy Committee, arguing an increase in the payroll tax and expansion of the sales tax could offset money property owners pay.
State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski said property tax elimination — while a goal for many — has been considered for more than 15 years and lawmakers have not been able to come up with a viable way to offset the loss of property tax revenue.
“The question is where do we come up with the money? How do we come up with that money and who does it affect?” Pashinski asked.
Jim Rodkey, of the Pennsylvania Property Rights Association, and Ron Boltz, of the Pennsylvania Liberty Alliance, had testified about their support of property tax elimination during the hearing at King’s College attended by Democratic state legislators from around the state.
“You obviously put your heart and soul into this and so have we,” Pashinski told Rodkey and Boltz.
He said his door is always open to discuss the issue.
The bill touted by those who want to eliminate property taxes would increase state income taxes from
3.07 percent to 4.95 percent and expand the state’s sales tax.
Dr. Tony Grieco, the Luzerne Intermediate Unit executive director, argued eliminating property taxes would leave schools underfunded. Also, taxes really wouldn’t be eliminated, he said.
Under current proposals, property owners in a school district still would be on the hook to pay the debts schools owe for loans, Grieco noted.
Pashinski, D-121, of Wilkes-Barre, noted that point during the presentation from Rodkey and Boltz.
They responded that studies show the payments for debts would only account for about 17 percent of current tax bills, which would be an 83-percent savings.
The first presenter of the afternoon was also against eliminating property taxes.
Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Keystone Research Center, said his group has come up with plan to raise billions of additional dollars per year while lowering taxes for most Pennsylvanians.
It’s called the Fair Share Tax.
Under the plan, income taxes would be reduced to
2.8 percent and the tax on wealth income would be raised to 6.5 percent. Wealth income would include dividends, capital gains, royalties, profits, and lottery winnings, Herzenberg said.
Herzenberg, who has a doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the plan would raise $2.2 billion per year for the state.
“This is not revenue that comes from working people,” Herzenberg said.
Sue Henry, a former radio talk show host who is Pashinski’s Republican opponent in November’s election, attended Monday’s session. She said she has long supported the advocates trying to nullify school property taxes, one of the top issues she raised when she announced her bid for state representative.
“It’s the issue most people I speak to care deeply about. They are terrified to lose their most valuable asset, their house,” Henry said. “... It’s a tragedy it has come to this. I don’t know what Harrisburg is waiting for. I guess they haven’t lost their house yet. The time to talk is over. It’s time to do something.”
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